WARNING: This article contains Spoilers to “The Last Jedi”
“You know what’s funny about death? I mean other than absolutely nothing at all? You’d think we could remember finding out we weren’t immortal. Sometimes I see children sobbing airports and I think, “Aww. They’ve just been told.”
― Carrie Fisher, “Wishful Drinking”
Star Wars has been called a classic Hero’s Journey and a Shakespearean Tragedy. The Story of Luke Skywalker in the first trilogy was based on Joseph Campbell’s a “Hero’s Journey”. Anakin’s story in the prequels was essentially a Shakespearean Tragedy.
So many people hated the prequels. I loved them. It was a tragic story with a warning. Anakin was driven to madness and eventually to the dark side. The noble Jedi Order became a shadow of its glorious and chivalrous self as it was dragged in to the final fall of the Republic and destroyed. There is revenge and murder and in the tradition of a Shakespearean Play everyone dies or is lost.
Anakin becomes Darth Vader, Padmé Amidala dies of a broken heart. Palpatine gives Order 66 and the Clone Legions massacre every Jedi they can find. The temple is destroyed and all in it are slaughtered. What is left of the Republic submits to Emperor Palpatine or flee in to exile. Some join the Rebellion. The Jedi and the Force become mere Legends.The memory of them is suppressed in the Galaxy.
Luke was an ordinary boy who was unexpectedly and reluctantly thrust in to the “Hero’s Journey” at the beginning of “A New Hope”. Obiwan “Ben” Kenobi is the mentor who initially guides Luke on the journey. Luke gains confidence and courage and the will to destroy the Death Star.
In “Empire Strikes Back”, Luke is trained further by Yoda as he stumbles along on the path always learning. Luke goes on to confront his fears and his foes throwing himself in to peril. At first Luke fails but in “Return of the Jedi”, he has become a Jedi Knight and through wisdom and love defeats the Sith Lord and redeems Darth Vader. This was Luke’s final test on his journey.
At the end of the adventure Luke has reconciled with the truth of his past and has helped restore balance to the Force. With knowledge Luke goes on to rebuild the Jedi Temple and resurrect the order.
The third trilogy breaks from this tradition. I did not know what to make of “The Force Awakens”. The movie bought back the old characters. It was a love letter to the original fans while introducing the future of the franchise. I recently watched “The Last Jedi” and after the initial shock and confusion I realized that the movie is a Tragicomedy. If you know anything about Carrie Fisher you would agree that the dedication of “The Last Jedi” to her was entirely appropriate. Carrie Fisher’s life was a Tragicomedy after all as was Leia Organa’s.
“She wondered if she was in the midst of an anecdote that, for reasons of proximity, she was not yet able to perceive.” – Carrie Fisher,
There is a scene in the Last Jedi which is pivotal to the movie. For me it is possibly one of the most compelling scenes in the entire Star Wars saga. The act comes after The Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), has been tracked through hyperspace by a battle fleet of the First Order. The Resistance had jumped after they had mounted a successful attack destroying an enemy Dreadnought. The remnants of the Rebel Force had evacuated the base planet of D’Qar and were able to narrowly avoid being destroyed. Now after coming out of hyperspace they find themselves facing a vastly superior enemy force led by Kylo Ren.
Kylo Ren is leading a Fighter attack on the Resistance command ship Raddus but is conflicted when an opportunity arises to fire laser missiles in to the command bridge. Kylo Ren was once Ben Solo, the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. At this moment Kylo Ren knows that his mother is on board the Raddus and he hesitates. Kylo recently killed his Father and seems unsure of himself once again. A moment later Kylo Ren’s wingmen fires on the Bridge.
The movie cuts to the bridge where General Leia and much of the commanding officers of the Resistance are present. An explosion fills the screen and we see Leia and what is left of the Bridge sucked in to the void of space. The scene is dramatic and shocking. We have just witnessed General Organa killed in the most unexpected way; blasted in to the space in a violent and final act.
Leia’s Near Death Experience
I stared in stunned disbelief at the screen and almost applauded. The scene was pure genius as devastating and heart wrenching as it was. Soon after General Leia’s body appears floating in space as a battle rages behind her. The face of Leia fills the screen and she looks serene and at peace. She is beautiful and compelling. Ice has begun to form on her face and we know she will be preserved forever like that in the void. It is a touching and heartfelt moment. Final. I knew I would carry this moment in my heart for the rest of my days. This is the way I would remember the Princess. It is a good ending to a magnificent and treasured character and a beloved actress…then something unexpected happens which is truly comical…
The slightest movement ripples across Leia’s face and she opens her eyes! My mind is utterly confused. What the hell is going on? How can anyone survive such an ordeal Force or no Force? General Leia then orientates herself and begins to fly through space back towards the gaping hole in the Bridge of the Raddus. Like some haunting scene out of Mary Poppins she floats through the destroyed remains of the Bridge to a vacuum lock. There is pandemonium on the Raddus as the crew realize what is happening and they manage to open the air lock and bring Leia on to the safety of the ship. Soon she is on a stretcher being taken to the Infirmary.
I shook myself out of stunned disbelief as someone a few seats away guffawed loudly. There was laughter in the theater and I found myself laughing at the absurdity of the scene. At this point the movie seemed to get worse and worse. I could no longer take it seriously and viewed the entire experience as some sort of bizarre joke.
It suddenly occurred to me that the Director Rian Johnson had created a completely unexpected Star Wars movie. No one saw this coming. He had also inadvertently blown away a chance for a serendipitous ending to Princess Leia and had kept her alive presumably for the next film. Ironically Carrie Fisher would tragically pass away soon after filming the scenes in “The Last Jedi”, exactly one year ago on 27 December, 2016. I wonder if the producers at Disney secretly kicked themselves afterwards. The death of Fisher leaves them with a plot predicament. Its almost funny an a tragicomic way.
Retrospection and Punch lines
Retrospection is a wonderful thing as is a good punch line. Carrie Fisher did a lot of both in real life. Some say her real career was storytelling, comedy and critiquing her own life. Despite a life filled with heart break, tragedy, drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness, Carrie Fisher never felt sorry for her self or sought out public sympathy. If anything she made light of her trials.
In her books Fisher often uses wit and humor to highlight her character flaws and lighten the tragedy around much of her life. Reading some of the hundreds of obituaries written for her I am reminded how was she was an incredibly talented and intelligent person with a sharp wit, beaming personality and a sometimes dark humor. Without a doubt she was much loved but also respected as a strong woman and a tough character who always stuck to her guns. Carrie Fisher was very much like her Princess Leia.
“I think I am Princess Leia and Princess Leia is me, It’s like a Mobius striptease” – Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher had her demons. She had been abusing drugs and alcohol since her teens. Despite her addictions, Carrie Fisher never self-destructed or wound up dead at a young age. She kept her humanity in an industry where people lose their soul and prey easily on others. It is a wonder Hollywood did not grind her down utterly. She was small in stature but had the heart of a giant.
Carrie Fisher was irreverent and extremely funny. She was described as the person you would most want to sit next to at a wedding or a funeral. Is it any wonder? Many people who have gone through the wringer of alcoholism and drug addiction find a dark but refreshing humor in recovery. We who have survived learn to laugh at ourselves most of all.
Carrie Fisher could raise a laugh in any situation. In her book “Wishful Drinking” she describes how George Lucas insisted she not wear a bra under her dress during a scene as “there is no underwear in space”. On this Carrie Fisher asserts that while bodies in space expand, bras do not, therefore one could be strangled by their own bra in outer space. Carrie goes on to say that she would like her obituary to be thus:
“Now I think that this would make a fantastic obit- so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.” – Carrie Fisher “Wishful Drinking”.
The Last Laugh
For that reason I find the “Mary Poppins” scene and the many faults of “The Last Jedi” almost a cheeky nod and wink to Carrie and her fans. She would have loved the comedy of it. The irreverence towards the original movies and the ridiculous plot holes which have divided the fans like no other Star Wars movie would have delighted her. Carrie Fisher would have laughed her head off if she had lived to have seen the final cut.
The “Mary Poppins” scene would have become a central piece to her comedy shows. For a start there is no way she could have been wearing a bra as she floated in space. Wearing brassiere would have certainly killed her even if she could survive in a freezing vacuum. At the very least it would have made the entire experience of Force flying back to the Raddus extremely uncomfortable. I wonder if the scene was Carrie Fisher’s idea for a bit of fun and whether George Lucas was in on the joke.
“From here on out, there’s just reality. I think that’s what maturity is: a stoic response to endless reality. But then, what do I know?” – Carrie Fisher “Postcards from the Edge”
Thanks for the Laughs
“The Last Jedi” closes the coffin lid on the original trilogy and passes the baton on to the next generation. The movie heralds an end to a story that has endured for 40 years. To paraphrase Carrie Fisher I feel like the child at the airport who is weeping inconsolably after being told the unthinkable; Luke, Han and Leia are all dead and the Star Wars as we knew it is no more.
I’m not sure I will ever like the movie “The Last Jedi”. Perhaps it will grow on me now that I can view it as a Tragicomedy. I can’t hate Disney or the movie, which would be un-Jedi like. Jedi do not hate after all. We can still lament George Lucas sold the rights.
Kylo Ren says in the film “It’s time to let old things die”. Luke Skywalker exclaims to a confused Rey “I know only one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.” As hard as it is to let go of the things we treasure and move on, we ultimately must. Change is essential and keeps things vital. Change is also inevitable.
I’m wondering if Carrie wanted to add the line “I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra” in to the movie. That would’ve been her style. Rest in Peace Carrie Fisher, Princess.
“No motive is pure. No one is good or bad-but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”
― Carrie Fisher, “Wishful Drinking”