Princess Leia’s story seems to be at the core of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. There’s no doubt that Carrie Fisher’s legacy will live on despite her sudden passing in late 2016, and the experience of watching The Last Jedi will surely be touched by the fact that this is her last Star Wars film. With Han Solo dead and their son at the head of the First Order, Leia’s role in Episode VIII seems pivotal.
Some fans believe that what appears to be a confrontation with Kylo Ren, in which he faces his mother from the cockpit of an attacking TIE Fighter, is stitched together from different parts of the film and does not indicate a mother versus son space battle at all. Whether or not the scene plays out exactly as presented in the trailer, we know that Leia will continue in her role as a leader in the Resistance and mentor and commanding officer to Poe Dameron, Finn, Rose, and Paige Tico. She also may or may not be set up for a reunion with her brother, Luke Skywalker, whose life on Ach-To has been dramatically interrupted by the arrival of Rey, who wants to convince the Jedi Master to return to the fight against the First Order.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy said that Episode IX would have been Carrie’s movie (as Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are the centerpieces of the first two installments of the Sequel Trilogy). Former Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow also confirmed that Leia would have had a part in the story of the movie. That will no longer be the case. A digital reconstruction of her likeness was used in Rogue One, and Lucasfilm considered piecing together previously filmed scenes to posthumously add Leia into Episode IX. However, it was later confirmed that she will not be replaced with a digital double, and that her role in Episode IX therefore would need to be written out.
Luckily for her fans, Fisher completed her scenes for The Last Jedi. We’ve not seen much of what those scenes look like and there’s no indication of how Johnson has constructed her exit from the franchise. A Nov. 14 TV spot called “Darkness Rises” shows Leia in her role as Resistance leader, granting Poe permission to “jump in an X-Wing and blow something up.” Another bit of footage shows her on what looks like the surface of Crait, a mournful look in her eye.
Mark Hamill has also said that The Last Jedi will answer a question posed in The Force Awakens: Why didn’t Luke react to Leia while she was fighting with the Resistance during his exile? Perhaps, if the twins reunite one last time, we’ll get that answer.
Until then, there are still tons of Leia adventures to be had in the Expanded Universe. Like the books in the Journey to The Force Awakens series, Journey to The Last Jedi give some hints at what’s in store in the new movie. The lone young adult book in the tie-in line, Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray, explains how Leia joined the Rebellion and shows how her parents’ work with the resistance group – as well as her diplomatic training, first romance, and first sacrifices – shaped her to become the leader we know her as today.
Most importantly, he book features the first appearance of the planet Crait and Leia’s friend, Amilyn Holdo, both of which will appear in Episode VIII. Here’s what Leia: Princess of Alderaan reveals about The Last Jedi…
Vice Admiral Holdo, portrayed by Laura Dern on screen, met Leia for the first time at an outdoor survival class she took as part of her diplomatic training when they were teenagers. Leia considers her odd at first, because Holdo is easily distracted and constantly daydreams. Holdo acts flippant toward danger while expressing her excitement (“…if we stumble into a crevasse!”) but is also observant and kind towards her fellow students.
As Leia gets to know Amilyn better, she learns that Amilyn’s home planet of Gatalenta is a peaceful world where people practice acrobatic meditations and often wear drab-colored clothing. Amilyn’s own joyousness is a rebellion against her traditional culture. During their time together, Amilyn helps Leia understand the variety of different traditions in the galaxy, and Leia helps Amilyn become more comfortable with herself. Although she seems to still be wearing colorful clothes by the time of The Last Jedi, Leia notices that the teenage Amilyn begins to wear more muted colors as she finds a balance between her own personality and the traditions of her homeworld.
By the time of The Last Jedi, Holdo has become a vice admiral in the Resistance and clashes with Poe Dameron over how to lead the fight. “She enters the Resistance to shake things up,” Laura Dern told EW.
Oscar Isaac had said that Poe “doesn’t want to just wait and let things happen” and “doesn’t necessarily agree with the way Holdo sees the role of the Resistance in this particular moment.”
Does this mean that Holdo urges Poe to hold back? Maybe so. Her laissez-faire approach in Leia: Princess of Alderaan might certainly be at odds with Poe’s more aggressive desire to blow things up. It wouldn’t be out of character for Poe to disapprove of his superior officers, either. Poe has gone against the wishes of the larger Resistance before, such as when he and Leia coordinated a secret mission against a First Order collaborator in the middle grade book Before the Awakening. With both Poe and Amilyn having such strong personalities, it might take a lot to get them to see eye-to-eye in The Last Jedi.
With its dramatic white sand, red dirt, and sparkling vulptices, the appearance of the planet Crait in the trailers for The Last Jedi helped stir up excitement for the film. In Princess of Alderaan Leia first spots Crait in some old space traffic data at the Empire’s Calderos Station, the site of an Rebel attack. When Leia visits Crait, she notes “salt several centimeters thick” — the same terrain will Resistance ski speeders will cut through in The Last Jedi decades later.
Leia has a bad feeing about the planet’s eerie wind and blood-red coloration, but Crait turns out to be the location of a small base for her allies in the Rebellion, and specifically for her father, Bail Organa. It’s here where she learns that her father is part of the Rebellion and that he’s been hiding his activities from her in order to keep her safe.
Leia realizes that, even if her parents want to keep her safe by concealing their work, her own investigations have already gotten her involved in the Rebellion. In this way, Crait could be seen as the birthplace of Leia’s military career.
The Rebel base there is a small one, but it’s likely that this is how Leia knew to return to Crait when she needed to establish a new Resistance base in The Last Jedi. The planet would be out of the way enough for its significance not to be apparent to the First Order. Of course, we know from the trailers that the First Order eventually catches up with the Resistance on Crait…
Crait will also feature in The Last Jedi: The Storms of Crait, a single-issue comic coming out on Dec. 27. The comic will bring both Leia and Luke to the planet and might explain more about how the Resistane set up their base of operations there.
These two new additions, Crait and Amilyn Holdo, might be tied together in The Last Jedi. Could Leia’s work on the base on Crait be the reason Vice Admiral Holdo is in charge of the fleet when Poe confronts her? Maybe Leia is occupied during the ground battle while Poe and Holdo argue in the fleet.
As the second act in the Sequel Trilogy, The Last Jediis likely to include at least some defeat for the Resistance, digging them into a predicament from which they will have to escape before the (presumalby) triumphant end of Episode IX. Could Crait be The Last Jedi‘s Hoth – the site of a defeat?