There are strong emotions for some of us going into Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Being aware of the absence in real life of Carrie Fisher makes so much of TLJ hurt more. Yes, there will be spoilers here, so if you haven't seen Episode VIII, you should do that before you read and watch my video where I talk about the feels.
I. Was. Not. Prepared.
Writer/director Rian Johnson did an admirable job bridging the two eras (two and a half, let's totally count Rogue One as half its own thing) of the Star Wars sagas together, binding the generations with his tale. We get more character development from the new kids, familiar personality glimpses of the old kids, time to say goodbye to our heroes, and an overwhelmingly hopeful future.
It sure seems like many fans didn't care for TLJ for various reasons, much of it coming down to a dislike of the humor ("Only Han Solo can joke like that,"), or personal lack of resolve with the ending of part of the Skywalker saga ("He deserved a better end,").
I saw the film for the second time last night (Thursday, December 14th, after a truly heart-wrenching first viewing on Monday with my local fellow press (and my 11-year-old daughter). There were tears and quiet sobs, things I wasn't expecting to hit me quite the way they did, and dialogue that cut right to the heart of the resistance. "Dead heroes, no leaders," Leia's words to Poe, just once again reminding us that she's been here before. Forget Kirk and his "I don't believe in no win scenarios," — give me the General and her cynical optimism (totally a thing). Give me "sure we're frakked, but it'll work out because it has to, and no one else can do it but us."
John Williams's beautiful character themes soar in their uses in TLJ; the Falcon in the middle of the salt planet with the chase music, Rey's hopeful and trepidatious training theme, Luke's grand exit, and most notably in the final reunion scene with Luke and Leia. Hearing that beautiful piece with french horns that we know of as HER, her theme, with them together, I'm welling up as I type this. "No one is ever really gone," Luke says to her.
I talk more about it in my video below — that each scene with Carrie in it hurt, because each one could have been the perfect cinematic goodbye to a figure so important to fans. She was the first in so many ways, and boy-howdy did she light the damn spark across the galaxy.
Needless to say, I rambled, I'm not great in video form, but I figured I'd try it. And lookit me, not a single middle finger thrown in there — aren't you proud? I would firmly put TLJ in my top three Star Wars films, a rotation that seems to be constantly changing but usually includes Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story depending on my mood and what new thing I've discovered about these beloved tales.
And if you're still worried about what's going to happen now that Carrie is gone, don't worry. Kathleen Kennedy has assured fans it'll be okay:
"We don't have any intention of beginning a trend of re-creating actors who are gone. We had not written the script [for Episode IX] yet, but we regrouped and started over again. Sadly, Carrie will not be in IX."
See Star Wars: The Last Jedi in theaters now, but for goodness' sake, bring tissues.