Culture

Long live Leia! Why Carrie Fisher looks so right in the 'Force Awakens' trailers

Commentary: Leia Organa deserves a face that reflects her age and life experience, says CNET's Bonnie Burton, a lifelong Star Wars fan who can't wait to see Leia be herself again in the new film.

General Leia is just what the Resistance, and us older fans, need right about now.

Video screenshot by Anthony Domanico/CNET

When we first met Princess Leia in 1977, she was fresh-faced and full of confidence, sass and witty comebacks for a roguish rake named Han Solo.

Her life has been full of tragic and stressful moments since then. Played by Carrie Fisher, she ran from Darth Vader, saw her home planet destroyed by Tarkin, got enslaved while being forced to wear a drafty metal bikini, and helped Rebel forces destroy the Death Star to take down the Empire.

All those things happen only in the first three Star Wars movies, and they're not even counting her love life, which has been downright tricky. It's not easy falling in love with a guy who can't say "I love you" back even when he's facing possible death. And really, how many of us would be OK after discovering that the farm boy we kissed for luck is actually our twin brother?

These are the sorts of strains that would take an emotional and physical toll on any human, which is why I'm so happy the trailers for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" show a Leia who's been allowed to look her age and have a face that reflects a lifetime of challenges.

Fisher, who's now 59, doesn't appear to have much makeup on to hide her wrinkles. There's no fancy CGI to make her look less than her years. That's both true to the integrity of Leia's eventful life and refreshing for Hollywood, where even actresses Anne Hathaway, 32, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, 37, are losing roles to younger women.

"I'm 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55," Gyllenhaal told The Wrap. "It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh."

Had Fisher been airbrushed to look more like she did at 21, when she first appeared as Leia in "A New Hope," I wouldn't have laughed. But I wouldn't have been shocked either. That's how jaded audiences have become toward seeing older actresses in movies. They're often replaced by younger actresses or made to look way younger than they are in real life.

Princess Leia stood up to an Empire that underestimated her power, so it makes even more sense to use that sass to speak out against discrimination in Hollywood.

Lucasfilm

Not in this case.

Fast forward to 2015, and we see a much older, wiser and more stoic Leia in the trailers for the upcoming "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which hits theaters worldwide this December. Say goodbye to her signature double hair buns and the metal bikini. Leia is now a high-ranking adviser to the Resistance.

"She's referred to as General," director and co-writer J.J. Abrams told Entertainment Weekly. "But...there's a moment in the movie where a character sort of slips and calls her 'Princess.'" My bet is on Han Solo. After all, he always just called Leia "Princess" when he wanted to get under her skin.

As a die-hard Princess Leia fan, I'm excited to see what her character will be saying, doing and wearing in the new film. From the trailer footage alone, it doesn't seem like we're getting the same wisecracking princess anyway. Even Leia hugging Han Solo on the Resistance base tarmac looks like a depressing and dire encounter.

"The stakes are pretty high in the story for her, so there's not much goofing around where Leia's concerned," Abrams added in the EW interview.

When we finally see Leia in "The Force Awakens," she has more weighing on her mind than past problems from, say, "Return of the Jedi." For example, "why did those Ewoks already have a spare dress to fit a full-size human woman?"

In this newest installment, Leia is in charge, front and center in the war room, deciding battle plans. She's not a sidekick, or a mere girlfriend to a leading man. She looks like she's not about to take crap from anyone, including a new evil Empire.

While promoting "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at San Diego Comic-Con in July, Fisher joked that the experience of being in the new movie "was a little like it was before only we look more melted."

But that's the thing. All our old favorites look rough around the edges. Leia is clearly showing her age, but so is Han Solo, who appears in the trailers with a full head of gray hair. (On the flip side, Chewbacca still looks as young as ever. Apparently, when you're covered in Wookiee fur, it's easier to hide your age.)

So thank you, J.J. Abrams, for reminding us all that Star Wars isn't just for the next generation that will grow up loving new, younger characters Rey and Finn. It's also for us older fans who can't wait to see our "slightly melted" heroes back on the big screen where they belong, with General Leia calling the shots.