This post contains SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has opened up on his decision to display the Force powers of one General Leia Organa in the film. As the daughter of Anakin Skywalker, Leia inherited a certain amount of Force sensitivity. However, her use of these abilities have always been quite subtle. For instance, in The Force Awakens, Leia is able to sense a disturbance when Kylo Ren kills Han Solo. Up until Episode VIII, she never did anything more overt that showed she could have been a powerful Jedi with the right amount of training.
The latest chapter of the Skywalker saga introduces a bevy of new Force powers to the franchise, and one of the most controversial comes at a point where Leia is blown from the bridge of the Resistance's command ship. Seemingly dead floating through the dark vastness of space, Leia instead flies through the atmosphere and makes her way back to the vehicle, spending most of the film's mid-section recuperating from injuries. It was certainly an eye-catching sequence, and now Johnson has shed some light on how it came to be.
In an interview with EW, Johnson credited Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy with planting the idea in his head, citing the scene in Return of the Jedi where Luke Skywalker tells Leia she's his sister:
“She kept asking, ‘Leia’s a Skywalker, Luke gave her this speech in Jedi and told her basically, ‘You have this potential, too.’ It seemed to me it would be a really emotionally impactful thing to see her use it. I liked the idea it would be an instinctual thing. This would be more like stories you hear about parents of toddlers who get caught under cars and they get Hulk strength and lift the car up. It would be something in these final moments to show that she’s not done with the fight. And like a drowning person pulling herself back, that’s how it manifests itself for the first time in her.”
Since something even close to this has never been depicted onscreen, some considered it was a step too far for the concept. However, Star Wars canon has some precedents. For starters, the novels have shown Leia started to explore her Force powers in the time after Return of the Jedi, most notably to feel Ben Solo's presence while he was in the womb. The animated series contain content to make "Leia Poppins" easier to swallow as well. The Clone Wars included a sequence where Anakin and Kit Fisto formed a Force orb around Padme to save her from drowning, while Kanan used the Force to project himself through space in Rebels. Granted, those examples are trained Jedi, but the films haven't been shy of depicting extraordinary feats from people who have minimal training (Luke destroying the Death Star).
It makes sense for this to be a survival instinct for Leia, since people on Earth can surpass their perceived limits when it's a life-or-death matter. The General was the fearless leader of the Resistance, and knew the small band of freedom fighters would be lost without her guidance, so she tapped into everything she had to ensure she'd live to see another day. An argument could have been made that Johnson didn't execute this scene in the best manner, but it was still an awe-inspiring illustration of Leia's potential that fans have waited a long time to see. And since this was sadly Carrie Fisher's final performance as the character, it was nice Johnson found a spot for it in The Last Jedi.