In The Force Awakens, Han Solo famously chastised Finn by growling “that’s not how the Force works” at him during their mission on Starkiller Base. But, The Last Jedi introduced so many new Force powers that it makes one wonder if Han was too quick to correct Finn about the mysterious workings of the Force. Director Rian Johnson recently explained where all the new powers came from, revealing there’s a precedent for everything that happens in the movie — including General Leia’s flight through space.
There are more Last Jedi spoilers below, so be warned.
The Last Jedi introduces a whole host of Force powers we’ve never seen before, including flying through space, Force ghost-summoned lightning, astral projection, and facetime via the Force. During an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Johnson revealed where all the new abilities came from and reminded fans that past Star Wars movies added new Force abilities all the time.
Johnson said the flashiest ability, Leia’s newfound ability to survive short exposure to the vacuum of space and propel herself back to the ship, was instinct rather than a conscious use of her power.
That was something Kathy [Kennedy] was always asking: Why has this never manifested in Leia? She obviously made a choice, because in Return of the Jedi Luke tells her, “You have that power too.” I liked the idea that it’s not Luke concentrating, reaching for the lightsaber; it’s an instinctual survival thing, like when you hear stories of a parent whose toddler is caught under a car and they get superhuman strength, or a drowning person clawing their way to the surface. It’s basically just her not being done with the fight yet.
I wanted it to happen [for Carrie] and I knew it was going to be a stretch. It’s a big moment, and I’m sure it will land different ways for different people, but for me it felt like a really emotionally satisfying thing to see.
Johnson also explained that Rey and Kylo Ren’s long-distance conversations, which the LA Times cleverly dubbed “ForceTime,” was created out of storytelling necessity. Rey and Kylo needed to be able to talk and get to know one another, but they obviously would’ve fought if they met in real life. Thus, “ForceTime.”
“It’s a little bit of a riff on what happens with Vader and Luke at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, but it’s entirely new in some regards,” Johnson said, referencing the father and son’s brief physic chat.
If Rey and Kylo’s Force connection from across the galaxy was an upgraded version of Luke and Darth Vader’s weaker connection in the original trilogy, Luke’s astral projection, which allowed him to stall the First Order on Crait even though he was back on Ahch-To at the end of The Last Jedi, was the most extreme use of the technique. As Johnson explains:
When Luke shows up he’s projecting, it’s like a hardcore variation of what Kylo and Rey have been doing the whole time and that’s why it takes so much out of him. …We tried to play really, really fair. In terms of his footsteps – we removed all of his foley — there are no footstep sounds. They never touch. And if you look, the salt flakes that are falling are sparking off of Kylo’s saber and not off of Luke’s.
There’s additional precedent for this power, too, as in the now non-canonical Dark Empire Star Wars comics from Dark Horse, Luke astral projects from across the galaxy — though it’s not quite as flashy.
As for Yoda’s post-mortem lightning abilities? That’s new, and Johnson called the power “a tantalizing hint of the potential of someone who is a Force ghost interacting with the real world.”
The Last Jedi is currently in theaters.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said there weren’t any instances of Force choking in A New Hope, which was wrong.