During Rian Johnson’s Explanation Tour, Leia’s suitless EVA in the cold airless vacuum of outerspace was addressed. During his explanation, Rian suggests how what some are calling the Leia Poppins sequence, may have been Kathleen Kennedy’s idea.
“It was twofold,” Johnson explains. “First of all, it’s tough, because at this point between The Force Awakens and even the video games, the level of Force powers has slowly come up. I feel like we still offered a modicum of restraint, because we didn’t have anyone pulling Star Destroyers out of the sky. And believe me, it came up when Luke came out on to the field, I was, like, ‘should he wave his hand and all the walkers blow off like dust?’ The things that are in there that are Force moments largely came out of the dramatic moments. But the Leia thing is an interesting example. It’s something that Kathy kept bringing up, which I thought was interesting. She said, ‘I’ve always been intrigued by what Luke says to Leia in Jedi in that she has the power inside her also, and why haven’t we seen that?’ And the idea behind Leia’s big moment was that it was not incredibly powerful, because she’s in space and that doesn’t offer much resistance, it doesn’t take much to pull her back in. But also, that it’s instinctual. It’s like when you hear parents that have a toddler trapped under a car, and they lift the car up with Hulk strength. The idea that it’s not going to end today, that she’s not finished yet.”
Let’s take a break from this train of thought for a moment, to view the harrowing space walk in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 from 1968:
Dave’s space walk in this science fiction movie was exciting, the sequence was filled with tension and suspense, because outer space is dangerous. That danger increases the jeopardy for the heroes in our movies. In real life, an unprotected person can last only a couple of minutes in space, and not likely would be conscious for the whole duration. This is generally common knowledge now, which is why the Kal-Leia sequence comes off as silly Hallmark Mini-Series magic.
Now, some will argue that Star Wars is a fantasy, and that you need to have suspension of disbelief, and there isn’t sound in space anyway but we accept that. Okay. But here’s the thing.
1977 audiences weren’t as educated in the physics of outerspace and space travel as they are today, at least, not as widespread. It’s how Carl Sagan made a career for himself in the 1970s, by popularizing science for the layman. Sound in space was far more acceptable to a 1977 audience than it is today, although most movies today still depict sound in outer space as an artistic choice. 2001 and Firefly are the only two that immediately come to mind that depict outerspace as silent.
Regardless, sound in space, and flying through space like Superman, are two entirely different things. Suspension of disbelief can be maintained when treated to sound in space. Suspension of disbelief can be maintained, even when flying through space suitless, when depicted in a genuinely invulnerable superhero like Superman. But suspension of disbelief snaps like a stale Dorito under foot when a human being like Leia glides through the empty airless vacuum of outerspace without a problem.
But let’s examine this from a devil’s advocate point of view.
For the sake of argument, let’s accept that Jedi or Force sensitives can easily pull themselves through outer space. Let’s also accept, that Jedi can create a bubble of oxygen around their bodies so they can breathe in space. And let’s also accept, that Jedi can generate pockets of warmth so they don’t freeze into a space Popsicle. Let’s accept all of that.
Before Leia opened her eyes, she appeared to be floating in space unconscious. How could Leia use any of those Force powers, “instinctual” or not, if she were unconscious? Wouldn’t she freeze and asphyxiate to death before she regained consciousness and opened her eyes? And frankly, how was Leia’s body not blown to pieces in the explosion? Is that a Force power also?
Some have argued that some comic book established the fact that outer space in the Star Wars universe isn’t as deadly as our own outer space. Okay. But then why would pilots need to be protected in their ships with canopies? Indeed, couldn’t everyone just fly around in space in open convertibles? And why wouldn’t there be rescue ships retrieving the bodies of downed starfighter pilots all over the galaxy?
Frankly, pulling down Star Destroyers would have been more believable.
Here’s the primary problem. Even fantasy worlds like Star Wars, have internal rules and logic, and when they’re broken, suspension of disbelief is snapped. Otherwise, why not have Mickey Mouse team up with Rey, to fight Kylo Ren and Donald Duck? It is Disney after all.
However, the understanding of science is breaking new ground just like Star Wars, thanks to feminism.
UC Santa Cruz hosts an event entitled, Research Justice 101: Tools for Feminist Science.
Researchers there are encouraged to “practice a socially just science,” and “think through the hidden assumptions in their methodological approaches and challenges researchers to think more deeply about the political implications of their work.” Ergo, the patriarchal assumptions about the effects of outer space on the unprotected human body may not even be true, if the appropriate politics says it isn’t. After all, Newtonian physics is no match for feminist intersectionality. So fret not Star Wars fan, your suspension of disbelief may not be broken at all, if Kathleen Kennedy’s crack team of feminist writers says it isn’t.
If we’re all lucky, maybe Disney will produce a Kal-Leia comic book where she flies from planet to planet, fighting for social justice in the galaxy.