According to Abrams, it was “simply a choice.”
As we learned in the original trilogy, Leia is not only very efficient with a weapon, she’s Force-sensitive, even Force-strong. She clearly knows her way around a blaster, and sends the rebel forces into battle in A New Hope.
All these qualities likely make her a great general. But given that we saw her handling a lightsaber in the first teaser trailer, fans can’t really be blamed for wishing she had become a Jedi along the way. Especially because she’s the only woman who has any kind of active role in the entire film series apart from Padma, who isn’t Force-sensitive.
Attempting to answer the question, Abrams explains first that he and George Lucas consulted over the issue of Jedi age ranges, which doesn’t answer the question but does raise the possibility that Leia could become a Jedi at some point later in time.
You know, it’s funny because, in talking about this, even with George Lucas, the question of what age can someone learn the Force, and become a Jedi. And I would like to think that there really isn’t much of a ticking clock, and it’s never too late.
He then notes that he turned to the general herself, Carrie Fisher, for insight.
But it was a great question, and one that we talked about quite a bit, even with Carrie [Fisher]…Why did she not take advantage of this natural Force strength that this character had? And one of the answers was that it was simply a choice that she made, that her decision to run the rebellion, and ultimately this resistance, and consider herself a General, as opposed to a Jedi… was simply a choice that she took.
While the title of general sounds good in theory, it could easily be a wholly diplomatic and ultimately passive role, much like the one Padma assumed in the prequel trilogy. Abrams goes on to add that there’s no “regret that she could have and didn’t.”
But clearly we’ve seen and do again that she’s still Force-strong. And it’s something that I think is an intrinsic piece of her character.
It appears that Leia, after all this time, gets to have all the acclaim of being Force-strong without the active role that comes with it.
Screengrab via Marcelo Zuniga/YouTube