To start things off I’d like to first apologize for the lateness of this post. I was sick for about a week and it wiped out the little bit of energy I usually have. Secondly, I’d like to make a quick note in regards to any of my future posts in my ongoing “Redemption of the Jedi” piece. Already I’m realizing how tedious it is to have to keep typing out the whole titles of each movie I’m referencing. Plus, to be honest, I’m just too damn lazy to do so. To simplify, I’m going to begin using what I’ve found to be the standard abbreviations for the titles of all six films. They are as follows:
TPM – The Phantom Menace
AOTC – Attack of the Clones
ROTS – Revenge of the Sith
ANH – A New Hope
ESB – Empire Strikes Back
ROTJ – Return of the Jedi
With that being said, let’s proceed with the latest installment:
The Midi-chlorian Factor
Based on conversations I’ve had and comments I’ve read over the years, if I were to rank the aspects of TPM that have aggravated or divided fans the most, they would be as follows:
1. Jar Jar Binks
2. The Title
4. Jake Lloyd
Midi-chlorians have been controversial amongst Star Wars fans ever since they were first explained by in TPM during this exchange between Qui-Gon Jinn and Anakin Skywalker:
QUI-GON : Midi-chlorians are a microscopic lifeform that reside within all living cells and communicates with the Force.
ANAKIN : They live inside of me?
QUI-GON : In your cells. We are symbionts with the midi-chlorians.
ANAKIN : Symbionts?
QUI-GON : Life forms living together for mutual advantage. Without the midi- chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to you, telling you the will of the Force.
ANAKIN : They do??
QUI-GON : When you learn to quiet your mind, you will hear them speaking to you.
ANAKIN : I don’t understand.
QUI-GON : With time and training, Annie…you will.
Anakin’s sentiment was shared by many of us. Some found the explanation confusing, while others just hated the whole concept. After all, why did we need it? Of all the questions Star Wars fans wanted answered in the prequels, finding out where The Force came from was not one of them. The idea of giving an explanation to the Force follows a trend all too common in prequels or sequels where filmmakers feel the need to provide explanation or background where it may not be needed or wanted. Does providing those answers really make for a better story, or simply taint what we’ve already grown to love? If I were to wager, I’d say about 90% of the time, the answers never fully living up to the expectations of the viewer. And this was definitely true for many a Star Wars fan.
Aside from the belief that it demystified The Force, another major issue many fans have had with the whole Midi-chlorian factor is that it made the idea of becoming a Jedi something that couldn’t be strived for, but rather something that was pre-ordained based on the amount of microscopic bacteria in your blood. While these are all valid points, I don’t fully agree with any of that. Now admittedly, the idea of midi-chlorians is not something I was ever thrilled with or felt was needed. However, I don’t feel as others do that introducing the idea of the midi-chlorians either demystifies the Force or make the idea of becoming a Jedi some unachievable goal. What we need to be clear about right from the start is that Lucas is not saying that the midi-chlorians are the Force. The Force and the midi-chlorians are two different things. To illustrate, let’s take a second look at a piece of Qui-Gon’s dialogue from above:
QUI-GON : Midi-chlorians are a microcopic lifeform that reside within all living cells and communicates with the Force.
And now the description of the Force provided by Obi-Wan Kenobi in ANH:
OBI-WAN: The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.
So the Force, per the above quote, is actually generated by all living creatures; a field of energy that can be manipulated to varying degrees, be it moving objects without touching them or influencing the weak-minded. Referring to Qui-Gon’s dialogue, Midi-chlorians are microscopic organisms that live inside us and make us aware of the existence of the living force.
Essentially, the presence of the midi-chlorians is what allows a Jedi to tap into the Force. Everyone has midiclorians in them. The amount of them is what determines whether someone is “strong in the Force” or not. And like it or not, this isn’t a new idea. Although the specifics of the midi-chlorians is new from the prequels, the idea of someone having more Force affinity then another had already popped up in dialogue throughout the original trilogy. Prove it you say? Sure thing:
A NEW HOPE:
The Force is strong with this one!
EMPIRE STRIKES BACK:
The Force is strong with him. The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.
RETURN OF THE JEDI:
Strong am I with the Force… but not that strong!
Luke, the Force runs strong in your family. Pass on what you have learned.
When I first knew him, your father was already a great pilot. But I was amazed how strongly the Force was with him.
You get the idea…
Throughout the original trilogy we constantly hear about how someone is or is not “strong in the Force.” Well, what determines that? How is one considered stronger in the Force then another? Now we have the answer. The idea is actually a variation on one that was first introduced by author Kevin J. Andersen in his Jedi Academy trilogy of novels. In this series, Luke Skywalker is attempting to rebuild the Jedi Order by finding others throughout the galaxy who are “force sensitive.” He even builds a device that allows him to scan for those who are strong in the Force. This entire concept is Midi-chlorians in all but name.
Jumping ahead a few movies, the midi-chlorians actually do end up serving the overall story of the prequels to a major degree by the time we get to Revenge of the Sith. During their conversation at the opera house on Coruscant, Palpatine tells Anakin the legend of Darth Plagueis:
Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life … He had such knowledge of the dark side that he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.
This one piece of dialogue is significant in two ways:
1) It provides additional motivation for Anakin’s later actions and his eventual fall to the Dark Side. By this point in the film, Anakin has been having nightmares about Padme dying in childbirth. Being so similar to the nightmares he’d had about his mother just before her death, Anakin feels that these are visions of things to come and is desperate to find a way to prevent the events from happening. Palpatine has now planted the seed in his mind that if he were to learn the ways of the Dark Side, he may be able to prevent Padme’s death
2) Although it is never addressed any further, this dialogue teases us with the idea that potentially Palpatine may have, to some extent, been a factor in Anakin’s birth. Prior to this, we were led to believe that as Anakin had no father, he was likely conceived by the midi-chlorians. But now we are given the idea that it may not have been the midi-chlorians, but rather someone else manipulating the midi-chlorians. To be fair, since the release of the film there has been a novel released entitled Darth Plagueis which delves into the back story of both Plagueis and Palpatine. At the time of this writing I have yet to read the novel and have no idea if this concept is address in any further detail. Personally, I enjoy the ambiguity of the entire thing. Palpatine really is a master at influence and seduction and that is exemplified in this scene. Is he saying that he’s responsible for Anakin’s birth? Or is he simply implying something as a way manipulate Anakin further? Is he lying or is he telling the truth? The beauty of it is that we’re never told for sure. It’s a chilling moment and arguably the best single scene in the entire prequel trilogy.
No matter what I may say, I know the midi-chlorian factor will continue to remain a controversial one amongst fans. I still find myself on the fence about it to this day. In the end, I suppose I could explain it best by saying that although I would have been fine without it, I don’t mind having it. The rest of you can decide for yourself how you feel.