When critics compile a list of reasons to prove that George Lucas ruined their childhoods, midi-chlorians are always in the running for most egregious wrong. In many ways, these microscopic beings are a microcosm of the prequels themselves. Detractors fundamentally misunderstand them and angrily conclude that they cheapen the original trilogy with over-explanation.
While mystery enhanced both the Star Wars backstory and the concept of the Force, the entire point of the prequels was to pull back the curtain on the unknown. Where should Lucas have drawn the line on exposition? In yet more instances the whims of self-important fans dictate the critical conversation about the films. Treating the original trilogy as sacrosanct rather than simply preemptive sequels would have hamstrung the prequels far more than Lucas’ supposed foibles.
Midi-chlorians exemplify the outcry. Consider the criticism itself, that Lucas removed the mystical connotations implied in the original films and ruined it with science. First of all, since the Duggars don’t represent the demographics of these fans, it’s fascinating that they champion spirituality over religion.
Furthermore, the entire concept feels like a throwaway line for Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi to quantify the powers of young Anakin. An off-the-charts midi-chlorian count sounds way more impressive than “Hey you guys, this kid’s powers are off the hook!” The filler aspect of the concept is far more offending than the canonical ramifications if the situation absolutely demands criticism.
Lucas left the door open for an ambiguous reading of midi-chlorians during a 2005 interview with Rolling Stone.
Is Anakin a product of a super-Sith who influenced the midi-chlorians to create him, or is he simply created by the midi-chlorians to bring forth a prophecy,” Lucas said of Anakin’s fatherless birth. “Or was he created by the Force through the midi-chlorians?”
The mystery remains, even if the concept of these lifeforms reformulates the conversation. Critics hate that Lucas seemed to make Force sensitivity predetermined. But the original films never suggested otherwise. In fact, the importance of destiny and the Skywalker bloodline’s connection to the Force implied a genetic link. To borrow from Andy Warhol if everyone’s Force-sensitive, then no one’s Force-sensitive, right?
“I respect and adhere to the canon,” J.J. Abrams said during a promotional interview for The Force Awakens, and then immediately pivoted. “But I also say that the Force has always seemed to be more inclusive and stronger than (midi-chlorians).”
Yet one of the most mocked moments in Abrams’ film featured Han Solo shooting a stormtrooper at his back without looking. The reason? Han isn’t Force sensitive. One of the bravest, most beloved characters who married Leia, hung out with Luke, and gave birth to a powerful Force user riled fans for the semblance of something relating to Force powers? How inclusive.
Frustratingly, the tangent distracts from the heart of the issue. Critics have masochistically chosen to interpret the midi-chlorians as a scientific explanation for the Force. But Lucas demonstrated amenability to the idea that the Force worked through, not for, the midi-chlorians.
The mystery remains.