When George Lucas first conceived of the Force, he was drawing heavily from eastern philosophy, especially the concept of Chi or Qi. However, he added a bit of a twist: a biological component.
This was for two reasons. The first was that he didn’t want to turn into another L. Ron Hubbard and wanted to head off people trying to make a legitimate Jedi religion by making sure everybody knew he knew those telekinetic feats of the Force were strictly fantasy. Secondly, and perhaps much more importantly, he became fascinated with the idea of mitochondria, how an entire separate species of bacteria not only resides in all eukaryotic cells but is essential to that cell working. Lucas thought, what if in the galaxy far, far away, a strain of mitochondria evolved that allowed people to channel their life force, THE Force, to magical effect?
Lucas would call this strain Midi-Chlorians.
|"The reading's off the charts! Over 20,000! Not even 'Twilight' has a hater count that high!"|
It may surprise a lot of the most vehement bashers that Midi-Chlorians were part of the Star Wars universe since at least 1977, though they were never named until Phantom Menace and were only hinted at in material up to that point. Of course, like everything else, the concept evolved over the years.
The one consistent was that they reside in everyone’s cells. They allow the Force to flow freely in and out of a body, and to remove the Midi-Chlorians would be to remove life itself. This was true in 77, and it’s true today. However, what changed is the nature of how people used Midi-Chlorians to tap into the Force.
In the original concept of Star Wars, and what New Hope was operating under, was the idea that since everyone had Midi-Chlorians, anyone could potentially become a Jedi if they had the time and discipline needed to train, just like any martial art. However, even then it was clear that something was different about Luke Skywalker. Lucas held the original concept tight through Empire Strikes Back and even into early meetings for Return of the Jedi, but with the way the storyline was going he needed to explain how people like the Skywalker family could tap into the Force with little training and how people like, say, Han Solo for instance, could never be a Jedi.
The answer that came to him was rather ingenious, and underlined the mystical property of the Force. The Force is stronger with certain people than with others, so what if the will of the Force causes the Midi-Chlorians in those people’s cells to multiply to absurd rates, thereby allowing larger conduit for the Force to manifest physically – with time and training, of course.
So while life creates and grows the Force, the Force can also create and grow life. All through the Midi-Chlorians.
This is the payoff. This is the reason George Lucas decided to bring them up in the Phantom Menace. Why he established that they are symbiotic with life and why Anakin’s virgin birth symbolism was included.
So that it would all come together in Revenge of the Sith.
|"Did you ever hear the tragedy of Anak - oh wait..."|
Anakin Skywalker is an avatar of the Force. Like the light side, he has boundless love for people. However, like the dark side, this love often manifests in a possessive way, as he fears to lose those he loves. Fear of loss and anger at loss’ prevention has been the catalyst for all of Anakin’s dark acts up to this point. But the question remained: once Palpatine showed his true colors, what would prevent Anakin’s head from clearing enough to commit his atrocities and his final fall?
The chance for homeostasis through the Force.
|"You die in childbirth..."|
Seeing the vision of Padmé’s death set his entire attitude during Sith. It eats away at him, causing him to lash out when the Jedi inadvertently block him from his quest (like, for instance, denying him a mastership that would allow him to exhaustively search the restricted archives for a possible solution). So all Palpatine has to do is name-drop Darth Plagueis and his experiments to bore into Anakin’s mind that, maybe, the secret to saving his wife lies with Midi-Chlorian manipulation unheard of by the Jedi.
Of course, the real tragedy is that Anakin meets his destiny (or, rather, Padmé’s) on the road he takes to avoid it. But while watching the scene at the opera house, one of the most beautifully shot and acted “quiet” scenes in the Saga by the way, another question arises. If Darth Plagueis could influence the Midi-Chlorians to create life, and Anakin was conceived by the Midi-Chlorians…
…then did Darth Plagueis create Anakin?
|"Are you my Mummy?"|
It’s all left relatively ambiguous, even in Darth Plagueis’ very own expanded universe novel. There, it is implied that Plagueis’ experiments had some direct effect on Anakin’s creation, but to what end? Did Plagueis succeed in creating life, or was the Force so offended at his attempts that it created the Chosen One in retaliation? There’s enough circumstantial evidence to support either theory, and Anakin eventually fulfilled both groups’ prophecies, so in the end it’s up to which point of view gives you as a viewer the most meaning.
As for me, I like to think that Anakin is the Chosen One after all. From what I know of George Lucas, I’d wager he’d have the same preference because it reinforces that sense of fairy-tale hope. The powerful feeling that no matter how dark things get, a single light can shine through.
Or, as a character in a completely difference franchise would put it:
Life finds a way.
|"The Chosen Ones...are breeding!"|