Sunday reader: The real problem with midichlorians

Using Lost and comments from Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse as a jumping-off point, io9′s Charlie Jane Anders runs down the problems with midiclorians in the saga. There are some issues with her arguments (for the last time, midiclorians are not actually the Force,) but I think Anders makes a few good points from a storytelling perspective.

15 thoughts on “Sunday reader: The real problem with midichlorians

  1. Dunc Post author

    Criticism is not bashing. Bashing is saying something like “MIDICLORIANS SUCK” and leaving it at that. Anders actually bothers to form an argument and explain her objections in a fairly level-headed manner, despite the rant tag.

    Bashing is tone, not content: You’re actually closer to it than she is. ;)

    But seriously, I don’t believe in writing off analysis just because it points out that Star Wars – any part of it – has flaws. And because the movies are so big and so visible that you actually have people using things in TPM as shorthand for storytelling techniques, I wouldn’t count on it going away anytime soon.

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  2. Clark

    OK fine: Why are individuals in 2010 writing long columns criticizing a minor plot device in a movie that came out more than a decade ago?

    (sorry for my tone… I’ve been really sick the past few days)

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  3. Dunc Post author

    Because the guys who run Lost – which is kind of a hot TV show right now – brought it up. Lost is the framing device of the whole article.

    And I already answered your second question: The PT were huge polarizing movies. Everyone knows them, at least as far as the audience of a show like Lost and a site like io9 is concerned. They will come up.

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  4. Aaron

    First of all I agree with Clark – midichlorians are so 1999. ;-) I don’t mind people bitching about the prequels, but it’s getting old. Even just talking about the prequels is getting old, the youngest prequel is already in elementary school, the oldest has probably already smoked its first cigarette (and hated it, of course; it’s Star Wars after all). ;-)

    Plus there are more apparent flaws in the prequels than midichlorians. The most obvious one: Jar Jar. Not his initial appearance, I’m absolutely fine with it. But why did Lucas spend hours introducing the guy in The Phantom Menace just to ditch him in episodes 2 and 3. Nobody can tell me that it was planned out that way. Jar Jar was going places but Lucas caved to bitching “fans” and Jar Jar ended up absolutely nowhere. In ROTS he didn’t even have a full sentence. So the primary flaw of the prequels isn’t The Phantom Menace but rather Attack of the Clones for not offering a sequel to the initial film but rather relaunching the whole damn story. Honestly: You can leave out The Phantom Menace and just watch AOTC and ROTS and you won’t even notice. For a story 16 years in the making, that’s just bad storytelling. And ROTS is even worse, conjuring up Grievous out of thin air. What was that all about?
    Midichlorians… Pff…

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  5. Toph

    my views on midichlorians are more in line with the views expressed in the first comment on io9, by purple dave.

    as for jar jar: yes, i imagine his role was reduced in II and III in part b/c of fan complaints. the result is a little disappointing, but nothing outrageous, i think.

    “Honestly: You can leave out The Phantom Menace and just watch AOTC and ROTS and you won’t even notice.”

    i think that can be applied almost as well to the OT.

    “And ROTS is even worse, conjuring up Grievous out of thin air.”

    disagree again.

    :)

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  6. The Exalted

    I to am tired of the midichlorian bashing, why? It’s not even that bad of an explanation. They are the thing that allows force users to interface with the energy field that is the force. What is so terrible about that? At worst it’s an unnecessary addition.

    I totally disagree with the Jar Jar thing, he was removed because he was a horrible character that irritated everyone but 5 year olds. Another example of GL trying to make Star Wars for the kids, merchandising etc etc. Pretty much removing him from the rest of the trilogy was a smart move.

    In his defence, introducing Grievous seemed a bit sudden in the film, but thats why there is a prequel book, graphic novels and cartoon series surrounding the events of ROTS.

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  7. Zee Zee

    I also agree with Aaron and The Exalted and others who are tired of midichlorian bashing as my take on the midichlorian debate is that it was a MacGuffin (well, a sort of MacGuffin) used by GL to explain to the audience whyAnakin was ‘special’ and *had* to be rescued from slavery, ie why Anakin?

    We find out that Anakin has a midichlorian count higher than Yoda: Obi-Wan’s initial response to Qui-Gonn’s request for a midichlorian count (the first time midichlorian is mentioned): “Even Master Yoda doesn’t have a midichlorian count that high!”, to wit Qui-Gonn responds “No Jedi has.”

    Therefore, even if we don’t know what a “midichlorian count” means, we can understand that a high midichlorian count was both unusual and important to the Jedi, and so Anakin must be important and taken to the Jedi Council.

    This provides a *simple* and quick explanation without hyperbole of a prolonged explanation of why a nine-year-old slave boy should be so important that Qui-Gonn, whose primary mission at this point was to ensure Queen Amidala’s safety and get her to Coruscant, would make a detour so that he could not only obtain the parts necessary to get off-planet but also free Anakin.

    We later learn, when Anakin is taken to the Jedi Council, that he was possibly “conceived by the midichlorians” (Qui-Gonn) and thus a being referred to in “the prophesy of the one who will bring balance to the Force” (Mace Windu)
    We are told through the Jedi Council members that “His cells contain a very high concentration of midichlorians” (Mace, confirming Obi-Wan’s initial diagnosis) and “The Force is strong with him” (Ki-Adi).
    So when Mace says “He will not be trained”, Qui-Gonn reiterates his belief that Anakin is “the Chosen One”, thus reinforcing and reitering the idea that Anakin is ‘special’. So much so that Yoda responds, teasing the audience who (might or might not be) aware of Anakin’s true fate, with “Clouded, this boy’s future is. Masked by his youth”.

    Later when Qui-Gonn tries to explain to Anakin (and to us) what midichlorians are, “Midichlorians are a microscopic lifeform that reside within all living cells” and “Without the midichlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force”, I see no lack of explanation or contradiction with Obi-Wan’s later description of the Force to Luke in Episode IV: “the Force is what gives the Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together”.

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  8. prophet

    Not to be argumentative Zee Zee, because I do agree with everything you said… however, I think the reason people are still complaining about this is because they don’t really want The Force explained.

    In the revelation of midichlorians, Lucas took what was once an entirely faith-based and mystical venture and boiled it down to a blood test.

    Almost nothing sets off arguments like a difference in belief systems or religion vs. science.

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  9. The Exalted

    Interesting view point prophet, I never viewed the force as faith based, as there is clear physical evidence of its effects. Though it is certainly mystical!

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  10. Quentin George

    Force wasn’t even “faith based” in the OT. We, as objective viewers, can see Luke and Yoda use the Force to lift and move things.

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