If Nothing Else, Rian Johnson Used The Last Jedi To Correct The Prequels Greatest Crime Against The Original Trilogy
As The Last Jedi winds down it’s block busting theatrical run, there is something I’d like to say to writer-director Rian Johnson.
Thank-you for (hopefully) erasing those goddamn midi-chlorians.
I hated the Star Wars prequels for a veritable buffet of reasons. Hayden Christensen’s acting. The wretched dialogue. Jar Jar Binks. Turning Darth Vader, one of the greatest villains in the history of movies, into a whiny pouter. Jar Jar Binks. Making Vader a Bad Jesus (seriously, what was with that immaculate conception?). Did I mention Jar Jar Binks?
But the biggest offender was the introduction of midi-chlorians. One of the great things about the Star Wars mythos was that anyone could be a Jedi. The idea that every sentient being in the Universe was connected by a single energy of unimaginable power that bound all of Creration together was one of the most powerful and appealing ideas Star Wars offered.
The idea that enough dedication, willpower and intelligence could allow anyone, from the strongest to the to the meekest and everyone in between, to wield that energy, that Force, was even more attractive. Anyone who was shunned by the rest of the world, an outsider ignored by the world large fell hopelessly in love with the thought. Being a Jedi (or Sith, for that matter) wasn’t easy (otherwise everyone and their mother would have been one) but knowing you could be a hero because of how hard you wanted it, how bravely you chased it and how hard you put the entirety of your mind to it was the reason millions embraced Star Wars during their formative years.
Star Wars was the biggest, baddest fairy taler for an entire generation and the fact that anyone could be the hero was a big part of the reason why. And this wasn’t just some sort of silent, unsaid understanding. Obi-Wan Kenobi had an entire monologue about it in the original Star Wars and Yoda basically backed it up one movie later.
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But then the reviled Prequels came along and erased one of the biggest reasons so many had fallen in love with the space faring saga.
According to the Prequels, the Force was now the exclusive property of the genetic elite. Enter the midi-chlorains, micro-organisms that lived symbiotically within a person’s cells. No longer was someone’s power as a Jedi determined by their work ethic or determination, but by how many of these mysterious little things were taking up residence in their body.
A person’s character and fortitude no longer had anything to do with their success as a Guardian of the Republic. Rather it was how many midi-chlorians they could keep alive in their body. In case you didn’t have enough to be a great warrior, well you could settle for being the Jedi Temple librarian. Courage, intelligence and skill with a lightsabre were no longer part of the equation.
Being able to use The Force, something we were originally told touched every living thing in existence, was now a matter of random chance and the Jedi were essentially the genetically privileged. The Jedi had become outer space’s answer to the X-Men and were a hop, skip and a jump away from being space-Nazis minus the racial supremacy and the genocidal tendencies.
It was the biggest crime the prequels committed against the original movies. It flew in the face of the idea that, unlike everything else in life, you didn’t have to be naturally athletic or good looking or charismatic. Wallflowers and the socially awkward (which is what most of us were growing up) could be a Jedi if we wanted it bad enough.
With the revelation that Rey’s parents were nobodies, drunken scavengers who sold her into slavery for drinking money, the idea of midi-chlorions was one step closer to the dustbin. Since The Force Awakens resurrected the franchise in 2015, fans were left wondering who Rey’s parents were, and the Internet was consumed by theories on her parentage. Was she a Skywalker? A lost member of the Kenobi clan? A secret daughter of Han and Leia’s ill-fated marriage (making her Kylo Ren’s sister)?
I honestly can’t understand why so many fans are so upset about the revelation that she isn’t a member of a an existing Jedi family. The Force no longer belongs to a handful of families scattered across the Galaxy the way social status and wealth belongs to a few privileged Houses in Game of Thrones.
And it makes Rey a much more powerful character as well. Her eventual ascension to Jedi will be done on her own with no familial genetic assistance bestowing the power upon her. While she was once a mere junk rat toiling and living in servitude she seems destined to become a warrior that changes the face of the Galaxy. And it’s her choice and willpower that spurs that evolution. That’s what Star Wars is about, not stupid micro bacteria determining a hero’s destiny through their genome.
I’m hoping J.J, Abrams keeps this news about Rey’s parents intact in the next movie (due out Christmas 2019). While there seem to be a lot of fans who want her to be part of some Jedi dynasty, it feels more in spirit with the original vision while also making her a more formidable character. And changing it would cheapen both the foundation of what it is to be a Jedi as well as the character herself.
So thank-you Mr. Johnson, for bringing back one of the most important things about the Star Wars mythology. If you did nothing else with the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga, you managed that much (though I doubt Disney’s fretting too much over the film’s current 611 million dollar domestic gross). From one lifelong Star Wars fan, thanks for bringing back a little of the magic.