Midi-chlorians have been on my mind, lately. I have already written some absurd expectations for the new Star Wars movie, which I think about all the time now that the trailers and commercials have all been released. There’s all sorts of legacies hinted at in the trailer: Vader’s weird, melted helmet; “I have seen these eyes before;” another astromech droid in the thick of things. But who are these kids in the trailer?
I thought I’d pull at the dangling thread of the midi-chlorians from the prequels, a stupid idea that has stuck with me as an unfired gun in the sense that if if you introduce a gun, you have to fire it. The midi-chlorians were never fired. Bear with me for a minute, this will make sense after a few paragraphs.
One of the most amazing revelations in movie history was that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father. One of the most groan-worthy moments of the original trilogy was the revelation that Luke and Leia were twins. I don’t think I knew the expression “retcon” when I was thirteen, but I could clearly tell that they weren’t supposed to be twins in the previous two movies what with all the making out. I’m sure it wasn’t until the public’s energetic reaction to the revelation that Vader was Luke’s father that the Star Wars brain trust started scrambling for another genetic twist for Return of the Jedi.
And there are revelations, like, all through the prequel trilogy that don’t quite click. For instance, if you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ve probably noticed that C3-PO will often exclaim, “By the maker!” In The Phantom Menace, we find out that 3PO’s maker is Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader), but I don’t think anyone cared. As an adult, it’s the kind of coincidence you just try to overlook. Because it just didn’t matter. And anyone who hadn’t figured out that Padme was Luke and Leia’s mom– well, I can’t even imagine that person. It was very obvious from the get-go. I’m a reasonably big Star Wars fan so I knew that Ian McDiarmid played Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi and his character’s name in The Phantom Menace was “Palpatine,” so I saw that coming two movies away.
So what was going on with the midi-chlorians? What was Lucas trying to get at? Are the Star Wars movies all about doing the “twist” in Lucas’ mind? Here’s some moments from the prequels that I think were supposed to add up to something:
1. The Phantom Menace introduced us to the incredibly irritating midi-chlorians, microscopic organisms that allow people (or whatever) to interact with the force. I think the theater actually groaned when Qui-Gon Jinn explained them, or maybe that was just me. Anakin’s count is off the charts! (Stay off of antibiotics, Anakin, or you could become less force sensitive!) I think that fans have really tried to just ignore this like they ignored Darth Vader building C3-PO. But the idea is out there, even if the concept didn’t really go anywhere in the prequels. For instance, my first thought was that some Jedi was going to get cut off from their midi-chlorians at a key moment or some Sith would get some kind of booster shot. Not anything I was looking forward to, but they made such a big deal about it I thought something clever was going to happen. Maybe “clever” isn’t the right word, more like those moments at the beginning of a Bond film where he is issued a pen that explodes and you just know that two hours later in some underground lair, a beautiful lady in a bikini is going to muse, “We sure could use an exploding pen in this situation.”
2. Anakin’s mother, Shmi Skywalker, says that Anakin has no father. She simply found herself pregnant one day. Even in a non-Christian society, that has to be some kind of a big deal, right? At the very least, an extremely fishy situation. Particularly when Anakin turns out to be “the chosen one.” But I think that Schmi tells Qui-Gon Jinn and then no one ever mentions it again. The force must have been telling Qui-Gon, “Surrrrrrrrrre, there’s no father.”
3. Palpatine, (aka The Emperor, aka Darth Sidious), mentions that Darth Plagueis — almost certainly his Sith mentor — was so powerful in the ways of the Force that he could manipulate midi-chlorians to father a child. It’s kind of a creepy moment where it is obviously very important to George Lucas, the writer and director, that this scene is in the movie because it goes on forever (and is a great scene!). But is it just to answer the question, “Who is Anakin’s father?” Because the answer doesn’t have quite the same heft as Darth Vader turning out to be Luke’s father. “You mean my father is… Darth Plagueis? A long-dead unseen character who is never mentioned before or after this scene? My god! The ramifications are… negligible.” I think the story would have worked better if Anakin was just a random slave boy who had a genetic opportunity to become a jedi.
The clear implication for me is that Shmi Lars née Skywaker was impregnated with Anakin by a dark Lord of the Sith, probably Darth Plagueis, for some reason. Why Schmi? She’s a slave on Tatooine and her son will definitely also be a slave. Why did none of the Sith keep an eye on her kid, who was sure to be interesting? We had three movies and none of this got answered or even explored. Hell, maybe they were keeping an eye on Anakin, but things ended up working out for the Sith without any intervention. All just a coincidence!
But what if that wasn’t the clear implication? For instance, a deep read of that scene could imply that Palpatine was actually the father of Luke and Leia. In other words, Palpatine used what he learned from Darth Plagueis to get Padme pregnant with the twins. The future emperor saw what was going on with Padme and Anakin and thought, I’m going to manipulate that girl’s midi-chlorians and get her up the duff. Certainly, Padme’s pregnancy had a lot to do with Anakin going nuts and Palpatine was the kind of manipulator who was always thirty steps ahead of everyone else. From a story standpoint, I don’t think that this would change the way anyone acted. Unlike when Luke finds out that Darth Vader is his dad and starts looking for the good in, let’s face it, one of he worst guys ever. How many people did Vader kill? Literally billions. But Luke nices him up with a little good force boost!
Do I really think Palpatine is Luke and Leia’s father? No. I really don’t. But there is something going on with that stupid midi-chlorians story.
And I think it clearly means that Palpatine probably has a kid out there somewhere, at least in Lucas’s mind.
We also can’t forget that the whole Star Wars universe has a whole industry devoted to clones. Anyone could be cloned — anyone — although in particular Jango Fett since there were millions of him out there.
Which brings us to The Force Awakens. I will bet dollars to doughnuts that no one ever mentions midi-chlorians in another Star Wars movie in this post-Lucas environment. But that doesn’t mean that Lucas wasn’t planting the seeds for the big sequel revelations in those early movies. I think that Disney mostly threw away Lucas’s film treatments when they acquired the rights for Star Wars from the maker, Lucas. But who doesn’t like a big twist, right? (M. Night Shyamalan just high-fived me.)
Whose Children are These Young People?
The big question for me from The Force Awakens trailer is, who are these young people? Who are their parents? I don’t want to think about it, I have to.
One thing that is really weird about Star Wars is if Han and Leia did get married, which I assume they did, everyone is related then: Darth Vader becomes Han’s father-in-law, and Han and Luke are brothers-in-law. Chewie isn’t a blood uncle, but he’s there all the time with Han, I’m assuming. There’s a lot going on with family in these movies! So I’m going to say that Luke probably doesn’t have any children — except for the younglings who, I’m assuming, he has been training to be jedi. Luke’s in his sixties and it would just be weird to throw in a romantic interest. And if he had kids, they would be cousins to Han and Leia’s kids and you just get into some dialogue that no one wants to hear, “He’s related to Darth Plagueis on his father’s side!”
So here are the young people:
1. There’s Finn, John Boyega, He’s black, so probably not Han and Leia’s kid, although I have no idea how genetics work in the Star Wars universe. I’m guessing that he’s something of a wild card and not from the lineage of the original gang.
2. Then there’s Daisy Ridley as Rey, who just has to be Han and Leia’s kid just from the way she and Han interact in the trailer. (Why was she left on some god forsaken planet that everyone is saying isn’t Tatooine but really, really looks like Tatoonie? Who knows? But there certainly was a big battle with the Empire there at some point. Maybe the rebels — the New Republic? — got defeated there?) But I would be really surprised if Rey turned out to be a gender-switched clone of Darth Vader. Although there is a possibility that she is just Han’s kid and not Leia’s.
3. Now Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, that’s another story. Hotshot “yahoo” pilot who makes Finn nervous? I bet he turns out to be bad, a dark side of the force guy (even if Kylo Ren does appear to be torturing him in the trailer). But I’m not sure if he’s going to turn out to be a legacy character or not. I’d like to think that not everyone in the movie is going to be, say, Luke’s stepson.
4. And BB-8? Although I don’t quite understand the ins and outs of how robots are made, clearly longtime companions R2 and C3-PO figured something out and conceived BB-8. Congratulations, you two! Everyone else knew that you belonged together! I think that red arm is a droid wedding ring.
5. Which leaves only Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, the bad guy with the crusades-style light saber. If anyone is a clone, it’s him. But of course, we know what Anakin Skywalker looked like when he was young and it wasn’t anything like Adam Driver. So he could also be Darth or Palpatine’s midi-chlorian kid. But that seems weird too. So I have to go with another one of Han and Leia’s kids, the bad one in the dark side of the force sense. They are prone to twins in the Amidala/Skywalker descendants!
Of course, I can’t quite shake the idea that Darth Vader is going to show up in these movies. Disney bought the Star Wars universe for oodles of money. Vader is an awesome character and, perhaps, more importantly from a Disney standpoint, an asset. So I wonder if Kylo Ren and the Knights of Nee are trying to bring Vader back somehow. He’s a force ghost, right? Maybe they could stick him in a body. And of course, they could clone him. Or someone could just put on some Darth Vader armor and become, essentially, Darth Vader.
But there are more Star Wars movies coming out, so I don’t think Vader will show up in The Force Awakens. I think Luke is going to be the surprise in this one, although we all know he’s in it. But there will probably be something surprising about him.
Anyway, I don’t really think that we’re going to see any midi-chlorian babies in these movies. But I really do think that the midi-chlorian story line was abandoned late enough in the game that it was actually highlighted in the third movie. Or maybe Lucas had a bomb to drop in the new sequels. Perhaps the only point was that Anakin Skywalker was born of a weird Sith thing. Or maybe I’m just wrong and it’s meaningless. Whatever the case, I have been thinking about it a lot.