When George Lucas released the Star Wars prequels, starting with Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1999, he made changes to the universe that rankled many fans. One element many took issue with was that he explained the Force, and that it originates with something called midi-chlorians. J.J. Abrams just promised when we sit down to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens later this year, we’re not going to see any of that shit.
MTV caught up with the director on the red carpet for Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation, and the normally tight-lipped filmmaker answered some yes-or-no questions about his upcoming foray into that far, far away galaxy. Most of the queries are funny and not particularly serious, like one about R2-D2 being an asshole when he gets hungry, but when the interviewer asks Abrams if anyone mentions midi-chlorians in The Force Awakens, the answer is a simple:
For those of you who haven’t seen The Phantom Menace, or who need a refresher, midi-chlorians are intelligent microscopic life forms that exist in a state of symbiosis within the cells of all living things in the galaxy. When present in great enough numbers, they allow the host to feel the Force, and midi-chlorian count is an indicator used to measure one’s potential to become a Jedi. To quote Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson):
Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to us, telling us the will of the Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you’ll hear them speaking to you.
In The Phantom Menace, when Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) come across young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) on Tatooine, the elder Jedi explains this to the small child. It’s a moment where, sitting in the movie theater, Star Wars fans had a collective moment where they sat up and asked, “Did George Lucas just give a biological explanation for the goddamn Force?”
In one seemingly small moment, with one almost throwaway bit of discussion, Lucas drastically changed one of the biggest, most beloved elements of Star Wars forever. In one fell swoop he took this mythical, magical, spiritual thing—the Force and the Jedi way is described and viewed as a religion—and erases all of the mystery. Now you can use a piece of technology to quantify the Force, and it’s never been quite as cool since.
More than just about any of the other issues with the prequels, it’s the midi-chlorians that bummed me out the most. Even more than Jar Jar. But you get the feeling that Lucas realized he screwed up, as there’s not much midi-chlorian talk in the subsequent Episodes. And good on J.J. Abrams for knowing what fans want and that what fans want is certainly not midi-chlorians. We prefer to pretend that never happened.