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SWR Balance of the Force 1

Balance of the Force: Harmony

Balance of the Force: Harmony
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“May the Force be with you.”  Nearly forty years ago, movie-goers emerged from theaters with the phrase in their minds and on their lips.  For decades, it has prevailed in pop-culture, eventually leading to “May the Fourth” being regarded as “Star Wars Day” globally.  The Force has become part of our language, our heritage, and, for some, our mythology.  This pervasive concept struck a chord in the twentieth century that continues to intrigue the masses today.

Shrouded in mystery, elevated in mythology, the Force is the singular aspect of Star Wars that fuels imaginations, inflames passionate debates, and drives fans to theaters and television screens time and again to visit that galaxy far, far away.  From Old Ben’s vague explanation of the Force to Luke to Qui-Gon’s specific description of how the Force is sensed through microscopic midi-chlorians, viewers have learned about the Force through dialog and demonstration as characters on-screen have divulged what lies in the minds of George Lucas, Dave Filoni, Lawrence Kasdan, Christian Taylor, and other creators of the movies and shows in Star Wars canon.  Every revelation about the Force presented to audiences brings more questions as fans want to know more about this mystical energy field.  Fans want to know what the Force is, who can use it, how it works, and, of course, what “Balance of the Force” really means.

When Qui-Gon Jinn stood before the Jedi Council beside his padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, he revealed that he had discovered a vergence in the Force — a boy he believed may have been conceived by midi-chlorians.  Mace Windu countered, “You refer to the prophecy of the One who will bring Balance to the Force.”  This revelation of an ancient prophecy which may or may not relate to Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader penetrated the minds of fans and has generated debates and discussions (and essays like this one) for seventeen years.  What do we know and what can we infer about this “balance” from what we’ve seen on-screen in movies and television programs?

Obi-Wan explains the Force

Balance of the Force: Harmony
For those of us who saw Star Wars in order of release, rather than in chronological order, the Force was first mentioned by Obi-Wan Kenobi on movie screens in 1977.  “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power.  It’s an energy field created by all living things.  It surrounds us.  It penetrates us.  It binds the galaxy together.”  The words resound with the depth of hidden meaning in simple statements that sound as if they’ve been memorized from a catechism in the early years of a Jedi’s training.  For the moment, they satisfy the curiosity of young Luke, but on further reflection, there is much left unsaid.  However, the idea of balance is inherent in the harmony implied.  All living things touch the Force as well as create it.  The unity of the galaxy is dependent on each of the myriad components of the Force operating together in concert — each one gives and takes as the Force flows around and through everything.  Although all living beings contribute to and participate in the Force, Ben later explains, “…a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.”  Years later, on Dagobah, Yoda reiterates the same picture of harmony in the Force: “Life creates it, makes it grow.  Its energy surrounds us and binds us.  Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.  You must feel the Force around you.”

Yoda explains the Force

This idea of harmonious balance between all living things continued in the prequels.  When Anakin asked the question for all viewers, “What are midi-chlorians?”, Qui-Gon explained, “Midi-chlorians are a microscopic life form that resides within all living cells, and we are symbionts with them — life forms living together for mutual advantage.  Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force.”  While some fans charged that this seemingly scientific explanation removed the mysterious nature of the Force, Qui-Gon’s words did no such thing.  He simply expanded this idea of the unity of all living things inherently linked to the Force.  In the first episode of The Clone Wars, “Ambush”, Yoda encourages the three clones with him by explaining that each of them the nature of the Force and their connection to it as individuals, even though they may not sense it, “All around us is that which we need to prevail…In the Force, very different each one of you are…Clones, you may be, but the Force resides in all life forms.”

SWReport Balance Ambush

With this picture of the essential harmony of all living things in the galaxy connected by the Force, we gain some insight into what balance means.  Through the give and take of each living thing, the currents of the Force flow between every component part, linking distinct individuals together for the benefit of all through the penetrating, surrounding presence of the Force.

SWReport Balance Aleena

Nowhere is this harmony more evident than in examples of this recurring theme throughout The Clone Wars.  One example of this harmonious balance between living things is seen in in an episode which was initially disdained by many and likely largely forgotten.  in “Mercy Mission” from season four, while C-3PO and R2-D2 investigate the cause of earthquakes on the planet Aleen, they travel below ground and discover the source of the disruptions is due to a disturbance in the peace between the surface and underground realms.  Orphne, a peculiar entity seemingly composed of tiny, luminescent creatures, tells Threepio of a covenant between the Aleena and the subterranean world, saying, “We survive because the ground keeps us apart…Without going through the natural filtering process, the surface air is deadly to us.”  Those who dwelt underground believed the Aleena had broken the seal that separated their two worlds, responding by causing the earthquakes that followed.  This corresponds to what Kindaloo had already told Threepio when he rebuked the ‘droid for entering the subterranean realm:  “Why have the surface dwellers destroyed the peace?  The ground shakes to keep out the foul air which poisons and destroys us.”  It is notable that the surface dwellers were blamed for destroying the peace — the balance that had long been maintained between the two worlds — even though no evidence of this was ever mentioned in the episode.  Also intriguing was that Kindaloo seemed offended by the presence of the ‘droids, emphatically declaring that they did not “belong”.  Could this have been a reference to the idea that ‘droids, as mechanical beings, do not have a connection to the Living Force?

SWReport Balance Kindaloo

In the third season, Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka experience an unexplainable phenomenon called “Mortis”.  In “Overlords, we discover that Mortis was “unlike any other, a conduit through which the entire Force of the universe flows.  This planet is both an amplifier and a magnet,” according to Obi-Wan’s vision of Qui-Gon Jinn.  On this unique world, days passed like seasons, as plants emerged with new growth every morning, matured, aged, and lost all signs of life as evening drew its last light.  When night fell, storms prevailed and visions emerged as the sleep of death overshadowed its domain.  This “conduit” of the Force reflected balance between life and death, as well as darkness and light.

SWReport Balance Mortis

Later, in the sixth season, Yoda learns more about this natural cycle of life and death as it is reflected in two distinct aspects of the Force which were sometimes alluded to but not previously explored.  In “Voices”, Yoda hears Qui-Gon’s voice while he is meditating.  Qui-Gon claims to be part of the Living Force.  When Yoda confesses that he has heard a voice from beyond the grave, Ki-Adi-Mundi responds, “The dead are part of the Cosmic Force and lose their individuality.”  The Living Force and the Cosmic Force are aspects of the Force that had been given little more than passing mentions previously.  On Dagobah, Qui-Gon’s disembodied voice instructs the old Jedi Master about these aspects of the Force: “Living beings generate the Living Force, which in turn powers the wellspring that is the Cosmic Force.  All energy from the Living Force, from all things that have ever lived, feeds into the Cosmic Force, binding everything and communicating to us through the midi-chlorians.”  In “Destiny”, Yoda reaches a planet inside which, he says, “life emanates.”  On this planet, he encounters five priestesses who again explain the balance between the Living Force and the Cosmic Force, saying, “When a living thing dies, all is renewed.  Life passes from the Living Force into the Cosmic Force and becomes One within it.  One empowers the other.  One is renewed by the other.”  After passing the various trials required by the priestesses, they inform the old Jedi that he would “learn to maintain [his] consciousness after death.  Enlightenment, spirit, balance.  There is another Skywalker.”  Yoda would be trained to retain his identity and individuality even after he died — perhaps in doing so he could help this unknown Skywalker…

When considering this harmony between all living things relative to both the Living Force and the Cosmic Force, the extreme positions of both the Sith and the Jedi seem to be disrupting this Balance of the Force.

SWReport Balance Witwer

The Sith are marked by their unrelenting desire for power.  Sam Witwer remarked in “The Mind of Maul”, a featurette on starwars.com, that the Sith cling to life because that’s all they have.  For years, fans of Star Wars have accepted that the Sith have no expectation of anything beyond this life.  Therefore, to retain their power, they seek to extend their own lives.  This, even Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, Darth Sidious himself, admits “some consider to be unnatural,” while telling Anakin the Sith legend of The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise. “He became so powerful, the only thing he was afraid of was losing his power…Ironic, he could save others from death but not himself.”  To the Sith, death was to be avoided, for that would mean the loss of power.  As the final temptation to lure Anakin to the Dark Side, Sidious promised the confused Jedi, “To cheat death is a power only one has achieved, but if we work together, I know we could discover its secret.”  Cheating death would disrupt the balance between the Living Force and the Cosmic Force, refusing to return the Force of life to the wellspring of renewal and rebirth.  The thirst for power and selfish passion of the Sith had tipped the scales.

SWReport Balance Jedi Loophole

But the Jedi were complicit, as well.  Though they gave lip service to the relationship of all living beings united together, they held themselves aloof from others, forbidding Jedi to form attachments and develop relationships.  They resided in their ivory towers and Jedi temples as guardians of peace, failing to recognize that in doing so, they, too, had disrupted the balance by failing to fully interact with other living beings except to solve problems and find promising young pupils to train as Jedi. Anakin, frustrated at the Jedi doctrine, strove to find a loophole, telling Padme, “Attachment is forbidden.  Possession is forbidden.  Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is central to a Jedi’s life.”  Later, when counseling Anakin about his visions of Padme’s death, Yoda displays this calloused view towards others:  “Death is a natural part of life.  Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.  Mourn them do not.  Miss them do not.  Attachment leads to jealousy.  The shadow of greed, that is.”  It seems that through their understanding of the relationship between the Living Force and the Cosmic Force, the Jedi had forgotten that life consists of more than simply being born of the Force and returning to it at death.  Life is to be experienced in relationship to other living beings.  Their cold devotion to doctrine may have disturbed the harmony between all living things.

Both the Sith and the Jedi expressed and demonstrated extreme views which could effectively unbalance the status of the Living Force and the Cosmic Force.  Bringing balance to the Force may imply a return to the peaceful, harmonious relationship of all living beings to one another.

Keep watching StarWarsReport.com for the next article in the “Balance of the Force” series addressing the symmetry between the Light and Dark sides of the Force and what that may entail in bringing the Force into balance.

 

Musical Finales Pt.2- TWL #183

WampasLair_SquareKarl and Jason wrap up their discussion about the closing tracks from the Star Wars saga with the Original Trilogy closing tracks and of course, The Force Awakens!

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Top 5 Luke Moments- TWL #178

WampasLair_SquareKarl and Jason discuss their Top 5 Luke Skywalker moments! From his amazing trench run in ANH to his climactic duel with Darth Vader in ROTJ, all sorts of great moments are covered in this episode!

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Underrated Moments- TWL #146

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Before and After: Instructions Regarding Skywalker’s Son

Star Wars: Before and After the Special Editions
Instructions Regarding the Son of Skywalker

When we first saw The Empire Strikes Back in theaters, none of us was expecting Darth Vader to reveal that he was Luke’s father.  To be honest, even after the reveal, some of us were clinging to the hope that Vader was lying — biding our time between the second and third movies in discussions and debates about whether the Dark Lord of the Sith could actually be the father of Luke Skywalker.

Before telling Luke what really happened to his father, Darth Vader spoke to his Master about this “son of Skywalker”, revealing the plot to turn the young Jedi to the Dark Side.  In this brief holographic communication between Vader and the Emperor, we were treated to our first glimpse of this mysterious ruler of the galaxy.

When George Lucas revisited his classic trilogy, fans expected the voice and image of the Emperor to be altered to match the character as he was portrayed by Ian McDiarmid in Return of the Jedi.  What we didn’t expect was that the text of the transmission would be altered, as well.

In what was one of the best changes in all the Special Editions, the dialog between master and apprentice both conceals and reveals the reasons behind the plot to turn young Skywalker to the Dark Side or destroy him.  Consider the original version of this scene:

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Darth Vader
What is thy bidding, my Master?

Emperor
There is a great disturbance in the Force.

Darth Vader
I have felt it.

Emperor
We have a new enemy, Luke Skywalker.

Darth Vader
Yes, my Master.

Emperor
He could destroy us.

Darth Vader
He is just a boy.  Obi-Wan can no longer help him.

Emperor
The Force is strong with him.
The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.

Darth Vader
If he could be turned he would become a powerful ally.

Emperor
Yes.  Yes.  He would be a great asset.  Can it be done?

Darth Vader
He will join us or die, Master.

From the beginning of the movie, we know that Darth Vader is obsessed with finding Luke Skywalker, dispatching probes throughout the galaxy.  What we didn’t know was that he was doing so without the knowledge or consent of the Emperor.  When he tells Vader that they have a new enemy, he calls him by name — Luke Skywalker.

After repeated viewings, made possible by the technological innovations of movie channels and videotapes, once we had accepted that Darth Vader had once been Anakin Skywalker, we began to question the reasons behind the Emperor’s transmission.  Had he truly only discovered the name of the pilot who had struck the fatal blow to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, or was he testing Vader to see if his search was spawned by less-than-Sithy motives?  Was he simply letting his apprentice know that he knew about the boy as well, warning him not to betray him?  What had first been simply a matter of plot exposition and foreshadowing began to reveal shadows of the Emperor’s devious scheming and manipulations as we watched the movie over and over.

When the Special Editions were released, the insidious nature of the Emperor became more pronounced as his references to Luke were less focused on the boy himself and emphasized the man behind the mask who now wore the name Darth Vader.  Notice the differences in the transmission in the 1997 version:

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Darth Vader
What is thy bidding, my Master?

Emperor
There is a great disturbance in the Force.

Darth Vader
I have felt it.

Emperor
We have a new enemy.
The young rebel who destroyed the Death Star.
I have no doubt this boy is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker.

Darth Vader
How is that possible?

Emperor
Search your feelings, Lord Vader; you will know it to be true.  He could destroy us.

Darth Vader
He is just a boy.  Obi-Wan can no longer help him.

Emperor
The Force is strong with him.
The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.

Darth Vader
If he could be turned he would become a powerful ally.

Emperor
Yes, he would be a great asset.  Can it be done?

Darth Vader
He will join us or die, Master.

In the newer rendering, Luke’s name is never used.  He is called a “young rebel”, a “boy”, the “offspring of Anakin Skywalker”, and the “son of Skywalker”.  Although the Emperor considers young Skywalker a threat, perhaps it is not so much because of the boy himself, but due to the relationship between his own powerful apprentice and this newly discovered Force user.  Perhaps he had foreseen, either through a Force vision or simple deduction, that Vader would try to forge an alliance between father and son in an effort to overthrow the Emperor and rule in his place — which was exactly what Vader told Luke in their conflict at Cloud City.

When Return of the Jedi is viewed in light of this less personal interest the Emperor had in Luke, we can understand why he sought to have Luke kill Vader, taking his father’s place at his side.  If Luke won the battle, striking down his father in anger, he would have completed his journey to the Dark Side, and the Emperor would continue his new apprentice’s training.  Had Vader prevailed, the last link to his past would have been removed, making Darth Vader fully devoted to his master.  Either way, the Emperor’s apprentice would be more powerful from the conflict: a Vader no longer weakened by emotional ties to the past would be more capable of carrying out the Emperor’s orders, or an untrained Jedi would be more malleable than his father, able to be manipulated by his new master.  In either case, the victor would be the Emperor.  (Unless, of course, father and son work together against the Emperor — a proposition unimaginable to the arrogant dictator.)

In my opinion, the alteration in the Emperor’s dialog gives deeper insight into the machinations of the Emperor’s plan: to be the most powerful being in the galaxy.

What do you think?  Is the earlier version sufficient or does the Special Edition better show the motives behind Palpatine’s character?  Comment below or take the conversation to social media @shazbazzar on Twitter.