I mean, I don’t want the films to ever definitively define the Force, but the films do seem to suggest that the Force either does have a will of its own, or the Force is merely an aspect of that galaxy’s nature that can react to certain external forces that gives the semblance of conscious action, if that makes sense.
I personally think it can and should be ambiguous enough to be interpreted either way, though. Think of it the way ancient civilizations deified forces of nature because they believed its unpredictability meant it must be sentient, and powerful. So either the Force is or isn’t conscious, but regardless, I think you can’t argue with the fact that the Force at least appears to be dynamic, to react to outside stimuli.
Let’s look at the prequels. Qui-Gon refers to “the will of the Force” on at least one occasion. He also believes that the Force, through the midichlorians, created Anakin in order to bring balance. So, the Force apparently reacted to the growing power of the Sith and the dark side, and created a conduit in which it can restore balance. The term “Chosen One” itself implies someone was chosen by something or someone with intent. I would also like to add that Qui-Gon should have some credibility since he was the first Jedi to be able to retain his consciousness after death.
We also hear how the Jedi’s ability to use the Force during the prequels has diminished. Regardless of what causes this, the growing power of the Sith/dark side, the Jedi’s own hubris, this clearly demonstrates that Force “power levels” are not constant, and that even the most powerful Jedi’s ability to use the Force is not a constant, static thing.
And throughout both the prequels, the OT and the sequels we hear talk of destiny. In other words, fate, which implies that someone’s future, or a certain course of events, is predetermined. Predetermined by who? Destiny seems to be a real thing in the Star Wars universe, even if characters interpret it in their own ways. This shows that even in the OT, the idea that Force could determine one’s future existed. And again, this does not mean the Force has to necessarily be conscious, but rather another function of a potentially complex system.
Yoda even refers to it as his ally, which at least implies the idea that Yoda sees the Force as more than just a tool like the Sith do. Even visions, like the dark side cave on Dagobah, implies the idea that the Force is trying to show Luke something. I still believe you can interpret this as a conscious Force or the Force merely reflecting an individual’s internal thoughts and emotions. Both Obi-Wan and the Emperor refer to disturbances in the Force, meaning that outside stimuli can in fact make the Force react to it. Like throwing a rock in a water and creating waves.
Also this particular interaction,
Obi-Wan: Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.
Luke: You mean it controls your actions?
Obi-Wan: Partially, but it also obeys your commands.
This also does seem to imply that the Force can act on its own, guiding a persons actions when that person lets go of their own control and allows the Force to guide them. The person concentrates on what they want to achieve, and the Force helps them accomplish that action. This also could be interpreted as a stimuli-response interaction.
So, the Sequel Trilogy. The name of Episode VII is literally titled THE FORCE AWAKENS. This is further evidence that at the very least the Force is a dynamic system that can ebb and flow. Snoke even refers to sensing it in the film itself.
Let’s get to Rey. Interestingly, Rey doesn’t demonstrate any strong connection to the Force until she is called to the lightsaber. Rey is clearly Force-sensitive, at the very least. She apparently has had dreams of Luke’s island in the past, but no overt uses of the Force. But when she touches the saber, it is like something clicks inside her. Like some repressed connection has awakened. And after that, we see her use the Force more overtly in a few different ways.
And in the Last Jedi, Snoke mentions the idea of the light rising to meet the growing darkness. Luke even implies the idea that he wants the Jedi to end so the light can come from a new, purer source.
Yes, these pieces of evidence can clearly point to the idea of a conscious Force. Rey fit the bill of the kind of person the Force felt worthy to be its hero, so it calls to her both on Takodana and on Ach-To, trying to take her down the necessary path. While Snoke takes credit for bridging Rey and Kylo’s minds, there seems to be a suggestion that a connection already existed between them, possibly originating from the Force (“Why is the Force connecting us?”), especially that it still exists even after Snoke’s death.
But, this also can be interpreted as aspects of just a very complex system of nature. It has been clearly demonstrated the power of the Force and the dark side clearly can wax and wane.
One interpretation could be that all Force-users act as conduits for the Force, and the more people there are that channel the light or dark sides of the Force, the stronger/weaker the abilities will manifest. The Jedi at their highest numbers had a diminished ability with the Force, while the Sith, under the rule of two, were at their most powerful. In the OT, the two Sith rule the galaxy, the two Jedi are in hiding, and Luke comes into the picture and becomes a Jedi in a fraction of the time the Jedi of the Old Republic did. Then we have the ST, where it has been 30 years since ROTJ, and Force-users on both sides demonstrate incredible power: Kylo freezing blaster bolts, Snoke connecting minds (supposedly), throwing Rey around with ease and reading her mind with minimal effort, and Luke projecting himself across the fucking galaxy.
And with the Force as a dynamic, complex system, you could also argue that the light/Force is drawn to positive emotions and mindset like a magnet, which could explain the Force’s draw to Rey, and the dark side is drawn to negative emotions and motivations.
This is just another interpretation, but this is just meant to prove that the idea of the Force being dynamic, a thing that lies dormant or grows in strength, doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a conscious entity. The Force having a will of its own seems to be a clear answer, but those two things are not exclusive, and I personally believe they should never outright explain it as such.
And also, I get that the idea of a dynamic Force might not be your cup of tea, but just because that isn’t how you have perceived the Force in the past doesn’t mean that that isn’t the way it actually does in fact work. I personally think this evidence shows the Force is a dynamic system. I’m just suggesting open-mindedness, and you can find an interpretation of the Force can satisfy you, but also reflect what we are shown in all 8, soon to be 9, films. You don’t have to believe the Force is conscious, but you can still believe it is a system that acts and reacts to external stimuli (i.e. the Jedi and the Sith) that at least makes it behave as if it has a will of its own.