I think it’s pretty clear that each film does damage to the simplicity and mysticism of the original (let’s say Cosmic) Force:
Great post Nev. I’ll try to answer these with what I think of each one.
ANH: The Force is a mystical energy field which binds the galaxy together. It is not necessarily tied to bloodlines and in fact is heavily implied to be available to anyone: ‘May the Force be with you.’
ESB: The Dark Side is now called that by the villains unironically, is now tied purely to ‘negative’ emotions, and the Force is strongly implied to be tied to specific bloodlines.
The dark side bit is indeed unfortunate, though I don’t see why Empire would imply the Force is tied to specific bloodlines.
ROTJ: The Force is almost certainly carried by bloodlines, the Dark Side is implied to be alluring to the point of being a brainwashing spell, and the most powerful ability in the galaxy is shooting lightning at someone.
Again, I don’t think the Force is carried by bloodlines, but I’ll get more to that later. I really don’t like the dumbed down dark side either, but I don’t think shooting lightning at someone is necessarily the most powerful ability in the Universe. There’s probably so many other abilities we can’t even begin to imagine…
TPM: The Force is scientifically detectable as a marker in a person’s blood.
Okay so here’s where (I think) we disagree (I’ll share my view regardless). The Midichlorians are in all living cells, as stated by Qui-Gon. I think it’s a cheap way Lucas found to try and sell that “Anakin is the most powerful being ever” as best he could, but it doesn’t contradict anything in the post-TESB world. Basically, the midichlorians quantify “talent”. How ‘talented’ you are with the Force. But everyone has them, and anyone can learn the ways of the force with discipline, belief, will and a lot of training.
So I think that the Force isn’t really hereditary because everyone has it - the uniqueness is that a father who’s strong with the Force will probably have a child who’s strong also. Though since PT Jedi can’t have kids, it’s obviously not tied to bloodlines, no?
I like to compare mastering the Force with mastering an instrument. Anyone can do it, some people are much better than others (hence, midichlorians, again, a dumb way to quantify ‘talent’, but not really offensive or contradictory IMO) but all have to work extremely hard to get a good grasp at it regardless of how powerful you are. Or, rather, that’s how I used to see it before the ST.
AOTC: Now even shooting lightning at someone isn’t special. A master of the Force famed for his pacifist view of the Force needs a weapon.
Agreed. I get what Lucas was going for with Yoda in the prequels and I think that as an idea it’s pretty sound, though the execution is always slightly off and Yoda thus feels awkward and out of place most of the time.
ROTS: The most powerful Force user in the galaxy is reduced to using a weapon and spinning like a beyblade. Becoming a Force Ghost is now an unlockable Jedi perk.
TFA: Inherited Force powers are unambiguously confirmed, doubly so considering Rey’s retcon.
Hmm, how so? Without Rey’s retcon, I guess you have Kylo? But then again that’s not really contradicting anything or adding anything to the mix, is it? The new thing here in TFA is just how active a role the Force plays as opposed to in the other movies. That’s the only explanation I can come up with to excuse Rey learning so much so quickly, even if it’s not really stated in the movie ever.
TLJ: The Force is reduced by the villain to a mathematical equation and this is never refuted, only confirmed.
I rather liked what they did, honestly. The new meaning of ‘Balance of the Force’. Lucas always said it was about destroying evil but TLJ shows that the world’s not quite that black and white. Regardless, since this isn’t present in any of the other movies it kind of feels awkward now for TLJ to redefine what “Balance of the Force” means. It’s now the odd one out. (Which is good because now I watch it as a standalone coda to the saga, hehe)
TROS: The most powerful Force user in the galaxy can be defeated by two(2) lightsabers.
Conclusion: Blood is stronger than the Cosmic Force, and some things (lightsabers) are stronger than blood.
I feel like for the OT, the idea is that love is more powerful than the Force. Luke doing the right thing is what inspires his father to turn. In the PT that’s still it, love is what makes Anakin turn to the dark side. I guess it all coming down to lightsaber fights in the end is a bit too simple and silly but I don’t really think it betrays the nature of the Force, even if it is a dumbed down way to make Yoda face the Emperor.
As for the ST, if they had fully committed to the idea that the “will of the Force” is more than just how the Universe is ‘feeling’ at any given moment and made the Force a more active player, trying to balance itself out, giving powers to Rey and all, it would’ve been interesting. To me it falls flat because they ditched that aspect for the third film (just the one that was supposed to fill in the rest of the gaps!) and just made it a “destroy the dark side” thing once again. Oh well. Now Palpatine’s dead for good, though!