The Force is a binding, metaphysical, and ubiquitous power in the fictional universe of the Star Wars galaxy created by George Lucas. Mentioned in the first film in the series, it is integral to all subsequent incarnations of Star Wars, including the expanded universe of comic books, novels, and video games. Within the franchise, it is the object of the Jedi and Sith monastic orders.

Origin[edit | edit source]

Lucas has attributed the origins of "The Force" to a 1963 abstract film by Arthur Lipsett, which sampled from many sources.

"One of the audio sources Lipsett sampled for 21-87 was a conversation between artificial intelligence pioneer Warren S. McCulloch and Roman Kroitor, a cinematographer who went on to develop IMAX. In the face of McCulloch's arguments that living beings are nothing but highly complex machines, Kroitor insists that there is something more: "Many people feel that in the contemplation of nature and in communication with other living things, they become aware of some kind of force, or something, behind this apparent mask which we see in front of us, and they call it God."

When asked if this was the source of "the Force," Lucas confirms that his use of the term in Star Wars was "an echo of that phrase in 21-87." The idea behind it, however, was universal: "Similar phrases have been used extensively by many different people for the last 13,000 years to describe the 'life force,'" he says.[1]"


Quotes[edit | edit source]

Main article: May the Force be with you

The Force is referenced several times throughout the Star Wars saga. In A New Hope, there are several mentions of the Force in reference to Luke Skywalker: by Obi-Wan Kenobi ("It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together," "Use the Force, Luke" and "The Force will be with you, always.") and Darth Vader ("The Force is strong with this one."). The famous line "May the Force be with you" is actually said by General Dodonna after explaining the Death Star attack plan to the Rebel pilots. It is said again by Han Solo to Luke, right before the attack on the Death Star battle station.

In The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Sidious states "There is a great disturbance in the Force," in reference to Luke Skywalker. Yoda points out that "a Jedi's strength flows from the Force." while training Luke (a statement he would repeat in Return of the Jedi); Yoda also explains that "you must feel the Force around you." During their battle in Cloud City, Darth Vader tells Luke "The Force is with you, young Skywalker, but you are not a Jedi yet." Finally, Luke says "May the Force be with you" at the end of the movie.

In Return of the Jedi, some references to the Force also include Yoda stating on his deathbed "Strong am I with the Force, but not that strong.", Luke revealing to Leia that he is her brother, by stating "The Force runs strong in my family", and Admiral Ackbar saying, "May the Force be with us" immediately prior to the Battle of Endor.

Depiction[edit | edit source]

In the original Star Wars film, the Force is first described by Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi as an energy field created by all living things, that surrounds and penetrates living beings and binds the galaxy together.[2] Throughout the series, characters exhibit various powers that rely on the Force.

The Force has a "Dark side", which feeds off emotions such as anger, jealousy, fear, lust, and hate, but the Jedi are only supposed to use the Force for peaceful purposes.[3] The series' villains, the Sith, embrace the dark side in order to seize power.[4] The Jedi's compassionate and selfless use of the Force has come to be known by inference as "the light side", although that term is not used in the films.

Force abilities[edit | edit source]

Jedi Master Yoda holds a senatorial platform aloft in Revenge of the Sith.

The Force can enhance natural, physical, and mental abilities, including strength (such as during a "Force jump" or to slow a fall from an otherwise dangerous height) and accuracy (as when Luke Skywalker was able to launch proton torpedoes into a two-meter-wide thermal exhaust port on the Death Star in A New Hope). A number of other Force powers are demonstrated in the film series including telekinesis, telepathy, levitation, deep hypnosis, enhanced empathy, reflexes, precognition, and enhanced speed. The Jedi were also able to influence and control the minds of others by making use of the Jedi mind trick. The Sith use an ability called Force Lightning which is a lightning-like manifestation of the dark side of the Force that can be used either in combat or as an instrument of excruciating torture (as demonstrated by Darth Sidious in Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith and Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones). The Force also gives enhanced skills in lightsaber combat.

The term "Force power" originated in the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, by West End Games. Later, it was used in Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, where they could be gained via a system of Force "points".

Within the Star Wars Expanded Universe, a number of other powers have been demonstrated, such as the ability to heal or drain the life force of others, increase resistance to attack, warp space and to dissipate energy attacks (which has been demonstrated on-screen by Yoda in Attack of the Clones during his battle with Count Dooku).

Disturbances in the Force[edit | edit source]

Those who possess the discipline and subtlety of mind to sense The Force often refer to disturbances in the Force. Since the Force is "an energy field created by all living things", a disturbance can be felt when there is death or suffering on a massive scale. A disturbance (or "tremor") may also be felt in the presence of a powerful Jedi or Sith.

When the planet Alderaan is destroyed in A New Hope, Obi-Wan senses "a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced". Also, in A New Hope, Darth Vader remarks to Governor Tarkin that he felt a "tremor in the Force" that he had not felt since in the presence of his old master. In The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Sidious tells Darth Vader that he has felt a disturbance in the Force upon realizing that Luke Skywalker poses a threat to him. In Attack of the Clones, Yoda feels a disturbance in the Force when Anakin, enraged by his mother's death, slaughters a tribe of Tusken Raiders.

In Attack of the Clones, Yoda can see through the Force that Obi Wan and Anakin will be forced to confront Count Dooku. He immediately orders a ship to take him to the scene of the duel in order to interrupt Dooku's plans and save the Jedi. Yoda is seen to be visibly disturbed after the deaths of many Jedi during Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith. He falls to his knees and grasps his chest, as if in pain himself; this shows the interconnected nature of the Force, especially its bond with the Jedi that were killed. In A New Hope, Darth Vader was able to sense Obi-Wan through his interactions with the Force, and in Return of the Jedi, Vader and Luke Skywalker were able to sense each other.

Force-sensitivity[edit | edit source]

Force-sensitivity is a condition in the Star Wars universe where a life form possesses a natural connection to the Force. Though the Force flows through all life, with only rare exceptions (such as the Yuuzhan Vong), outright sensitivity to it is a more uncommon trait. While potential for Force-sensitivity is established at birth; awareness, experience and training are necessary to harness the power of the Force. Yoda implies that this training is most effective in early childhood. It is established in The Phantom Menace to be biological, the product of midi-chlorians.

Midi-chlorians are microorganisms first mentioned in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. They reside within the cells of all living things and communicate with the Force.[5] They are symbionts within all other living things and without them life could not exist. The Jedi have learned how to listen to and coordinate the midi-chlorians. Every living being thus has a connection to the Force, but one must have a high enough concentration of midi-chlorians in one's cells in order to be a Jedi or a Sith.[6][7]

Creator George Lucas notes that the midi-chlorians are based on the endosymbiotic theory.[8] He says:

Midi-chlorians are a loose depiction of mitochondria, which are necessary components for cells to divide. They probably had something–which will come out someday–to do with the beginnings of life and how one cell decided to become two cells with a little help from this other little creature who came in, without whom life couldn’t exist. And it’s really a way of saying we have hundreds of little creatures who live on us, and without them, we all would die. There wouldn’t be any life. They are necessary for us; we are necessary for them. Using them in the metaphor, saying society is the same way, says we all must get along with each other.[9]

The Chosen One[edit | edit source]

An ancient prophecy foretold the appearance of a Chosen One imbued with a high concentration of midi-chlorians, strong with the Force, and destined to alter it forever. Anakin Skywalker was believed by many to be the Chosen One although it was Luke Skywalker who brought his father, Anakin, to the Ashla at the end. Anakin Skywalker had the highest concentration of midi-chlorians the Jedi Council had ever seen. He was possibly conceived by the midi-chlorians (parthenogenesis).[7] Lucas has said in interviews that Luke Skywalker had the same total midi-chlorian count that Anakin did at birth,[citation needed] though this does not necessarily make him the Chosen One because Anakin did exactly what the prophecy foretold by coming back from the Dark Side and destroying Darth Sidious.

In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine tells Anakin that a Sith Lord, Darth Plagueis, had the ability to use the Dark Side to influence midi-chlorians to create life and to prevent people from dying. Anakin believed this power could save his wife, but failed, leading him to the dark side of the force. This raised doubt whether he was the Chosen One, but he later proved himself a true Jedi, the Chosen One he was foretold to be.

Force Ghost[edit | edit source]

Updated scene of Anakin Skywalker, Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi appearing as Force Ghosts in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

The first instance of a dead character communicating with a living character occurs soon after Obi-Wan Kenobi's death in A New Hope, when Luke Skywalker hears Obi-Wan's voice saying, "Run, Luke, run!" Luke hears Obi-Wan's voice again during the Battle of Yavin.

The first visual appearance of a Force Ghost (or Force Spirit) is in The Empire Strikes Back, when Obi-Wan's ghost appears to Luke on Hoth, and again to Luke and Yoda on Dagobah. In Return of the Jedi, Luke converses with the ghost on Dagobah after Yoda's death, then sees their two spirits alongside that of Anakin Skywalker during the celebration on Endor at the end of the film.

While Yoda and Obi-Wan are seen to vanish upon death, leaving behind only their physical clothing, Darth Vader's body does not disappear or dissolve onscreen. Luke Skywalker is later seen burning Vader's armor, including his helmet and faceplate, but it is unclear whether the armor still contains Vader's body, though the novelization to the film says that Vader's body did disappear and that the armor was empty.

Questions arose after the release of The Phantom Menace, when Qui-Gon Jinn's body did not vanish after his death fighting Darth Maul and, perhaps more importantly, none of the other characters expected it to. Qui-Gon's remains were burned on a Jedi funeral pyre on Naboo. In the film's DVD commentary Lucas indicated that this apparent discontinuity was a plot point that would be revisited. It should be noted that Obi-Wan's enigmatic final words to Darth Vader, and the disappearance of his body appear to perplex Vader.

In Revenge of the Sith, it is revealed that the ability to return as a Force Spirit is a recently discovered and complex discipline unknown to most Jedi. Yoda informs Obi-Wan that the late Qui-Gon Jinn discovered "..the path to immortality", the secret of how to retain his identity after death and absorption into the Force, and that his spirit would instruct Obi-Wan in this discipline during his exile on Tatooine. In the Expanded Universe novel Heir to the Empire it is explained by Obi-Wan to Luke that the Force Ghost is an intermediate state between life and afterlife, and one cannot stay in that form forever. Also in the novels following the movie, Luke discovered the discipline of the Force spirit.

George Lucas has since indicated (on the Revenge of the Sith DVD commentary) that the appearance of Vader's former self, Anakin Skywalker, as a Force Spirit at the end of Episode VI is due to a combination of Anakin's own latent Force ability, his achievement of a moment of unconditional compassion at his death and redemption, and Yoda and Obi-Wan's spirits helping him extend his identity out of The Force.

Toy simulation[edit | edit source]

In 2009, Uncle Milton Industries released the Star Wars Force Trainer. This game used an electroencephalogram in conjunction with an air jet to allow the user to levitate a ball by concentrating.[10][11]

See also[edit | edit source]

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. Silberman, Steve (May 2005). Life After Darth. Wired.
  2. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope: "The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together."
  3. Yoda in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back:"Anger, fear, aggression! The dark side of The Force are they. ... A Jedi uses The Force for knowledge and defense. Never for attack."
  4. Sith. Star Wars: Databank. Lucasfilm (2006).
  5. Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace: "Midi-chlorians are a microscopic lifeform that resides within all living cells and communicate with the Force. ... Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to you, telling you the will of the Force."
  6. Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, marvels: "...the reading's off the chart... over twenty thousand. Even Master Yoda doesn't have a midi-chlorian count that high!" Later, at a Jedi Council meeting, Mace Windu says: "His cells contain a high concentration of midi-chlorians." Ki-Adi Mundi: "The Force is strong with him."
  7. 7.0 7.1 Brooks, Terry. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. New York: The Ballantine Publishing Group, 1999.
  8. Rolling Stone, June 2005
  9. 20,000 Per Cell: Why Midi-chlorians Suck, Time Magazine Evan Narcisse August 10, 2010. Techland.
  10. Script error: No such module "citation/CS1".
  11. NeuroSky Partners. NeuroSky. Retrieved on August 31, 2010.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Star Wars Roleplaying Game: Revised Core Rulebook, hardcover, 2002. Bill Slavicsek, Andy Collins, J.D. Wiker, ISBN 0-7869-2876-X
  • Star Wars Roleplaying Game: Power of the Jedi Sourcebook, hardcover, 2002. Michael Mikaelian, Jeff Grubb, Owen K.C. Stephens, James Maliszewski, ISBN 0-7869-2781-X
  • The Dark Side sourcebook, Wizards of the Coast, 1st printing, 2001. Bill Slavicsek, J. D. Wiker, ISBN 0-7869-1849-7
  • The Tao of Star Wars, John M. Porter, Humanics Trade Group, 2003, ISBN 0-89334-385-4.
  • The Dharma of Star Wars, Matthew Bortolin, Wisdom Publications, 2005, ISBN 0-86171-497-0.
  • The Making of Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Laurent Bouzereau, Jody Duncan, ISBN 0-345-43111-1
  • Galaxy Guide 4: Alien Races (Revised and Expanded), Troy Denning, West End Games, 1994, ISBN 0-87431-208-6
  • Empire Building: The Remarkable, Real-Life Story of Star Wars, Garry Jenkins, Citadel Press; Revised & Updated Edition, 1999, ISBN 0-8065-2087-6
  • Life After Darth, Steve Silberman, Wired Magazine, May 2005
  • The Sith War, 1st edition trade paperback, 1996. Kevin J. Anderson, ISBN 1-56971-173-9
  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace – Novelisation, 1st edition paperback, 1999. Terry Brooks, George Lucas, ISBN 0-345-43411-0
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – Novelisation, 1st edition hardcover, 2005. Matthew Woodring Stover, George Lucas, ISBN 0-7126-8427-1
  • Tales from Jabba's Palace, 1st edition, 1995. Kevin J. Anderson (editor), ISBN 0-553-56815-9
  • "Of the day's annoyances: Bib Fortuna's tale", M. Shayne Bell
  • Vision of the Future, 1st printing, 1998. Timothy Zahn. ISBN 0-553-10035-1

External links[edit | edit source]

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