I was recently watching the Star Wars prequel trilogy with my wife, who grew up with those movies and later came upon the original trilogy. It was her nostalgia versus mine. I was quick to point out all the flaws in the prequels, from horrible acting, situations that are meant to be funny but fall flat, and plot holes, especially when it connects to the original trilogy. Now I know there are several issues with that trilogy as well, it’s far from perfect. But it brings a sense of vastness, of themes that transcend its failings, whereas I feel the prequels fail to open up, even when there were good ideas. Some of those that were underdeveloped were the ideas of Palpatine playing off both sides to come out the conquerer and the stagnancy of the Republic.
Another one of those ideas that didn’t develop enough was the prophecy that Anakin, if he were indeed the chosen one, would bring balance to the force. The main problem with that prophecy was that the word balance was never defined. What did George Lucas mean when he talked about balance? Here are some options:
Balance in Numbers:
The Republic basically has an army of Jedi. The Sith are vastly outnumbered, only having two at a time. If we want a balance in force wielders so that each side of the force is equally represented, the Sith numbers could expand or the Jedi numbers could be reduced. The latter ends up happening at the end of Revenge of the Sith: There are two Sith, Palpatine and Darth Vader, and two Jedi, Obi-Wan and Yoda. That could be how Anakin brought balance to the force, since he was instrumental in killing off the Jedi. Yet this option doesn’t seem like the meaning of the prophecy, since the numbers might be balanced, but the Sith have all the power and plunge the galaxy into a time of darkness and suffering.
Balance in Light:
Maybe balance doesn’t mean equal dark and light, but getting rid of the dark. If the dark side is a twisted version of how the force is supposed to be used and the light side is the proper way, then getting rid of the dark side would bring the force back into harmony. This is supported in the fact that Darth Vader ultimately killed Palpatine, and himself in the process, leaving only a good Jedi, his son Luke, to carry on and train in the force. But if this is correct, then why do the Jedi even worry about balancing the force when, until they discover Darth Maul, they believe there are no Sith? The prophecy seems to have been around for a while, but in this context it wouldn’t make any sense to the Jedi, who believe they’ve already brought balance to the force.
Balance in Moderation:
When I saw the prequels as a teenager, I assumed the Jedi were pure good. But viewing them now, I see a lot of flaws in their philosophies that showed they weren’t as good as they proclaimed. In the prequels, the Jedi have become set in their ways and fail to adapt to change. In this option of balance, maybe both the Jedi and the Sith are out of tune with the force and are so focused on enforcing what they believe is right, whether the Jedi with their staunch denial of emotions and normal relationships in order to enforce their version of the greater good, or the Sith with their focus on fulfilling their own desires and gaining power, that they fail to see what the force is all about, fulfilling constructive natural desires that build up society as well, like connecting, falling in love, and having children. The Jedi deny these urges, saying that developing connections leads to selfishness and so on until they go to the dark side. But when Anakin tries to deny his love for his mother and for Padme, it just causes inner turmoil and causes him to lash out. If he could have fulfilled the prophecy by moderating the Jedi’s interpretation of the use of the force so that it was fulfilling, then he would not have turned to the dark side when the Jedi told him to ignore his personal concerns.
Personally, I think balance is a combination of the two latter options. And I think Luke is really the chosen one, despite what Lucas has said, because he ended up defeating both Palpatine and Darth Vader and was able to begin teaching the new Jedi order without having the constraints of the past, but see where both sides went wrong and correct those attitudes, focusing on a more pure form of the force than either the Jedi or the Sith before had held. He knew the importance of family and forming bonds with people, saving his father because of those bonds. He also knew not to give into his anger, especially after facing Palpatine’s taunts that doing so would make him a slave to the dark side. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Rey is the actual chosen one and will bring even more balance to the force.
Part of Lucas’s problem was that he never defined what balance meant, so we don’t know what he intended.
Related to this issue of balance is an article about how Lucas had the building blocks to make a great prequel trilogy, but how he squandered them. While not perfect, I wish we could see this guy’s version of prequels, which would reinforce Darth Vader’s place as one of the greatest villains ever, instead of diluting him to an angry teenager like the prequels did.
And another article: