Disney+’s Star Wars: Visions told a series of beautifully written and animated Star Wars short films, which, in some cases, understood the Force better than the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Visions exists outside of Star Wars canon, telling nine original, standalone, stories that can reimagine or adhere to established Star Wars lore as they please. The sequels are part of the official and ongoing Star Wars canon universe, which began in 2014 and includes the original six films in addition to the sequel trilogy and spinoff movies. The sequel trilogy films were highly anticipated by new and longtime fans, and while the first film was a crowd-pleaser, the following two were divisive, particularly in regards to their depiction of the Force.
In the original trilogy films, the Force was shown to be a fundamental and omnipresent energy field that life creates. While some individuals can have a natural aptitude for using the Force, anybody could learn to use it with training and discipline. The dark side was an addictive and destructive perversion of the Force, which seduced Force users to take a quicker path to power, but ultimately ruined them. Despite the seeming moral absolutes of the Force and its dark side, the original trilogy, especially through Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, told an ethically nuanced and complex story about a son trying to rescue his father from the dark side.
The prequels expanded on both the story of Vader and the intricacies of the Force, introducing the concept of balance in the Force. While it’s clear that the dark side intrinsically putrefied the natural balance of the Force, the prequels also depicted a Jedi Order that lost their touch with it. The prequel-era Jedi had good intentions, but were corrupt and hindered by outdated and emotionally unhealthy practices, leaving them more vulnerable than ever to the Sith. The Force (nicknamed the “light side” or “good side”) doesn’t need any amount of the dark side to be in balance, it simply needed a better Jedi Order to follow it.
The Visions episode “The Village Bride” beautifully and accurately depicts the Force, matching its depiction in the original six films. A Jedi and Order 66 survivor, known simply as “F,” is hiding from the Empire on the planet Keelia, to which her late Jedi Master was connected. The inhabitants of this Outer Rim world have traditional wedding customs that have the bride and groom calling upon a power referred to as “Magina,” which conjures a blue bubble around them. Although none of the Keelia locals are Jedi, “Magina” is their term for the Force, and they use it in simple techniques for their wedding ceremonies.
The episode highlights a vital and often forgotten element of the Force: it could technically be used by anybody. The Force exists in all life, and life nourishes it in turn. While most being in the galaxy don’t use the Force, they could if they underwent training and dedicated themselves to learning about it. The sequel trilogy inconsistently addressed this aspect of the Force. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Jakku scavenger, Rey, is built up and characterized to be the descendent of a pivotal character to the saga, but no connection is established by the end. Star Wars: The Last Jedi does a disservice to her character for the sake of subversion by claiming she has no relation to any established characters, but this is retconned in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which reveals her to be the granddaughter of Darth Sidious.
The sequel trilogy’s inconsistency with the Force’s accessibility to everyone is mitigated by Finn’s Force-sensitivity in The Rise of Skywalker, and The Last Jedi lightly depicts the Force’s connection to nature, but not as succinctly as the original Star Wars trilogy, and not nearly as beautifully as “The Village Bride.” The Visions episode succeeds where the sequels couldn’t, and emphasizes the beauty and presence of the Force uniquely, without contradicting what was established in the original six films.
The ninth and final episode of Vision, “Akakiri” takes its cues from Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, a film with a profoundly strong influence on A New Hope. “Akakiri” also takes heavy inspiration from the prequel trilogy, depicting a tragic hero who struggles with the allure of the dark side, only to fall to its power in a willing, albeit reluctant and desperate, attempt to save someone he loves. Like the tragic fallen Jedi, Anakin Skywalker, the Jedi Tsubaki is manipulated into a no-win scenario by the Sith Lord Masago, forcing him to make a Faustian bargain to save the dying Princess Misa, but becoming a Sith apprentice in the process.
The sequel trilogy, especially The Last Jedi, contradicts the original and prequel trilogy’s depiction of the dark side by making it into one side of a scale, with the “light side” (a nonexistent concept) on the other side. Luke Skywalker refers to balance in the Force as “powerful light, powerful dark,” despite there being no redeeming qualities to the dark side, nor drawbacks to the “light side” in any previous Star Wars film. The Force Awakens seems to mischaracterize the “light side” by having it beckon Kylo Ren away from the dark side, but The Rise of Skywalker fixes this error by revealing it to have been his mother, Leia, trying to bring back her son.
Similar to “The Village Bride’s” depiction of the Force, “Akakiri” takes no such liberties with the original six films’ depiction of the dark side, despite its freedom to do so. The dark side is ultimately a trap that warps its users into shells of themselves. The dark side isn’t needed for balance because it intrinsically causes imbalance. Despite the absolutism of the dark side, the original and prequel trilogies proved that moral gray areas can still exist within these boundaries. The sequel trilogy, despite being official canon, didn’t line up with the original six films nearly as well as the non-canon standalone episode of Visions, as far as depictions of the Force go. The sequel trilogy has plenty of merits, but it simply didn’t understand the Force as well as Star Wars: Visions.