A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, Ben Kenobi sat Luke down to talk to him about The Force. He told him that The Force was an energy field that moved through every living thing, person, plant or animal. Luke was, as was the rest of humanity, very intrigued. Many people walked out of the theater believing that they themselves could become Jedi if only they meditated long and hard enough and dedicated themselves to feeling The Force flow through them.
But things changed when the fire na... Wait a minute, wrong franchise. Back in 1999 The Phantom Menace was released with a rather "controversial" scene in which Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) takes the blood of a small child known as Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) He's taking his blood to do a reading on just how many midi-chlorians are in his blood.
This is the first time the word "midi-chlorian" ever shows up in the Star Wars Universe, after the film it garnered a rather unfavorable reaction from fans, upset by the role they appeared to play in The Force. Watch Qui-Gon's explanation below:
George Lucas explained in a talk with author Terry Brooks (Who wrote the movie's novelization):
"I assume that midi-chlorians are a race everyone knows about, The way you interact and interface with this larger energy field (The Force) is through the midi-chlorians, which are sensitive to the energy. They are at the core of your life, which is the cell, the living cell. They are in a symbiotic relationship with the cell and because they are interconnected as one, they can communicate with the larger Force field, That is how you deal with The Force"
Many upset fans cited this as a blatant retcon of what they remember of Old Ben's explanation of just what The Force was back in his old hovel on Tatooine, Ben told Luke nothing of midi-chlorians or blood tests, he just told Luke that he needed to learn how to connect with the energy field and he'd be good to go.
Do Qui-Gon's words to Anakin about midi-chlorians go against anything said previously by Old Ben or even by Master Yoda? Lets look deeper:
"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."
― Obi-Wan Kenobi
Obi-Wan tells Luke that The Force is an energy field that it is created by all living things, that it surrounds everyone and binds them together. Now, how exactly does The Force bind everything together? Through the midi-chlorians. Without them, there would be no life for The Force to move through: The Force works with the midi-chlorians and vice versa.
Now let's look at the wise and raggedy-looking Master Yoda's views:
"For my ally is The Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel The Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes."
Yoda speaks again about The Force surrounding and binding the galaxy together, "Life creates it," he says of The Force.
But by any stretch of the imagination was what Qui-Gon said an actual explanation FOR The Force itself, or was it merely a Jedi explaining how the Jedi even knew what The Force was asking of them?
"Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of The Force. They continually speak to us, telling us the will of The Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you'll hear them speaking to you."
―Qui-Gon Jinn, to Anakin Skywalker
Qui-Gon was pretty obsessed with the idea of The Living Force, and I think his explanation of midi-chlorians to young Anakin was a way to show that his views are more based on the view of midi-chlorians playing a role in eternal consciousness, as in all living beings generating The Living Force, feeding into the Cosmic Force and communicating through the midi-chlorians!
So are the midi-chlorians wrong? Or do people greatly misunderstand what Qui-Gon said? I believe it's the latter, Obi-Wan had said that The Force is what gives a Jedi his power, and never once did Qui-Gon's explanation to young Anakin go against this, He was not explaining the midi-chlorians as the cause of the force — the cause of the Jedi's power — he strictly explains what the midi-chlorians do and what they are. "They speak to us, they tell us the ways of The Force." He refers to The Force as a separate being, an entity, which means he is not explaining the midi-chlorians as being a life form that has created The Force itself. The Force exists without midi-chlorians, but without midi-chlorians it would be impossible to speak to The Living Force, to bind with the cosmic energy that surrounds the galaxy.
Does the mention of midi-chlorians really change anything? Lucas talked more of midi-chlorians as a single entity:
"Each one does not think individually and have a life of itself, they think as a unit because there are so many of them, and they are everywhere, in every single cell. Sometimes there is more than one in a cell, sometimes a whole bunch, But there has to be at least one in a cell or that cell cannot reproduce, all living cells, Plant cells, human cells, every life form has a midi-chlorian living inside of them."
Midi-chlorians reside in the cells of all living beings, some of these living beings have midi-chlorian counts so high that they can connect (or speak) to The Living Force. They connect with it and as such are able to use amazing powers.
So no, I do not believe the advent of midi-chlorians changes anything about what Ben told Luke of The Force, it's just a more expanded view of what connects a Jedi to The Force.
But does this mean everyone can use The Force since everyone has a midi-chlorian inside of them? Well, midi-chlorians only mean that The Force connects through us, moves through us, binds us with the rest of the life forms, it doesn't mean that we can use that connection the same way the Jedi do (they speak of this in canon several times). In The Clone Wars animated series Yoda speaks to a group of Clone Troopers, telling them that even though they are not Jedi, The Force moves through them as well. Maz Kanata speaks of The Force in The Force Awakens: "I am no Jedi, but I know The Force" and there is the whole concept of Lor San Tekka and the Church of The Force — a group of people who cannot use The Force, but still believe in it.
To recap, midi-chlorians don't create The Force, they create life and merely converse with The Force on a first-name basis, Ben and Qui-Gon felt the need to explain things differently based on their different focused views of The Force and The Living Force and no, not everyone can become a Jedi and do cool stuff like Anakin, Luke and the others.. But if you learn to quiet your mind, you can still hear the midi-chlorians speaking to you.