Star Wars Canon Catch-Up: What Is Force Lightning?

Star Wars is going through a state of transition. For twenty years, an Expanded Universe of novels, comics, and games have supplemented the films and TV shows to create an incredibly deep and detailed Star Wars universe. Soon after Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, however, they wiped the canon slate clean, saying they would no longer adhere to the stories of the Expanded Universe in order to have the greatest creative freedom with their new Star Wars films starting with The Force Awakens.

But with the new films, so comes new books, comics, and games in a new continuity to replace the old one. So, what is canon and what isn’t anymore? After twenty years, are these the same characters and planets we’ve always known and loved? Is it even the same universe? Well, in our column Canon Catch-Up, we’re here to answer those questions and set the record straight.

Today, we’re discussing Force Lightning.

So, what’s the deal with Force Lightning in the current continuity?

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Force lightning is a devastating Force power used by the Sith that allows them to fire electricity from their fingertips that could lead to disfiguring or even killing a target through electrocution. It is possible to deflect the electricity using a lightsaber or absorb it using the Force.

What about Force Lightning in the Expanded Universe?

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Although it isn’t known who discovered Force lightning, it dates back thousands of years before the Battle of Yavin. It was a common skill among more powerful Sith that gave them a great advantage in combat. Darth Bane, for example, was known to be able to instantly kill his victims with Force lightning. Other practitioners such as Darth Sidious, Galen Marek, and Kyle Katarn could produce lightning so powerful it would hurl people back with sheer force. In rare instances, lightning could be powerful enough to vaporize a victim completely.

Force lightning was not restricted to Sith and followers of the Dark Side, however using the power was seen as a potential pitfall for many Jedi to fall down the dark path. Several Jedi including Bastila Shan, Plo Koon, and Quinlan Vos used the power during the Republic era. Later, Kyle Katarn, Mara Jade Skywalker, the Solo twins, and Luke Skywalker all used the ability. However, it’s worth noting that Bastila, Vos, Jacen Solo, Mara Jade, and Luke Skywalker have all joined the dark side at one point.

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Cade Skywalker, a descendent of Luke, discovered a way to heal people using lightning, in some instances bringing back those critically injured and close to death.

What does the Expanded Universe tell us about Force Lightning in the new continuity?

Force lightning has had some embellishments, but has mostly been treated as a devastating electrical attack only available to the most powerful force users. After all, if everyone could use it than it loses its impact on the audience…

… which brings us to the new Star Wars films. Kylo Ren certainly seems like a credible threat to our heroes, but he seems like more of a Darth Vader/Darth Maul style menace. Typically, lightning has been reserved for the people employing henchmen rather than the other way around. As such, we don’t expect to see Ren shooting lightning from his finger tips in the new film.

As for Benicio Del Toro‘s rumored villain or Supreme Leader Snoke… that is another question entirely. Clearly, Snoke is a Force user based on his ability to sense happenings in the Force he spoke of in the next film’s teaser trailer. But how powerful is he? Powerful enough to produce lightning? If he is the Emperor Palpatine of these films it could be very likely that’s the case.

While we’re waiting for more post-Return of the Jedi information, check out our previous entry of Canon Catch-Up about X-Wings.

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