Lightsaber duels in ALL Star Wars movies mostly suckage (unboxed spoilers!)


There are many mini spoilers in this analysis, and I didn’t want to pepper it with black boxes. You are forewarned!

It’s hard to imagine the Star Wars movies (hereafter just “SW”) without the lightsaber. The weapon is ingeniously conceived, it looks cool and sounds cool. In fact, I would not so greatly regret how this story element used arises were not its basic concept so grand and imaginitive.

Two main uses
In SW, the lightsaber is used as a general weapon in medium- to large-scale battles and in duels. Both uses may be criticized, but the way the weapon is used in duels is especially regretable.

In battle, etc.
My main objection is that the lightsaber is used as an all-purpose weapon against blaster attacks. Sure, it’s cool and right in terms of story to have the Jedi use the Force (ie, Spidey-Sense) and the weapon as a defense against blaster attacks–but suspension of disbelief can only go so far. If a hail of bullets is coming from both the front and behind, something bad is going to happen.

Yoda’s throwing his saber so that it sticks in a clone trooper like a spear is just wrong on every level.

In duels
The sad fact is that the lightsaber duels in all of the Star Wars movies just aren’t very good. Let’s raise some general points and then critique all the duels individually.

First, Lucas et al. clearly don’t understand how sword fighting really works. I’ve watched kendo matches on Japanese TV, and even a brief bit of observation reveals that sword duels are, above all, not about striking and parrying and dodging every which way in uninterrupted succession. Rather, the combatants circle around, light on their feet, looking for the perfect moment and position in which to strike. In general, it is preferable for the opponent to strike first, since it is easier to take advantage of the opponent’s mistake than to strike a sure blow onself in the first place. Expert sword fighting would seem to work much like raquetball at the pro level: most of the time, either your serve is an ace or your opponent kills on the return. (But I’d like to ask: Is Euro-style fencing different? Is Eroll Flynn-style cling-clanging ever how it goes.)

Hence, the lightsaber fights are basically unrealistic. But that’s still OK. I love Jackie Chan’s old kung fu movies, the ones with intricate, perfectly orchestrated and timed (and often very dangerous-looking) fighting routines. My all-time favorite (I think it’s in Fearless Hyena) is the one in which Jackie fights the “Willow Sword,” metal stave vs. sword. It’s just plain amazing–and what you see is what you get: no CGI and lots of long, highly visible sequences.

Sadly, the SW lightsaber duels mostly fail on this level. In general, these are the causes of failure:

  1. Close-ups of faces and whizzing lightsabers (especially prevalent in Ep III). A few of these are OK for drama, but the martial arts thrill is gone from such a moment, and of course a hole thereby is created in the battle sequence (you can’t see how point A gets to point C if B is just a blur).

  2. The biggest sin: Cutting away from the battle entirely. We’re supposed to think, “Throughout that time they were just going at it.” Meanwhile, the Ewoks are snuggling.

  3. Two (or more) against one? OW/Annakin vs. Maul (Ep I), Dooku (Ep II), and later Dooku again (Ep III). Four Jedi against Sidious (Ep III).

I can accept the last example, since it wasn’t supposed to be a battle but simply an arrest (quite stupid, though–they should have had a whole Jedi army in there backed up with clone troopers, droids, whatever).

I was never comfortable with the two-on-one battles though. That didn’t seem Jedi, bushi, or SW. But more important is the fact that any combatant should expect to be killed within seconds in such a duel (assuming that he can’t immediately kill one of the two). The algorithm is really pretty simple: One of the two fights the enemy “for real” while the other stands back a bit and nips away, distracting the enemy from doing his best while looking for a crippling blow.

  1. Dumb strategy. Whether true or not, the advice to gladiators in Spartacus is at least good fiction: A sure kill is better than a crippling blow is better than a slow kill. The strategy of lightsaber duelists is, as we have seen, not realistic, but what is worse is that one cannot discern even a good fictive strategy, either. The lightsaber would be just about the most dangerous thing would could ever imagine handling for its intended purpose, but the sense of how risky it is just to hold it just isn’t there. To wit:

[list]*It destroys whatever it touches, no pressue required. One slight mistake and, far from hurting your enemy, you’ve killed yourself.

*Yet, since one lightsaber can push another, there would be a constant danger of the enemy knocking your own saber into your own body, therby doing mortal damage. In other words, even a defensive position would be extremely dangerous.

*All the blows seem to be going for the big kill. Whereas my feeling is that winning a battle would be more about tricky little pokes and prodes–that is, crippling blows per those Spartacus instructions.

*There is no hent on a lightsaber, and even if there were it wouldn’t matter: A blow from the blade to the grip would presumably destroy the saber and the user’s hand at the same time. Further, one could slide one’s blade along the blade of the enemy and go for the grip/hand quite easily it would seem. Instead, in the movies combatants try to overpower each other with the middle of one blade glowing solidly against the middle of the other. (Where is the sense that these are very light objects that, with a flick of the wrist, could do crippling damage even in such a situation?)

  1. Just plain crappy choriography and filming. There were many times in Ep III it seemed that one combatant had a clear shot at lopping off the other’s head, etc. Plenty of blurry, what’s-going-on shots, etc.

In sum, the SW lightsaber duels build upon real swordfighting poorly while failing to create a believable and consistent fictional martial art. But even this would be forgivable if the duels worked well as plain ol’ story elements. And sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. Let’s look at how each duel in the series works in terms of action and story.


  1. Obi-Wan vs. Vader

Action: Sadly, an utter joke. Short, foolish, and incompetent. Two old guys just banging sticks together.

Story: Obi-Wan’s disappearing here never made much sense on either a visual level or in terms of the story. Visually, it makes not sense, since it looks like he lets Vader win. If he’s not trying to win, why does he fight Vader at all? Why not just be “struck down and become more powerful than blah blah”? If he’s trying to win, then why the comment and why the visual of not defending against the final blow and then disappearing? I guess it could be that he tried to win at first, realized he couldn’t, and then gave up. Why not try to retreat at that point? Or go for broke and take Vader down with him? Etc. All in all, it was OK and slightly mysterious in a stand-alone movie, but it made less and less sense in the context of the movies that followed.

Ep V

  1. Luke vs. Vader

Action: The overall setup and setting of the fight, the feel of it, and the flow of it are absolutely grand. The swordplay itself is still not very good.

Story: This battle combined with Vader’s revelation and Luke’s way of dealing with it are one of the high points of the series. Great dialog: “Join me and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.”


  1. Luke vs. Vader

Action: This is the best lightsaber duel in the series and the only one that deserves a passing grade. The choriography is the richest, the swordplay the most realistic. You get more action, fewer cutaways, and better shots. This scene and (the Emperor goodies attached to it) are really the only good thing about RoJ.

Story: Nearly as good as in Ep V.

Ep I

  1. Qui-Gon vs. Maul

Action: This isn’t really a full-scale duel but more like a blip of action. As such, I have no complaints about it.

Story: What story?

  1. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan vs. Maul

Action: The double lightsaber is fine, but the two-on-one thing is just dumb/wrong, as explained above. The action overall is ill-conceived and, owing to the two-on-one setup, flashy without being meaty. Obi-Wan’s win-by-fluke or -by virtue just isn’t satisfying.

Story: What story? Seriously, Maul’s only purpose is to fight in this fight. Hence, the fight is not contected to the story very strongly (even less than the execrably pod races) and thus is an action bonus, nothing more. It fails on that level.


  1. Obi-Wan + Annakin, then Yoda vs. Dooku

Action: Rushed and unsatisfying. More importantly, we’ve been waiting forever for Annakin to show some heroism (“the chosen one!”) in this movie (you can’t have a tragic hero without heroism, George–duh duh duh), and finally we’re about to get a taste! Obi-Wan tosses and extra lightsaber to Annakin, who is about to whoop ass in a fancy fashion and make us proud.

Oh, but then he loses like a bitch. How stupid is that? I mean, what is the point of Obi-Wan tossing him a second saber if it isn’t going to be used to good effect. Was that sound advice from master to padawan? But such retardation is very much Lucasian.

Yoda arrives to mop up for the defeated boys. The action here–video game Yoda blipping all over the place–may be comic but it certainly isn’t good.

Story: Ep II had perhaps the worst story conceivable for a SW movie, and Count Dooku is a weak, useless character. Poor action, poor connection to anything else.


  1. Obi-Wan + Annakin vs. Dooku: the Reprise

Action: Short and unsatisfying. If such a thing is possible, Dooku is defeated with a visual “tell” instead of a “show.” Suddenly his hands are cut off, it’s hard to see what he did to get into such a fix (the final chop makes sense enough, but the leadup to that is highly unclear).

Story: In general, the way the duels fit into Ep III makes good story sense; this is one of the strongest things about the movie. The revenge against Dooku as part of Annakin’s trip to the Dark Side (which is still woefully weaaaaak) is quite good.

In Sith in general: Lightsaber duels used properly in the story but nevertheless with extremely poor action.

  1. Sidious vs. four Jedi (primarily Mace).

Action: Not believable. We see a close-up of Sidious stabbing a Jedi (bug eyes) right through the torso while apparently the other three have a shot at any part of Sidious’ body (stabbing him in the back or lopping off his head is advised here).

The Mace vs. Sidious portion of the battle isn’t great action, either. It’s full of fudgy closeups in a tight space. McDirmiad acts the action part well, his face full of believable Sith aggression. I’m just not a SLJ fan; he’s acceptable here, I guess.

Story: It’s fine, but as a springboard to total Dark Side seduction it’s still not enough.

  1. Obi-Wan vs. Grievous

Action: The concept is great, couldn’t wait to see it, but what you get is one big visual fudge, a cheat. Again, you have a lot of closeups and bright lights flashing, but you don’t get to see just how Grievous’ hands get chopped off one by one. The final death by blaster is unsatisfying for the very reason that Obi-Wan notes (hey, isn’t this the only time a blaster is used successfully against a real character in all 6 damn movies?!).

Story: Again, not bad at all.

  1. Sidious vs. Yoda

Action: The lightsaber portion of this is not major and is really just throwaway visuals (“yeah, now they’re going at it with lightsabers”). The battle between them overall, however, is probably the most satisfying action in the movie. That’s not saying a whole lot, but it really is a pretty good confrontation. The ending, however, with Yoda fleeing like a bitch, seems like a story fudge to me, however.

Story: Necessary and generous. Lucas rightly puts in all the confrontations that should be in there.

  1. Obi-Wan vs. Annakin

Action: Pretty close to fitting the category of “all wrong.” Choriography and filming just ain’t all that. Relationship of characters to setting (killing-hot lava) is just about as unrealistic and unsatisfying as it possibly could have been. Suddenly they’re balancing on a pipe! Suddenly they’re climbing a tower that is collapsing into the goop!–Wha?! Such grand chunks of action are fine–so long as the characters really seem to be relating to those situations.

The “high-ground” BS has been fully discussed elsewhere. I’m in the camp that calls it a Lucas fudge. We’ve seen these guys go boing-boing with the sabers without really any ebb or flow to the battle, and suddenly Annakin goofs and it’s all over. For not a very good reason.

Story: This pretty much is the story, so no complaint there. Too bad it had to be fleshed out in such a mediocre fashion.

The lightsaber is one of my favorite SW elements, but IMHO its use in the six films is pretty poor, and the OT doesn’t have much of an advantage. The only truly satisfying duel as action is Luke vs. Vader in Ep VI.

Bonus observation

I saw Ep III again, and I was struck again at how generally poor and unsatsifying the action sequences were, despite the fact that they fit the story OK.

But what is really poor in terms of story, a real missed opportunity, is that we don’t get to see Annakin discover or flirt with the Dark Side. For instance, he’s a straight Jedi but then turns to the Dark Side in a key moment in battle and kicks ass. Obi-Wan looks at him and says, “It’s great that you just won for our team, but wasn’t that a little dark.” “Yes, it was, master.”

Consider how Luke is fascinated when he discovers the Force, when he turns on the lightsaber for the first time (but without enough of a sense of danger!). If we could see Annakin discover the Dark Side in the same way, Ep III would have been 3x the movie it was.

Too long to go over all your point. As someone who has done some Kendo (and Kenjitsu) your point there is valid…as far as it goes. What you don’t seem to understand though is Japanese sword fighting is highly specialized. Yes, they don’t dodge and parry the same way as in SW…and yes, at the higher levels the blades rarely even meet. But not all fencing is that way. In addition and correct me if I’m wrong here, but Jedi (and their Sith counterparts) are supposed to have nearly super human reflexes. I mean, they can block blaster shots fired at them at a high rate of volume and traveling at light speed…right? :slight_smile: I can certainly see long drawn out duels in that case where one simply tries to overwhelm their opponent with a flurry of blows instead of the Japanese Iajitsu model of draw and cut and return.

I’ve also played around with European fencing some and that is probably more the model you’d be looking for. In some European fencing styles there is plenty of block, parry, riposte, feignt, etc…lots of manuver, not looking for a one cut kill. Take that to the superhuman reflexes level and you’d have something similar (in theory) to SW Jedi duels.

As for fighting multiple people…well, in my training at least we often spar with multiple opponents. There are all kinds of things you can do to fight multiple opponents at one time…and in fact, you have somewhat of an advantage if the folks you are fighting aren’t trained to work as a team (it takes some special moves and lots of practice to move together with someone…its not some inate skill you get just from practicing martial arts).

Anyway, thats all I gots for now. Might be back to discuss some of the rest if the thread takes off as its an interesting subject.


To be fair, the Sidious-Mace battle, while not great cinematic action, does seem to me to be one of the more realistic saber fights: lots of getting into position and then trying to win at once with a flurry of blows, as you suggest. It is a stronger, cruder fight. The OT battles also tend to be more along those lines (while having different flaws).

The PT battles are more of the Jackie Chan art/flair type, but without the realism of real action and stunning choriography. My point being that I don’t mind an unrealistic-arty battle, but please at least do it well.

I do think, however, that, owing to the one-touch-yer-dead nature of the weapon, that a “real” lightsaber battle would be more of the kendo risk-averse style.

I don’t see how it could be an advantage on average, since if you kill one guy then the other is still there to do a one-on-one. At worst the extra guy is a bonus chance to some extra damange so that the guy left has an advantage.

A reasonable argument is that the Sith train specifically to kill lightsaber-wielding Jedi, whereas Jedi train to deflect blaster bolts, etc. (read it on the Net somewhere). Fair enough, but I think Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan could have used their heads a little better to take Darth Maul out, rather than immediately engage in a Jackie-Chan ballet. Qui-Gon also had engaged him in combat for a short while and had time to think up a strategy.

The problem with the duels in episodes 1-3 has been all over the western martial arts, and sword related forums. I also belive that i mentioned it in another thread.

  Nick Gillard, the "swordmaster"  for these films is not a swordsman, he is a stunt coordinator who for some reason Lucas decided to use rather than someone with actual swor training and experience. Okay, I did read somewhere that he took a few kendo classes.  The funniest part  is if you google his name, you get Star Wars press releases where he talks about how he created a martial art just for the films, and then goes one about such thing as "economy of movement, no superfluous moves", and other things that to a trained eye were actually PROBLEMS with the sword work. He is good at sounding impressive for the fans, but the more you actually know the more you realize that he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Gillard is so full of s**t, that I could use his head to fertilize my flowerbed.! 

He reminds me of one of those goofs that walk into any martial arts school (sword related or not) in the county, and think that because they have take a few lessons, and watched the first half of “Enter the Ninja” on video one they are THE authority.

Honestly, if you were going to make a movie where your main characters use swords, (or something like it) wouldn't you want to hire someone as fight coordinator who actually knows what they are doing

Any kind of fencing, including Kendo, is unrealistic and not very useful compared to actual combat arts. Part of it, of course, is the relative lack of armor. Kendo is designed for sport and competition; it could kill, but isn’t meant for it.

I confess my ignorance. What is your vision for how the duels would work in the movies?

This is true. Remember, the Jedi aren’t meant to engage in large scale battles. They’re more of an elite police force, meant to take down single targets. When they do engage in large scale battles without standard infantry support, they get slaughtered. Half of the Jedi in the big arena battle in AotC get killed, and when the clones turn on them in Sith, the Jedi are cut down like wheat by the focused blaster fire.

It’s a fan-fudge, to be sure, but I just assume he’s holding it in position with the Force. Why would he do that? I dunno. It was a cool enough visual that I’m willing to roll with it.

I’ve watched kendo matches too, and you’ve left out one major difference between real kendo fights and the lightsaber battles in SW. Kendo matches are fuckin’ dull. I’m sure they’re fascinating if you’re a fan of the sport and understand what you’re looking at, but to the average person (i.e. 98% of the people in the theater) it’s just two guys standing around for five minutes, and then you turn your head for a second and the whole thing is over. Anyway, if you’re going to ding Star Wars for unrealistic sword fights, you’re going to have to ding every other movie ever made that features a sword fight, because there ain’t none of them that get it right.

I prefer fight sequences that use wires and CGI. Looks more interesting to me. I’m more interested in the visuals you see up on the screen than what went on on the set. Besides, no one ever complains that the spaceship battles are all done with models and computers. Seems unfair to complain when they do the lightsaber fights the same way.

I don’t have a problem with either of these. Narrative flow needs to trump martial arts thrill, or the movie suffers as a whole.

Keep in mind we’re talking about battles between superhumans with magical powers using super high-tech weapons. I don’t know how many assumptions about real world swordfighting can be applied. Also, remember that the primary inspiration for the Jedi are not any real world warriors, but the pulp movies based on their exploits. Lucas isn’t trying to recreate how people actually fought, he’s trying to recreate how Errol Flynn fought.

Odd that you would say that, as almost every battle in SW I can think of is decided by a crippling blow. Look how many lightsaber fights are settled when a participant looses one or more limbs: Luke, Dooku, Vader (three times!), Greivous (also three times, but for different reasons), that guy in the cantina, and an untold number of battle droids are all delimbed when they try to face someone wielding a lightsaber. The only exception here is when Obi-Wan throws the fight against Vader.

You’re assuming that the energy blades can slide against each other. Maybe they stick to each other when they touch.

He’s not trying to win. He knows he can’t. He’s too old, and out of practice to do more than hold Vader at bay for a few minutes. Which is all he’s trying to do. He’s not trying to kill Vader, he’s trying to distract him, so that he doesn’t slaughter everyone on the Millenium Falcon. Once he sees that they’ve reached the ship, he gives up and lets Vader kill him. He knows Luke won’t leave without him, but if he tries to get to the ship himself, Vader will just follow and kill them all. So he sacrifices himself, and the Millenium Falcon blasts out of there and away to Yavin.

Taking Episode III into account, we also know that Obi-Wan simply can’t bring himself to kill Anakin, his closest friend and student.

This is, to me, the best fight in the entire series. Those wonderful black-on-red silhouettes are among the best shots I’ve ever seen in a movie.

Another good fight, I agree. Although for my money, the (equally unrealistic) space battle outside the Death Star is leagues better than the duelling inside of it.

I’m not going to bother with the prequels. The first movie had it’s charms, but was very poorly paced and made too many stupid mistakes in the details. The second was among the worst movies I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen the entire Comedy Central run of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I’m not going to nitpick the swordfights in the third movie; I’m just thankful the damn thing was watchable.

If you haven’t seen them yet, check out the animated Clone Wars miniseries that Cartoon Network ran, by the guy who did Samurai Jack. There’re two of them, and the first is already available on DVD. I don’t know if the fights will be closer to what you’re looking for, but I found the action, characterization, and drama to be vastly superior to anything in the last three movies. You actually like and care about Anakin, and there’s a fight at the end of the first series that’s exactly like what you’re talking about here.

I’m willing to cut the light saber battles a lot of slack, since it’s usually between two force users, and the force is still pretty mysterious. We don’t know exactly how it works, but at the very least we know each combatant can sense the immediate future. So, what you’ve got is:

Force user 1: “I’ll attack now.”
Force user 2: “I’ll defend the attack he’s about to make.”
Force user 1: “He’s going to defend that attack so I’ll try another.”
Force user 2: “He’s going to change his attack, I’ll defend that.”
Force user 1: “He’s going to defend my change, so I’ll try another.”
Force user 2: “I’ll defend against that change.”
Force user 1: “I’ll change that attack.”
Force user 2: “I’ll defend against that change.”

All that is going on, who knows how many times, between each clash of the sabers. In addition, what else can’t we see during a light saber battle? Each opponent could be fending off force mind tricks, force pushes, force chokings, force heart-stoppings, force turning-off-your-light-saber-mid-battle, etc, etc.

We can’t really compare force users’ light saber battles with any “real” sword fighting techniques.

This makes sense, but could have been worked into the movies better (that is, show how Jedi interpret their skills/weapon vis-a-vis blasters, etc. In general, I’d like to see more Jedi training and culture).

Agree, just sayin’ that ignoring both realism and art is a losing combo. Only a couple of the duels really hit that groove.

I’m not. I want to see superhuman powers at work, but it’s got to have the right look and feel.

I guess I wasn’t being clear. Sure, cutting the saber-wielding hand off is pretty much as good as cutting a head off. It also serves the purpose of not killing the defeated person right away, so that you can see his reaction. I’m talking about getting a good blow on the knee-cap or something that’s going to take someone down. According to Spartacus (again, don’t know how true, but it makes sense), you could lightly stab someone in the kidney or gut and thus eventually kill him (maybe hours later) but he could still fight you, maybe even without much pain. But giving the shoulder a good slash might cause so much pain and immobility that you can whack him a good one next without much danger. Again, I don’t see the Jedi going for such wounds. It’s whomp-whomp, big ol’ axe slashes.

Plausible. That would make a cool visual, they should have shown it.

Yep, I see you’re totally right. Thanks for the explanation.

Yeah, that really is good. Better than the battle stuff in Ep III methinks. The Death Star blasts against the ships are genuinely scary.

Quite right. I think the dicerning viewer will have to conclude that Ep II is far worse than Ep I. Just a crappy story on every level.

Sounds like it could be good. Thanks for the thoughtful comments!

You’re right, but… this just raises more problems.

In the Ep III Dooku vs. OW+A battle, Dooku takes time out to throw the two boys like rag dolls with the force. It’s hard to understand why such a technique isn’t used more often in a battle. (In the OT, Vader will fight dirty by throwing objects at Luke, but being able to toss people around bodily at will doesn’t seem to be in his repetoire, nor should it have been.)

Heh. If that’s your standard, you’ve come to the wrong movie franchise. There’s not one thing that’s realistic in Star Wars, from the swordfighting, to the dogfighting, to the aliens, to the settings, to the Force itself. The swordfighting is no more unrealistic than any other element of the film.

No, that answers that problem. You don’t see that happening in every fight because the opposed Jedi is using his own Force powers to resist it. When you see someone sent flying, it’s because they’re too stunned/weak/slow to properly “parry” the Force attack. Note that even as padawans, Obi-Wan and Anakin ever have any trouble using it on 'droids, regularly knocking htem down with enough energy to destroy them, because 'droids can’t use the Force to protect themselves.

It’s also possible that Dooku is especially strong in telekinesis, and is more skilled/powerful at using this ability in the heat of combat. You don’t see much of this in the movies, but in the EU a lot of Jedi are specialized in one particular discipline of the Force (piloting, lightsaber duelling, healing, precog, etc.)

In which case he died like a chump, since Luke, Leia et al were, as Leia remarked, allowed to escape far too easily in order that they could be tracked and thus reveal the location of the rebel base. Why they didn’t then just get Artoo to search the ship for a homing beacon and plant it on a garbage scow headed for the Bumhole System is, however, beyond my feeble powers of comprehension.

I’m normally pretty forgiving when it comes to lightsaber fights. The simple concept of fighting with them is cool enough that I can overlook any flaws most times. On the other hand, the final fight in AotC between Dooku and the Jedi was just…dooku, on so many levels.

I’ve seen complaints about RotS that there were too many close-up shots, trying to hide the actual saber work. I only saw RotS once and didn’t make particular note of it, but when I rewatched AotC, there was nothing so egregious in RotS as the fight between Anakin and Dooku. Beyond a couple far shots of Anakin using two sabers, that fight was just a cut between face shots of Anakin and Dooku with flashes of red and green/blue around the bottom of the screen. The most visually engaging thing about that fight was Anakin slicing the power cable that cut the lights.

While I typically don’t have a problem with the way the Jedi duel (if you’ve ever played the Jedi Knight games, you’ve seen far worse fights, merely due to the limitations of the controls), Dooku just makes me angry. He has a curved saber handle! The way it’s best held is going to be different from straight sabers. And in the book of AotC, they even specifically note that Dooku uses fencing as his fighting style. What the hell happened, then? They obviously didn’t bother to get a fencing specialist for the movie and just had Dooku fight the same as any other Jedi. This alone pisses me off more than anything, because having Dooku parry and thrust like a real fencer would have been far more entertaining to watch and made him stand apart more as a character than anything they actually did in the movie.

No, it is not. This means that every Three Musketeers movie could carry the same complaint.

Theatrical combat is not meant to resemble sport combat, which in turn does not resemble true blade combat, western or eastern. Do not expect them to resemble each other as they have differing goals and presentations.

Real combat: Kill other person.
Sport Combat: Strike other person, and depending on rules, look good doing it.
Theatrical Combat: Look good fighting while not hurting your fellow actor.

I fence, and I long ago accepted that theatrical combat is unrealistic. However, there are levels where it looks good vs. looking staged. No Erroll Flynn movie looks good to me these days, wheras most of the fight direction of William Hobbs (3 & 4 Musketeers, Rob Roy, others) looks like the work of people trying to do anything to defeat their opponent.

As I understand it, only Akira Kursawa movies really reflect anything realsitic in Eastern sword duels (lot of set-up and positioning, then over very quickly).

One could make the same complaint about boxing movies. Look at any boxing match, then tell me it resembles Million Dollar Baby or Rocky.

The SW fight scenes are meant to be duels among those with hightened instincts and paranormal skills. I feel the battles are meant to resemble the mood of the movie, not a sword fight simulation. I feel most of them do that quite well.

Well, there was Greedo, but, then again, he DID shoot first!

“I hate it when I get my Schwartz twisted!”


I beg to differ. The dogfights were choreographed as SP-EFX sequences that were based on dogfights filmed during WWII. If you feel that real - life aerial dogfights between two armies who swore to fight to the death over Europe is not realistic, then I dunno what to tell you.

Marcia Lucas ( Ex-wife of George ) and Paul Hirsch won an Academy Award for editing Start Wars, and it was well-earned. Not only were the dog-fights staged based on genuine footage of real dog-fights, but the editing matched the pace of footage that they used during the edits to fill in for SP EFX sequences not yet shot and placed into the workprint.

As for the OP, I adore the first fight in Episode IV. At least once, when the lightsaber is pointed pretty much towards the camera, you can see that it’s nothing more than a small handle with a rotating motor ( very much like cordless screwdrivers ! ), and a wooden dowel with ScotchLite tape wrapped around it.

That is what they were in the first film, and when they are “turned on” and “turned off”, there is either a jumpcut as the actors tried to stand still while someone swapped a handle for a fullsized prop, or they would edit away from the shot of the actor, so they could swap out. The sound effect of the light saber being turned on or off would bridge the cut-away.

I appreciate the intellectual rigor that went into the OP, but I question why the sequences cannot be accepted as fun swordfights…


Except the dogfights we see in SW aren’t being waged over Europe, but in the airless void of outer space. All those swoops and banks (and, of course, noisy, fiery explosions) are impossible in a vacuum.

Er, what? IIRC, the dogfight scenes from Episode IV were based on/inspired by/lifted from WWII movies – that is, overdramatized made-up stuff.

The idea that any dogfight scene in any of the SW movies is based on real WWII dogfight footage is a real stretch for me.

I think, when it comes to entertainment, whether the fight is realistic doesn’t really matter.

The thing is - whether it is entertaining, as I have paid for entertainment. I don’t mind if it is realistic and not terrifying exciting. As long as it is not boring.

The lightsaber duels in SW II and III are boring. I shall have bolded that, typed it in italics, underlined it, and made it blink in techno-colour all at the same time. I don’t have the expertise to explain why it is boring. All I can do is to point out that there are movies with great fight sequences - Fellowship of the Ring, Kill Bill Vol 1 & Kill Bill Vol 2, Kung Fu Hustle and many more beside. So, SW II and SW III have no excuses for being boring when it comes to fighting.

Kill Bill Vol 2 is a strange one for me - there aren’t many fight scenes, they are short, they are fast, but they are not boring, especially:

The last part where Kiddo use the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique on Bill. The whole sequence lasts less than 2 minutes, but in the meanwhile Kiddo dodges a blow from Bill, uses the momentum of the chair to attack, and sneak in the deadly attack. Quick, fast, lethal, non-realistic, but not boring.

One reason, I believe is, all the lightsaber duels from SW I to SW III all looks the same. I am aware there are several stances, I see some of them in actions, but they seem to be nothing more than poses. Every Jedi seem to be fighting the same way on the screen. At least in the LoTR movies, Peter Jackson ensures that stunts repeated in Fellowship is not repated in the Two Towers and so on.

Part of the problem may be the Jedis seem to be fighting so effortlessly. Part of the charm in Espiode V and IV is that fighting with lightsabers doesn’t look easy. As the lightsaber clashes, there are some good old-fashioned sparks. The way they clang make them sounds as though they are heavy weapons, like good-old fashioned swords. I know - lightsabers are not supposed to be like that. But who cares? it makes the fight more exciting! There aren’t to be any sound in space battles too. Yet they are still in. Why? It’s more exciting!

Whereas in the SW II and III, we see Anakin and Obi-wan fighting with this bored, disaffected look on their face. No sense of urgency. No sense of danger. We knew they won’t die anyway…

Sorry for the rant.