Problem #5,613,160,089.42 with Star Wars

For many years now I have had a bit of a problem with Star Wars that I have remained mostly quiet about, because it doesn’t really impact most people.  The problem I’m referring to isn’t the terrible dialogue in the prequels, though it was pretty terrible.  Nor is it the so-called “plot holes” everyone is calling easily explainable parts of the story arc because they don’t understand story structure or, you know, human beings and their fallibility.

No.  I have long been a bit disappointed by the fight scenes, even though they are often by turns enjoyable and compelling to watch.

 

The difficulty for me in watching fight scenes is probably similar to the difficulty faced by a physicist or a biochemist listening to the gobbledygook being spouted by the “scientist” characters in various movies.  Or for me as an IT professional, the slight irritation I felt when in Iron Man 3, Tony Stark advised a guy in a TV station van to “pump up the ISDNs” despite the fact that ISDN is a technology that uses traditional phone lines, and the van wouldn’t have any.

It doesn’t ruin the movie for me, but I do wish a couple of minutes of Googling had been done to get dialogue that made sense, because that’s really all it would take.  And that’s very much how I felt the fight scenes in the original trilogy and the prequels, that the fight scenes could have been much better had more research been done.

This is nothing against the actors, to be clear.  The gentlemen who played Darth Vader, Obi-wan Kenobi, and Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy performed their fight sequences well enough.  And that’s also true for the actors who play Darth Maul, Qui-gon Jinn, Obi-wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Count Dooku, Mace Windu, and Emperor Palpatine in the prequels.

Darth Maul in particular moved extremely well, probably because the actor’s a very talented martial artist outside of the films.  And there was certainly some solid swordplay in the lightsaber battles of the original trilogy at times.  But in general, I thought the fight choreography could have been better.

In the original trilogy, on average, the fights were too slow at times and more drawn out than they needed to be.  With a weapon as powerful as a lightsaber, the contest should be decided fairly quickly, one way or the other.  And yet we have these fairly extended fight sequences in which the combatants go on and on and on just as the fist fights in westerns sometimes went on at ridiculous length.

Admittedly, many movies have absurdly long fight scenes, partially because they’re really fun to watch.  I don’t mind that, but it gets even less credible that these bouts go on and on while they are using a long sword that cuts through human bone effortlessly.  This was even more noticeable in the prequels; the lightsaber fight scenes ramped up the acrobatics from the original trilogy about 1,000%.

Instead of Luke jumping and clinging awkwardly to the ceiling, Qui-gon Jinn and Obi-wan Kenobi were leaping about and flipping around pretty effortlessly and all too often.  This is an extremely bad idea from a tactical standpoint, which we saw when Anakin tried to flip over Obi-wan in the super-hot volcanic fight scene in the last part of the prequels.  He lost his legs, and that should have happened a lot more often.

Jedi and Sith alike should have been running around on cybernetic replacement legs all the time if that was a common thing to do.  If they all have Force-induced enhanced agility, then surely it’s just as level a playing field as combat between normal humans, and that often has very bad results for the combatant who decides to do fancy flips everywhere while fighting against a similarly skilled opponent.

Some of the lightsaber movements also made no sense, but neither do a lot of sword movements in combat.  That said, let’s set aside the lightsabers for a moment and focus on the hand-to-hand combat.  The actor playing Darth Maul did a great job in those moments when using his limbs to connect with his opponents, and the brief part of the fight between Obi-wan and General Grievous that involved combat without weapons was actually pretty good.

In the original trilogy, the limited hand-to-hand stuff was alright, I guess.  Fight choreography in general was not very polished at the time, so I can understand why it isn’t as good as it was in later films.  One of my hopes for the new trilogy, starting with The Force Awakens, was that it might escape the traps of the two different problems with the fight choreography in the original trilogy and the prequels.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that it did.  The fight between Finn and Kylo Ren was quick, messy, and decisive, just as it should have been between an ex-Stormtrooper and a Sith.  The fight between Rey and Kylo Ren was not full of tactically terrible acrobatics and didn’t go on any longer than big movie fights need to.  I have a new hope that the next two movies take the same approach.

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