Thursday, June 8, 2017

Opinion: Top 10 Lightsaber Duels

By: Dom Richards

Hello there, and welcome to all you Sith Lords, Jedi Masters, Padawans, protocol droids and of course bucket heads.  I am deeply honored to be given the opportunity to contribute towards a site as reputable as The SWU. I have been a regular visitor for a long time and I am extremely excited by this opportunity. So firstly, thanks to the The SWU team.

For my first article, I thought it would be fun to list my top 10 lightsaber battles. A few things of note before we dive right in. Firstly, they are not in a specific order. Simply because I could not decide. I have spent the better part of a week changing around a few, moving one up, moving two down. I was getting nowhere. Secondly, my basis for including a battle into this list isn't solely based on the fight itself. So you will find a couple battles on this list that the actual fighting wasn't that great. I think that about covers everything so without further or do, let us jump straight in...

Palpatine vs Maul and Savage Opress
The moment Maul was brought back to life in The Clone Wars two epic duels sprung into the minds of us all. First, of course, would be his revenge against Obi-Wan for turning him into half the Dathmorian Zabrak he once was. Second, would be his confrontation with his old master Darth Sidious.

Maul knew how powerful his old master was with the Force. It is completely plausible that Sidious would know that Maul survived his fall, especially as he was on Naboo for the celebration after the Trade Federation's defeat. Instead of attempting to find his apprentice, he just discarded him.

The fight itself was excellent and showed just how good the animation was during the run of The Clone Wars. We saw Sidious at the peak of his powers, battling two extremely dangerous opponents. The hatred which fueled Maul and the sheer animalistic style of Opress would be enough to overcome any adversary but, Sidious was no normal opponent. The Dark Lord of the Sith easily dispatched of his former apprentice and his brother. Maul had to look on, much like Obi-Wan did when Sidious kills Opress.

This fight also took place with a memorial of the Mandalorian Wars in the background. The outcome of this encounter echoing the end of the conflict as the recently installed leader of Mandalore, Maul, losing to a force user.

Obi-Wan vs Anakin 
The confrontation everyone was dying to see when the Prequels were announced. We all wanted to see just how Vader became more machine than man and this epic fight did not disappoint.

This encounter still holds the record for the longest duel in cinematic history. Everything about it is just, well, epic. The backdrop of the lava planet of Mustafar is the perfect location for a duel more near 30 years in the making. 

The actual fight itself is fantastic. This, without question, is the best 'fight' in the series in terms of the quality of the duel itself.  The training both Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christian put in behind the scenes was incredible. Both actors truly did give it their all in their preparation for one of cinema's most anticipated showdowns. Trying to get an audience invested in a conflict where they already know the outcome can be difficult but, both actors managed to keep us all completely engrossed as Obi-Wan and Anakin battled all across the hellacious Mustafar.

This battle also features some of the best acting from the Prequels. Now, I do love the Prequels (more on that in a later article) but, acting quality is not one of the strong points from the films. From Anakin's declaration of hate to Obi-Wan's allegiance to democracy, the acting from both Ewan and Hayden is brilliant here. Even if some of the dialogue is a bit questionable (from my point of view the Jedi are evil).

Obi-Wan and Ventress vs Maul and Opress
Maul finally gets the opportunity to exact his revenge on the man who made him a hell of a lot more lighter than he was. After slaughtering an entire village on Raydonia, Maul lures Obi-Wan into his trap. Obi-Wan was facing complete domination at the hands of Maul and his brother Savage Opress when, Ventress, an unlikely ally appears to help even the odds.

Again, this duel just perfectly demonstrates the quality of the animation that graced our screens during The Clone Wars. The fight was claustrophobic, intense and also showed a side of Obi-Wan we do not see all that often.

Maul knew that a fair 1v1 fight with the Jedi Master would not be the ideal situation as he obviously has already lost one of those. Of course, he wasn't counting on Ventress popping up to help Kenobi so, Maul fights dirty. He taunts Obi-Wan about the death of his old master, Qui-Gon until it fuels Obi-Wan with rage. Yes, even Jedi Masters get angry from time to time. This completely unbalances Obi-Wan and, if he had not composed himself, Maul might very well have come out victorious here.

One slight critique for this scene is Obi-Wan should have kept Ventress' red bladed lightsaber during the whole encounter. Only, when he starts to compose himself should he have found his trusty blue bladed Lightsaber. I just feel the visual payoff would have been a bit better.

Maul vs Pre Vizsla
Our last entry from The Clone Wars, sadly, but what a battle to end it on! If the Obi-Wan and Anakin was the best actual fight in the series, this duel is the best from The Clone Wars, without question.

It was just all action from the start. Maul showing just why Sidious chose him as an apprentice and Vizsla proving why Mandalorian warriors are held in such high regard. This violent confrontation was also under the gaze of a giant poster of Dutchess Satine, who would be heartbroken to see what has happened to her beloved planet.

This fight also echoes the Mandalorian War of old as, Vizsla fought as hard as he could, using all the gadgets and tools at his disposal but, it just wasn't enough to defeat a Force user.

If anyone tries to make the excuse that they have not seen The Clone Wars because it is a "kids show," show them this fight. It is a brutal, violent confrontation between two excellent warriors. The ending as well just perfectly demonstrates why The Clone Wars was so much more than just a "kids show"

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan vs Darth Maul 
The duel between these three masters of the Force is superb for a number of reasons.

Firstly the sheer magnificence of the double Lightsaber reveal. It will go down as one of the saga's finest moments.

This is also the first Lightsaber duel in the saga's history that featured an actual trained martial artist in Ray Park. His skill with the double bladed weapon is a thing to marvel at. Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson also went through extensive training in preparation for their respective roles and it all paid off. Where the duels from the Original Trilogy were more methodical, this encounter was fast-paced and full of action.

It also introduced us to another beautifully composed piece of music from the orchestral genius that is John Williams. "Duel of Fates" is simply incredible which perfectly matches the pace and intensity of this fight.

Darth Vader vs Ahsoka Tano
Anakin vs Obi-Wan may well be the most anticipated fight in the saga' history but, this battle from Star Wars Rebels is a close second.

Ever since Ahsoka was introduced as Anakin's apprentice during the theatrical released The Clone Wars movie, fans knew that eventually, there would come a time where "Sky-guy" would fight "Snips." Many fans assumed it would be during The Clone Wars but obviously after the show was cancelled by Disney, this confrontation was put into doubt. That was until both characters reappeared in Season One of Rebels.

The build up in Season Two alone is fantastic, with, Ahsoka slowly starting to realize just who Darth Vader really is. Take that with the history these two shared during the run of The Clone Wars, this was going to be a fight to remember.

The climax to this dramatic encounter was nothing short of astounding. After Ahsoka had rushed Vader as he tried to take the Sith Holocron from Ezra, and damaged his helmet we were witness to a spine-tingling moment. Rising from the ground Vader called out Ahsoka's name but, it wasn't James Earl Jones that called out to the former Jedi Padawan. It was The Clone Wars' Matt Lanter's voice. Suddenly, all the history between the two came crashing back to reality. Honestly, even writing about this now gives me goosebumps. Hearing Matt Lanter say the words 'then you will die' to his former apprentice is not only one of the most important and epic moments from the animated saga, but the saga as a whole.

Plus, if all this isn't good enough reasons to include this duel on this list, Vader arrives on top of a Tie Fighter!

Darth Vader vs Luke Skywalker (Return of the Jedi)
Our first trip to the original trilogy! What the duels in the Original Trilogy lack in fighting skill they more than make up for in dramatic effect.

Luke, the last hope of the Jedi, edges ever closer to the Dark Side during the second encounter with his father. Conflicted between what he is told he must do by his mentors, Obi-Wan and Yoda and his desire to save his father from the Dark Side, Luke goes into this battle with the intentions not to fight. When the Emperor then reveals he manipulated the Rebel Alliance to attack the second Death Star so he could wipe them out, Luke again lets his emotions get the better of him and he tries to strike down the defenseless Palpatine, only to be stopped by Vader.

Luke also drifts ever closer to the Dark Side when Vader taunts that, perhaps, he could turn Leia if he cannot turn Luke. Luke then uses his anger to defeat Vader, only then to throw his Lightsaber down as Palpatine offers him the chance to take his father's place. Luke, of course, refused which results in the Emporer torturing Luke with Force Lightning until he is ready to kill him. Luke, was right about his father as he came to his son's aid by destroying Palpatine and, returning to be the Jedi he once was.

Darth Vader vs Obi-Wan Kenobi
Now, this is obviously not on the list due to the fighting skill demonstrated between the two former Jedi Knights. There were a few contributing factors as to why this duel was the way it was. The Lightsabers used during A New Hope were extremely fragile so they couldn't actually be hit against each other. Also, Alec Guinness is by no means a trained fighter.

This is featured on the list due to the legacy of the fight. This is the first actual duel we see in the franchise. The old Jedi Master confronting the (up to this point) most evil "man" in the galaxy. Surely Obi-Wan stood no chance of winning. He, of course, must have known this but, he knew fleeing would put Luke and the rest of the group in danger so he sacrificed himself to save the new hope to the Jedi and to the galaxy.

Plus, thanks to his training on his sanctuary on Tatooine, he knew he wouldn't be gone for long.

Sidious vs Mace Windu

After the realization as to just who Supreme Chancellor Palpatine was, Mace Windu took three Jedi Knights with him to try and put a stop to Sith once and for all.

That plan failed rather quickly as the Dark Lord of the Sith easily dispatched the three members of Mace's backup. A lot of criticism has been given due to the ease that Palpatine killed the three Jedi but, let's be honest, I doubt they were expecting the old man in front of them to spin in the air towards them like some possessed creature.

That aside, the battle between Windu and Palpatine is rather short but yet so, so important.

Anakin arrives to find Palpatine knocked down with Mace standing over him. Attempting to kill Windu with Force Lightning which backfires completely, Palpatine is seen begging for his life as Windu decides to take matters into his own hands and kill the Chancellor rather than have him stand trial.

Desperate to keep Padmé alive, Anakin knows he needs the power of the Dark Side to stop his visions come true once more. He decides to save Palpatine's life and lets the Dark Lord kill Master Windu. Anakin Skywalker is no more...arise, Darth Vader.

This encounter again is a great example that the Prequels did feature some wonderfully acted scenes. Ian McDiarmid's portrayal as Palpatine was a highlight all throughout the Prequels. This scene is perhaps his best as his manipulation of Anakin comes to fruition.

Darth Vader vs Luke Skywalker (The Empire Strikes Back)

Here we are, the last entry on this list. A duel that features some great action and the biggest twist in movie history!

Luke had feared Vader since he first laid eyes on him aboard the first Death Star. Not so much because of his intimidating appearance or even the fact that he had killed his mentor right in front of him. No, Luke feared Vader because he feared the fall to the Dark Side. If a former pupil of Obi-Wan's could fall to the Dark Side then, couldn't Luke as well? Also, confronting the man that 'killed your father' wasn't going to be a stroll in the park.

The fight itself was a vast improvement from the battle between Vader and Kenobi. The Vader suit was a lot more flexible so, swordmaster Bob Anderson could actually move properly and, Mark Hamil had also been training to fight with a Lightsaber. The fight was full of action and showed just why Vader was feared throughout the galaxy.

Vader obviously went easy on Luke as he wanted to capture him alive but, Luke still held his own against the vastly more powerful Vader.

Then the twist. Luke hearing that his father was not a hero that died fighting evil. His father was the evil that killed the heroes. I can only imagine what it must have been like in cinemas across the world when they first heard Vader proclaim; "No, I am your father." Hamil's reaction is terrific with the perfect mixture of denial and shock.

All of this taking place in one of the greatest set pieces in the saga's history.

Well, there it is, my list of the greatest Lightsaber battles in the history of the franchise. Think I've missed any out? then let us know in the comments.

And remember, Peace is a Lie and, May the Force be with you.

This article is an opinion piece and represents the views of the writer, and not the entire Star Wars Underworld organization  

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