Don’t use your sword like a baseball bat Don’t use your sword like a baseball bat! Look, there are times it can work Usually when your character is desperate and losing temper But when Rey is supposed to be one with the force She still does that And it works!? Man, lightsaber duels just aren’t what they used to be Are they? Look, I wasn’t the one saying this is bad A Hollywood stunt coordinator did “Oh my god, I hate this…” And the biggest sword nerd on YouTube also did In any case, for the biggest franchise in cinema history They have done better And they can still do better With Episode IX coming up, finishing up the saga once more The time is right Let’s look to our old friend, East Asia And show them how it’s done That Is how you do a sword fight Before you fight You have to build up the anticipation Distilled into its purest form It’s literally just two men Staring at each other for literally 30 seconds Until the tension is so high It explodes We call this Qi Shi in Chinese Or ikioi in Japanese The feel of an aura, or the battle spirit being build up Yes, that’s where Dragon Ball Z got the idea Think of it as the battle of the spirits Before the battle of the flesh It’s something the original trilogy did well Thanks to the slower pace Because of the wait Even with the primitive choreography Every swing feels tense and impactful As if any time, someone is about to be chopped in half It’s also something that The prequels didn’t do nearly as well You just know they are going to fight for a while But the concept of the aura is more than just tension In Asian cinema, it borderlines supernatural Going back to Sanjuro for a moment Pay attention to the audio Did you hear that? As soon as their stands are ready The birds go silent Listen again It is as if there’s an invisible force Emanating from our swordsmans And scared off the animals Other ways to capture this aura can be a simple dolly in Or a sound of the wind Weather is a nice way to boost the mood and tension Dust in the air Heavy rain Heavy wind Cherry blossoms Snow And let’s not forget: Smoke Build your anticipations Utilize your environments Wait for the tensions to explode Imagine if Rey didn’t rushed into the fight Guns blazing Imagine these two stands in the heavy snow Wait until the perfect moment to strike Wouldn’t that be cool? But what’s a fight without… You know, the actual fight So how do you film a good movie sword fight Well, first, you have to stop whacking it around You’d think a martial arts weapon from a civilized time Would show more skill and dexterity Compare this To this See how she is leaning back And she’s… parrying It’s a common problem in lightsaber duels Where both parties are swinging away Neither is impacting the actions of the other So instead of a back and forth fight The result looks like a group of people Each with their own dance routine This problem is even worse with the CGI fight Between Yoda and Dooku There is no impact when their lightsaber touches Now take a look at this One side guides the actions of the other And instantly, there is a dynamic struggle A fight for control Star Wars eventually came close to this The duel on Mustafar actually incorporates a lot of parrying The result definitely feels more like a fight But there are still so much more you can do You’d think dodging would be a pretty obvious action But it comes up surprisingly rarely It is a good way to break up your characters From the standing up right face to face Speaking of standing up right Break your character’s posture Knock one of your character to the ground and keep fighting Grapple Wall Jump Do more than just swinging your swords But I think the most important lesson Star Wars has to learn Is this: “What was that?” “An exhibition?” “We need emotional content” Tell me who’s winning at this moment Now tell me who’s winning Many lightsaber duels share this fundamental problem The characters don’t emote in a fight This is something the sequels actually did better The way she swings her lightsaber around As if to tell him to “back away” That’s good emotional content right there But what we really want, is this Now, tell me who’s winning Finally, let’s talk about what makes Asian sword fights So distinct from… This And the answer is not just because one is faster Look at this Now, what if I do this In choreography These are the key poses you have to hit The actors are basically trying to move from one pose to another in rapid succession And look at how clean their poses are Even if I do this You can still clearly tell what they are doing This clean and clear posing Is what allows the action to be fast Without it coming off as confusing Works for non sword fights, too This is actually what the prequels were trying to do And it definitely flows Although as you can see The actors poses aren’t as dynamic Put your whole body into it Not just your arms Now, let’s take a look at The Last Jedi Um… Ug… Can you see the key pose? No, I’m genuinely asking because I can’t! Look, Kylo’s block From this to this You call that a pose? Rey’s swing At this angle It’s hard to tell at a glance what the pose is supposed to be Rey’s saber thrust From this To this The target is blocked by this jackass There’s even a moment when Adam Driver just stands there No, he’s not Kylo Ren At this moment, he’s just Adam Driver Waiting for the stuntman to come in See how fluid and clean this is? And all the stuntmen stay out of the foreground? In short, The Last Jedi failed at a very fundamental level It makes a step forward And a few steps back For a continuation from this And this This might as well be a regression Now you know why the pros really dislike this fight Mandalorian came out and reminded everyone that Star Wars was meant to be a samurai western And people love it So what we did today Looking for guidance from Asian cinema Is not as far-fetched as it sounds It’s hard to believe that the saga is ending once more And the lightsaber is barely used Fans have had better Expects better And deserves better Hopefully, the sage ends on a high note But even if it doesn’t… You know what? There are people out there Making their own lightsaber duels fan films The passion of the Star Wars fandom is endless Now you know how to make a good sword fight Why don’t we get out there And show them how it’s done?