Tag Archives: lightsabers

Q&A: Lightsaber Physics

Regarding lightsaber physics, I believe the official version is that they basically have artificial inertia, because the blade is in constant motion (and as such does have an edge), and this is mainly used to justify really lengthy wind ups for attacks (like what Kylo Ren does). On the other hand, we see plenty of Jedi fighting like the things weigh nothing, so I think it’s a case by case basis to justify fighting styles, rather than fighting styles being derived from it

automata-systemata-hydromata

The specific logic is that lightsaber physics changed over time, during the development of the films. When Lucas was working on A New Hope, he approached it with the idea that the actual blades were quite heavy. As in the actual projection of light/plasma/whatever had substantial mass. Though from here on out, I’ll be talking about the actual props.

The stunt choreographers patterned, their fights off a mixture of 1940s Hollywood swashbuckler duels, modern fencing, and kendo. There were also other factors, including that the stunt blades themselves were quite fragile. (I want to say they were made of fiberglass, but I’m not completely positive.) I’ve also read that David Prowse had a bad habit of breaking his lightsaber blade on set. This is part of why the style in ANH is so tentative. The actors are trying not to break their props. Also, fun trivia, you can see them knocking dust off their blades when they come into contact in ANH.

Some of this logic carried over into Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I’m not sure exactly how much, but you can look at all three as a coherent unit. One of the few big changes was much more durable lightsaber props.

In going back to do Phantom Menace, the stunt choreographers came to Lucas and said, something to the effect of, “look what we can do, if we one hand these things.” The result is much faster and flashier combat, which you can see in the prequels. As I recall, the specific justification from Lucas was that the Jedi were at the height of their martial training before the purge, so you’re seeing the best lightsaber practitioners in history.

To be fair, I don’t know what the thought process is for the lightsaber use in Awakenings.

The important takeaway is, that how lightsabers function has changed to fit the capabilities of the film production staff. So, trying to extrapolate something coherent out of that is going to be kinda tricky. Still, kudos to the EU writers who made a genuine attempt, and kept at it as the entire approach was reworked as the prequels released.

-Starke

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Incidentally, TIL there’s a quick post keybind that I hit with my pinky when I went to hit backspace. I still don’t know what that keybind is, but at least I know it exists now.

On the topic of cauterizing wounds with a flaming sword, wouldn’t that translate to lightsabers as well?

The last time someone bled from a lightsaber wound was in the original film cut of The Empire Strikes Back when Luke took an arm off the Wampa, it never happened again. The blood has since been cleaned off in every re-release of the original series except A New Hope.

Watch this. From The Empire Strikes Back on, all wounds with lightsabers are cauterized and there’s no blood. The lightsaber is a blade made of plasma, so it’s naturally going to be very hot.

In the old EU, it used to be that being Force Sensitive was a prerequisite for wielding a lightsaber because they were often just as dangerous to the wielder as they were to the enemy. No one without some level of precognition or Jedi/Sith training could use them in combat. It was the explanation behind why they were so useful and dangerous but also so rare, carried only by Force users trained in the Jedi or Sith arts.

The three groups in Star Wars that use lightsabers are:

A) Fully Trained Jedi/Sith Force Users

B) Nascent or Partially Trained Force Users, Padawans, Ex-Padawans, etc.

C) Droids with proper programming.

In a setting context, the lightsaber is a main reason why your average
Sith or Jedi can suddenly transform into a one man wrecking crew if not
army.

It fulfills both ends of the combat spectrum. It is exceedingly useful and efficient in the right hands and it is intimidating if not downright scary by reputation.

For most of the galaxy, the Force is difficult to quantify and understand. A plasma blade that can slice you and dice you into six different pieces while simultaneously blocking incoming blaster fire is much easier to get behind.

And while, yes, the cauterizing of the wounds means that someone who suffers a lightsaber blow is more likely to survive, it doesn’t mean the experience is pleasant.

Many writers have a mistaken view that death is the worst thing that can happen to a person and end up having heroic characters commit horrific atrocities as a result, doing more damage in the long run than they might’ve if they’d just killed the other character.

The lightsaber is the three section staff of the Star Wars world, really awesome if you know what you’re doing and liable to give yourself a concussion if you don’t. (Or, in this case, lose a limb…or several.)

There’s no getting around burning yourself with the nunchaku lightsaber though, that one is just dumb.

It’s a standard issue part of the setting and most of the wounds received from similar types of energy weapons like blasters are also bloodless. This acts as a backhanded setting justification for how the series can be so violent while sneaking itself past the sensors.

-Michi

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