Each month the Cinelinx staff will write a handful of articles covering a specified film-related topic. These articles will be notified by the Movielinx banner. Movielinx is an exploration and discussion of our personal connections with film. This month we’re diving into our favorite action scenes in movies, exploring what makes them great, and why they get our hearts racing every time!
As I said, I’ve never felt Episode I: The Phantom Menace deserved the amount of hate that gets slung its way. I have my reasons for that, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. With our focus on our favorite action scenes, I wanted to discuss the lightsaber duel at the end of the film featuring some two-on-one, and double-bladed action. While the next two films in the Prequel trilogy tried to top it (and it’s possible that Revenge of the Sith’s did), this fight scene has always been one of the best in my opinion.
Sure, some people have gone through the fight scene, step-by-step and dissected all that’s wrong with it from a fighting standpoint, I feel they’re missing out on the big picture. I get it, I’ve been a martial artist for nearly two decades now and have performed a fair share of my own choreographed scenes for demonstration. I understand what’s “wrong” with the actual mechanics of the duel, but that makes it no less meaningful.
The first time this played out on the big screen there was a certain and undeniable wow factor. Lightsabers were blazing all over the place, John Williams’ incredible Duel of the Fates was playing, and life was good. It was fun, different, and unlike anything we’d ever seen before in the Star Wars films. For me, this is the key to final duel’s ultimate longevity and success.
From a technical standpoint it was fun to watch because it incorporated martial arts, high speed movements, using the Force during battle, and acrobatics all over the place. In short, it was just plain cool to see. It took cues from other fight choreography at the time to give it a modern feel that would appeal to Star Wars fans both old and young alike. Beyond the technical flashiness of the scene, the deeper story aspects behind it make it more memorable for me as well.
Prior to this, all of the Jedi vs. Sith action we’d seen had come from the original trilogy films. In those films the Jedi were all but extinct, and the remaining ones were old and way out of practice. Luke himself is only just getting started, and Darth Vader/Emperor Palpatine are strong enough to rarely even need a Lightsaber to be badass. Basically, skill with a Lightsaber isn’t what it once was and is reflected in the battles they showcased. Not to mention the fact that fight choreography back in those days were way different.
Then comes The Phantom Menace which showed fans a different time period of the Star Wars saga, in which the Jedi were not only around, but at nearly the pique of their powers. We’re talking Jedi who trained day-in day-out to better themselves not just with the Force, but with their combat skills. This is presented best during the final fight scene, and only added to the moment’s appeal. For the first time, we were able to see what the Jedi from this time period (mentioned in the Original films) were able to do…and it was impressive.
In this way, The Phantom Menace’s fight scene stands out above the others. It set a new standard for what to expect for the next films in the franchise in terms of action. Beyond that, however, it also established Obi-Wan Kenobi as credible and powerful Jedi Knight. Before this, the Jedi hadn’t faced down the Sith in a millennia. Having Obi-Wan be the first Jedi to fight one and win (where even his Master failed), tells the audience that he’s the real deal and the legendary warrior we expected him to be.
We knew from the original films that Obi-Wan was the man who trained Darth Vader, before he turned to evil. With Vader having been set up as such an incredible badass, it would stand to reason that Kenobi would have to be one as well (at least in his younger days). This duel showed fans that aspect and it continued on into the other Prequels going forward. During this fight, I felt like this version of Obi-Wan could have been the one to train Anakin and go on to become the wise hermit in the desert of A New Hope.
While the scene today may not be as impressive as it once was, including advances in fight scene choreography, it remains one of my favorites. Sure, you may have your issues with the film specifically, but it’s hard to deny the importance of this final battle not just in the climax of the film, but what they meant for the characters and the audiences watching it.