Few fight scenes in cinema are as exhilarating as a lightsaber duel in the Star Wars franchise. Everyone has their own personal favorites, but one of the most well-choreographed and filmed lightsaber combat scenes put to film is the Throne Room scene in The Last Jedi.
A lot of people may watch this lightsaber fight and think it’s just cool to look at, which is certainly is. However, when you really break it down, director Rian Johnson, well known for his unique directorial style, utilizes expert techniques to make the fight scene really stand out. It’s arguably one of the best Star Wars lightsaber battles ever, so let’s break down what makes it so impactful.
Watch: The Last Jedi — Throne Room Lightsaber Battle
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The Best Lightsaber Fight
Frame With PurposeWith multiple combatants and a bunch of bright, flashing lights, it is easy to get lost in the midst of a lightsaber battle. Just look at how chaotic a scene can become like the arena battle in Attack of the Clones.
With so much going on, it is difficult to know what to pay attention to in this particular battle. Rian Johnson wisely avoids this mistake by framing in such a way that your eyes know exactly where to go.
When examining the opening scene of the fight when Kylo Ren kills Snoke, we first get a close-up of Kylo Ren’s hand. We know definitively he is the one controlling the lightsaber, and he is the one responsible for Snoke’s death.
From there, the camera racks focus to show us Snoke being cut in half by the lightsaber. It moves through the z-axis toward Kylo Ren, but Rey grabs it. In the background, which has become blurry, we see Snoke fall apart in two halves. Our eyes are already focused on the center where Snoke collapsed, and this is where Rey pops up.
A bunch of edits could have made this scene clunky. It would’ve been hard to discern what just transpired and who is where. Similar framing strategies are used throughout the scene to guide your eye to what is most important.
It makes this lightsaber duel more engaging because you know exactly what is happening. You know where people are located within the scene, so there is no confusion.
Best Lightsaber Duels
Move the camera with intentThere is more to a director’s job than guiding the actors. He or she must also direct the camera and know when to move it and when to keep it stationary. A camera pan may seem simple, but as we've discussed before regarding camera movement, it can be incredibly helpful at guiding the viewer to various items within a scene.
3 Editing Techniques From Star Wars
The Star Wars films have stood the test of time for a reason. In particular, these movies tend to feature innovating editing techniques. We already went into a little bit about the editing used in lightsaber duels, but you can learn even more by diving into our other article about how Star Wars uses editing.