It took over 12 chapters for Disney’s The Mandalorian to finally give us a lightsaber fight—Ahsoka Tano squaring off against hordes of idiotic soldiers, and then, the magistrate in a palace garden duel evoking Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1 showdown. Thirteen episodes and our first big fight scene was derivative. Sigh.
In The Mandalorian's season 2 finale, Chapter 16: "The Rescue," Luke Skywalker makes a successful CGI face-replacement appearance, giving audiences our second major lightsaber battle. The homage this time, however, wasn’t another Tarantino film, but rather another Star Wars film: 2016’s Rogue One.
Rogue One ended with perhaps its best non-Donnie-Yen fight sequences: Darth Vader hallway massacring rebel fighters on the Tantive IV, the vessel boarded at the very beginning of the original Star Wars. The Mandalorian filmed the opening of its own hallway lightsaber battle much the same way—with Luke drawing his lightsaber facing the camera and after exiting a doorway—the sequence made to overlay Luke and Vader, father and son. The scene takes place chronologically after Vader’s slaughter and further highlights the characters' opposing paths: one to the Syth and one to the Jedi.
— zoᴴ din djarin’s gf ♡ (@gothmalek) December 18, 2020
It’s also worth noting that Rogue One’s lightsaber battle ended with another CGI face replacement: Princes Leia, Carrie Fisher. (The film also included one of the uncannier digital faces with Wihuff Tarkin.) Lucasfilm’s VFX house Industrial Light & Magic—who have worked on The Mandalorian and all the Star Wars films—have been getting better and better, even though the fight scenes have not.
While Luke’s hallway slashing looked cool in CGI, the movement of the performer was often hidden by the scene’s shadows as well as the constant interspersed cutting to the ship’s bridge.
It’s not the first underwhelming fight scene of the series.
One of the problems with Mandalorian fight scenes is likely the armor. Lauren Mary Kim, a stunt actor who has doubled multiple performers in The Mandalorian, including The Armorer, has said her work on the series included some of the most strenuous fights she’s ever done. Her fight scene as The Armorer—when she takes on several stormtroopers with two bludgeons and using Arnis martial arts—is maybe the best fight scene of the series. But even that scene—despite being filmed as a oner—gets heavily diced up in the editing room.
The editing likely exists to make the movements seem faster, given how heavy the costumes are; you can only swing a prop so fast when you’re wearing weights. Mando often looks awkward running and fighting, which makes it unsurprising that perhaps his best fight scene was also his only one without armor—the series’ Mad Max homage in Chapter 15 when Mando is dressed as a light imperial soldier.
The recent Star Wars films have succeeded when they’ve allowed performers to, well, perform. Donnie Yen’s work on Rogue One is a good example of playing to a performer’s strength (even if Yen was likely reined in from doing more elaborate work).
Of course, television is hard and film schedules are tight and fight scenes take time. We get it. But we’d love to see a bit more originality—and some fight scenes where performers like Kim aren’t weighted down.
You Might Also Like