Wednesday, 23 December 2015


The somewhat controversial "broadsword" lightsaber of Kylo Ren.

OK, I'm a bit late to the party here.

Apparently more committed nerds than myself have been debating this one on forums for a full year now, but as the entire world goes Star Wars mad (more than I would have expected), I can only say I'm thoroughly despondent at what Disney and J.J Abrams have done to our new Sith Lord's trusty lightsaber.

"A broadsword lightsaber?? Sacrilege!" I cried out, like a monk discovering the Playboy channel. It honestly felt like a grievous insult, or a beloved family member had just been violated in open view of, well, everybody in the world.

A bit dramatic maybe, but you catch my drift.

I haven't managed to catch The Force Awakens yet (I have tickets booked for Dec 29th), but I'm chuffed to hear everyone saying it's so good. However, I do know this one thing will stick in my craw as might a large hedgehog.


It's fair to say I'm a bit of a Star Wars geek.
This is a wall in my home.
It's the definitive and most iconic of all Star Wars symbols (at least to me). It's like the Sword of Greyskull, or Excalibur. The space crafts can change, the soldiers, the robots, the costumes, the laser guns, the characters... all of it's interchangeable in the Star Wars universe. But absolutely not that holy grail of Sci-Fi/Fantasy weaponry, the lightsaber. How dare you.

NB: For the record, I did NOT feel this way when Darth Maul's double-bladed lightsaber was introduced in The Phantom Menace. In fact, I thought it rocked, and was probably the best bit of the whole film. (Suffice to say, it would have been wonderful if our red-faced alien ninja friend had used it to dissect Jar Jar Binks in an extended torture scene. "Meesa like that idea.")

There are several reasons I find the broadsword lightsaber so offensive.

First and foremost, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. There is a vast Star Wars sub-culture existing beyond the films in comics, books, cartoons, video-games, and I for one have never seen such a fundamental aesthetic messed with so brazenly.

Secondly, the European "broadsword" was in stark contrast to many other regions of the world, where slimmer and lighter weapons were favoured: specifically like the sabre (ahem, the correct English spelling), the scimitar, the rapier, the cutlass, the katana etc - all of which could be argued are more "graceful" one-handed weapons, clearly absent of a large hilt. The huge two-handed sword with giant cross-shaped hilt is far more characteristic of brutal, bludgeoning knights swinging about wildly to penetrate heavy armour: a bit unnecessary if your sword happens to be a concentrated laser beam that cuts through steel like butter. I can see why it made sense on the basis the dark side is all about wild untapped fury and brute force, but still... no, just no. They already get Force-tastic upgrades of telekinetic choke-holds and fingertips that emit lightning.

Also, whereas swords with hilts had always existed, there's a lot of evidence to suggest Christianised Europeans of the middle ages definitely favoured the huge oversized hilt, specifically because it made the sword look like a cross; much in the same way the cross became the blue-print for churches and other buildings. It undoubtedly has a distinctly Christian flavour: again something that has no place or relevance in a Star Wars movie.

If the Catholic Church announced Jesus was a Jedi, it might in fact boost their ratings.
On brief glance at forums, it seems many in favour of this travesty argue it's in fact quite useful to have a hilt. No doubt. It can catch or hook a blade, prevent a blow from landing, and acts as a hand-guard. Some bright spark even pointed out more than one Jedi/Sith Lord in the films had a hand or hands severed (Anakin, Dooku, Luke) by an adversary who capitalised on the lack of hilt, sliding along the blade. "It's practical, and the dark side is all about defeating the light by any and all means."

Aw... how cute, conjoined baby lightsabers.
Totally ineffective hilt when you're fighting with
frickin' laser swords though.
Great point. Except that if you look closely, the cute little baby lightsabers poking out the side do not run flush with the main blade - the mechanism sticks out. Ergo, if a pesky Jedi swipes straight down, it'll cut the wee heads off, and probably destroy the lightsaber too. Ergo, a rather miffed Sith Lord.

Whereas the hilt of a normal sword is quite practical, that's because if it makes contact with you while you're swirling away in the heat of battle, it's not going to give you a piercing big enough to fit a tube of toilet paper, or provide quite the same smell of seared flesh.

On the other hand, Kylo Ren's lightsaber might double as an excellent handheld flambé - particularly if the mini-sabers can be operated independently.

Now that's an accident waiting to happen.
My question is, if it's so plausible to have a lightsaber with multiple beams, then surely that should be the definitive answer for any aspiring Jedi or Sith seeking the most effective technology?

In fact, why not a handheld mesh of lightsabers in an all direction 360 degree angle? Seems eminently practical.

Of course, once you move into the realms of the ludicrous, you've opened the floodgates to all manner of ridicule and silliness. Which, I suppose, one could argue Star Wars already is, but we'll put a pin in that. What we demand is rational, serious silliness.

So, my romantic notions of the noble, graceful lightsaber of what was (according to Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode IV) a "more civilised age" have been forever tarnished by some of the reactionary images doing the rounds. Some of them made me chuckle - but my fear is I will never be able to watch a lightsaber duel again without recalling them. That sucks.

The Saber of Uncertainty looks like it could actually be quite useful around the home.
The man or woman who came up with the "Benedict Cumbersaber" is an untapped genius.

But not you, Disney and J.J Abrams. No, I hold you directly responsible for this most ignoble corruption, however good the movie is. God damn you.

Don't mess with my lightsaber buddy.

If that wasn't bad enough... if I hadn't seen enough defamation of the mighty blade, then someone sent me this. Some things can never be unseen.

Laser surgery at its most traumatic.

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