by: Matthew J.R. Kohler
We all know by now that the Star Wars prequel trilogy has many flaws: Anakin, the dialogue, and all of Attack of the Clones, but nobody talks about the fight between the Emperor and Yoda. Why in the hell did they have to fight?
In the original trilogy, we see these two stand around, and give amazing speeches about the Force (light or dark). The best thing they ever did with these two characters was showing them for who they are—too powerful to fight. Why would they lower themselves to a less powerful being’s level? As a professional fight director, I want to look at this from an artistic standpoint.
George Lucas was inspired by Akira Kurasawa, the famous Japanese director who made Seven Samurai and Rashomon. That is why in the original trilogy the Jedi and Sith fight like samurai. But in the prequels, this inspiration is nowhere to be seen. From the stances, to the stare downs, to the long pauses, the fight scenes of the original trilogy felt like they would fit in an Eastern movie. Why doesn’t the Emperor fight? In every martial art film I’ve seen, you have two men: the muscle and the brain. Usually what happens is the brain (the leader) uses the muscle to weaken the protagonist enough so that the brain can defeat him. Most of the time, the brain does not fight; if they do, they stand no chance. Examples of this are: the man who hired Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon, Han from Enter the Dragon, and Bart from Unleashed. All of them are weak in strength compared to the man they hired.
Thank God, he had those mirrors.
This remains true in Return of the Jedi. The Emperor does not look physically capable to do battle. It appears that he had a hard fought battle long ago, and suffered injuries. It also sounds like he hasn’t fought in a long time, because you don’t see him until he gets mad at how poor the Empire is doing. But why would he need to fight with a lightsaber? Not only is he like an evil monk, but he has Sith Lightning, one of the most powerful moves in the Star Wars Universe. His mind is his most powerful weapon because he almost turns Luke to the dark side.
The Star Wars prequels, as everyone knows, don’t make sense. But, in my opinion, the Emperor’s duel with Yoda was one of the was one of the most nonsensical moments in the prequel trilogy. It reminds me of WWE bringing back two wrestlers from twenty years ago to fight. Sure, you would of love to see them duel in their prime, but not when they are noticeably over the hill!
Not only does the fight look poor, but nobody should fight like that. It’s jarring to see the Jedi and Sith go from highly choreographed fighting, to a much more basic fighting style in the original trilogy. Did one day Lucas tell everyone, “You must actually fight, what we did before apparently wasn’t effective”? It doesn’t make sense that the Emperor would go from high intensity flipping around and waving a lightsaber to such a subdued way of fighting. So, he went from being Jackie Chan to Professor X in thirty years? Not even in thirty years did Jackie Chan destroy his body to the point of that, and he has been doing it for forty years.
The last thing I will say about this is, The Emperor still looked old, it doesn’t even look like we are seeing him in his “prime.” It’s hard for me to watch a seventy-year-old man doing flips and then seeing him barely able to swing the lightsaber. Even in Star Wars: The Clone Wars it is hard to watch him fight, but at least he looks in better health. Why pick the same actor from before, when he doesn’t look the same age. We forget that fight scenes should enhance the story, not make us wonder, “Why is he even fighting?”