Obi-Wan Kenobi Changes New Hope’s Lightsaber Battle For The Better


This post contains spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi “Part III”, now streaming on Disney+.

When Lucasfilm revealed that Hayden Christensen would return as Darth Vader in Obi Wan Kenobithey promised an “epic” lightsaber battle between the two star wars titans. However, in “Part III,” when the two crossed sabers, it felt less than epic. However, the battle of Obi Wan Kenobi does a lot to change Vader and Kenobi’s iconic battle in A new hope for the best.

Before we go any further, we have to acknowledge the real reason for the overall disappointing nature of the very first lightsaber fight ever filmed. In Star Wars: A New Hope the sword fight pitted a 58-year-old actor portraying an Obi-Wan Kenobi with very little context for what would come later against David Prowse (or a stuntman) in clumsy armor. Plus, they had no idea how they were going to operate the lightsabers even on screen while filming the fight. So, we are left with a few lukewarm hits from Kenobi and Vader during the fight. It’s a far cry from the lava-adjacent jumps and whirlpools of the “Battle of Heroes” of Revenge of the Sith. Since this was the very first lightsaber fight, it makes sense that each successive fight was more complicated and choreographed. At least until Obi Wan Kenobi.

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When we say “Hello there,” to Ewan McGregor’s Ben, he’s more broken than we’ve ever seen. He has spent the past decade not only mourning the loss of his friends, but also mourning the loss of his life’s work and his entire ideology as a member of the Jedi Order. As he tells Nari of Benny Safdie, the fugitive Jedi: “The fight is over; we lost.” In fact, the series heavily implies that Ben does not use the Force until he must save Leia from falling and dying. Kenobi commits the greatest Jedi sin in his Tattooine exile, he has stopped caring and gave in to fear. So when he finally comes face to face with Vader, it’s fair to say that he’s scared out of his mind. Filled with regret for letting Anakin down, then Padmé and, of course, the galaxy as a whole, Ben opens up to the dark side. Maybe that’s why Vader doesn’t kill Ben at the end of their fight?

Yet what does all this have to do with A new hope? There will surely be another battle between the two brothers, and we can safely guess that Obi-Wan will prevail. It is very important to star wars fans that, despite what’s happening on this show, the line, “When I left you I was just the learner, now I’m the master,” continues to make sense. Whether or not this is the case will likely depend less on what the storytellers do and more on your own perspective. It’s what comes after this line that is relevant to Obi Wan Kenobi “Part III” and lightsaber battles in both.

Obi-Wan is hesitant to ignite his lightsaber until he is alone. He does, then sees Vader. Instead of striking a classic Obi-Wan lightsaber pose, he turns it off and runs. When they cross the blades, Obi-Wan barely deflects Vader’s very simple and direct brute force blows. There is no art or dance in this battle. Obi-Wan barely holds on, terrified by the raw power and anger emanating from his former apprentice. In fact, insofar as there’s a “fighting style” at play here, it’s a lot like how Guinness and Prowse fought all those years ago. This may have been intentional, both as a story point for Obi Wan Kenobi and something to take with us A new hope.

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Instead of two “old” Jedi and Sith stabbing and pushing each other with their blades, maybe the fight in A new hope suggests something deeper. Since Obi-Wan is clearly afraid of Vader in this scene, perhaps older Ben’s hesitation was because he knew the risk he was taking. He was going to sacrifice his life so that Luke, Leia and the others could escape the clutches of the Empire and keep the rebellion alive. Conversely, as he had eluded him each time they clashed, Vader was afraid of Obi-Wan and whatever tricks his former master might have up his wide sleeves. Maybe it wasn’t emotion or even strategy that drove the battle, but fear?

Instead of watching their last lightsaber duel as two old guys harbor a grudge for a long time, maybe A new hope is more interesting if their shyness is due to both men being terrified of what it would mean for them if they ended up winning this fight.

See what happens the next time Darth Vader faces off against his former master on Obi-Wan Kenobi, as new episodes premiere Wednesdays on Disney+.


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