There are actually several things in-canon that can block lightsabers…and a lot more in Star Wars Legends that could make a return.
In the last Star Wars: The Force Awakens TV spot, we got just a glimpse of Finn using a lightsaber and dueling with a stormtrooper. Now we’ve got a new spot that focuses on Finn and shows more of that fight:
This time we actually see multiple blows, with the Stormtrooper using his electric nightstick-looking thing to deflect Finn’s lightsaber. But how is that even possible?
What can block lightsabers?
Lightsabers aren’t magic swords that treat the rest of the world like hot butter. I mean, they treat most of the rest of the world like hot butter, and definitely human flesh. (See: Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C)
But they don’t go through everything that quickly, and some things lightsabers can’t go through at all. Look in Episode I. Qui-Gon can cut through a single door pretty quickly, but throw multiple layers in there and it takes a little while.
But more to the point, there are actually things that are invulnerable to lightsabers. Most of them originated in Star Wars Legends (the old Expanded Universe) so we’ll have to see if they reappear, but at least three are already in the movies.
Let’s start with the oldest example. In Luke’s first duel with Darth Vader, right before his hand is cut off, he actually gets a shot in on Vader’s shoulder:
But somehow that didn’t slice Vader in two. Why? Because Darth Vader’s armor was lightsaber resistant.
That doesn’t mean a lightsaber could never cut through it, but a defensive swing like the one Luke took wasn’t enough to do more than damage the armor a little and probably leave Vader with a bruise.
It’s not in canon exactly how Vader’s armor is lightsaber-resistant; some say it’s because it was made by Sith craftsmanship, while others point to myths regarding the supposed indestructibility of Vader’s gloves and suppose the armor is made of similar materials.
On to example two!
“Ray shields,” whatever they are (and that’s speaking as a huge Star Wars fan – this is basically the only place they show up, unless you count the energy gates in Episode I), would appear to block lightsabers. But clearly the Stormtrooper in the trailers doesn’t have a miniaturized ray shield. No, what he has looks a lot more like this:
In Revenge of the Sith, General Grievous’s bodyguards had some sort of electrified, lightsaber resistant staff. (And side note: Isn’t it kind of funny that Grievous decided picking one of those up would be better than taking out a few of his stolen lightsabers?) Those look a lot like what the stormtrooper has in the new clip, although it’s unclear if the whole nightstick could stand up to a lightsaber or just the electrified end.
But if The Force Awakens chooses to revitalize some out-of-canon lightsaber resistant materials, the whole stick could stand up to a lightsaber, sort of like Darth Vader’s armor in weapon form. Here are a few of the top options.
In a number of old Star Wars comics, books, and games, “cortosis” shows up as a material with the ability to block or short out lightsabers. In the game Knights of the Old Republic, it’s the excuse given for metal vibroswords being able to block lightsabers.
It’s kind of a silly solution, but a sword, even a lightsaber resistant one, is never as cool or as useful as a lightsaber. And cortosis would be a good way to protect the Stormtrooper’s staff.
This one’s a lot like cortosis, but unique to the ancient warrior societies of the planet Madalore.
Boba Fett, whether he’s a clone or not (and let’s be honest, it was cooler when he wasn’t) is a descendant of the Mandalorian clans that once ruled their own part of the galaxy, and legends say that their planet, Mandalore, was home to a rare metal that was incredibly difficult to work, but was also incredibly strong and could even block lightsabers.
The argument against this answer is that it’s probably too rare to be included in a Stormtrooper’s weapon. But if there’s another thing the trailer makes clear, it’s that the Imperial New Order is not messing around.
There are a number of other lightsaber-resistant materials we could bring up, but the last one I’ll mention, just because of this particular character, is ultrachrome.
Ultrachrome in the Star Wars universe mostly stems from a Legends comics series about an ancient war between a fledgeling Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire, what was then an entire race of people, not a small religious group plotting nefarious things. Think ancient Sparta and you’re at least halfway there.
In this war, the Sith used a material called ultrachrome, which was highly resistant to lightsabers and other laser weapons. This would really be a reach, but can you think of another good reason, other than pure showboating, to make Captain Phasma’s armor so reflective you can’t help but see it at all times?
So yeah, a Stormtrooper fighting off Finn’s lightsaber isn’t as crazy or revolutionary as you might think.
Did we miss your favorite lightsaber-resistant material from Star Wars Legends you’d like to see made canon? Let us know in the comments, or tweet at us at @NewRockstars!