Tier 3 – Good Ideas Wanting in Execution
Our next four lightsaber duels still didn’t quite bring the goods, but they at least showed some promise. There are positives that we need to recognize here. Too bad those good qualities don’t outweigh some bad execution.
Thankfully, the duels from The Force Awakens aren’t to be found here either.
#13 – Obi-Wan v Count Dooku, Attack of the Clones
This fight escapes the fate of its Attack of the Clones brethren because there’s clearly something at stake for both characters. It’s the most personal of the sequence of three fights – Obi-Wan knows Dooku was Qui-Gon’s old master, plus Obi-Wan has spent the whole movie trying to be the grown up Jedi master himself, but has just succeeded in getting into several bad scrapes. His confidence is notat an all-time high. Dooku taunts him (“Master Kenobi, you disappoint me. Yoda holds you in such high esteem.”), Obi-Wan responds a little angrily, and you can see the whole time that Dooku is just toying with him. There’s character development on both sides.
But the choeography’s a little ho hum, the camerawork isn’t doing much, and the ending is kind of weak. The plusses here are as much about dialogue as the actual duel.
#12 – Anakin and Obi-Wan v Count Dooku, Revenge of the Sith
The rematch where they actually “take him together” fares a little better than its earlier counterpart. And if we’re supposed to take Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side seriously, this is a pretty key scene. As we saw in the last duel, Count Dooku is actually a pretty incisive character. He recognizes Anakin’s troubled core and calls him out on it, then we see Anakin actually use his aggressive instincts and take the upper hand for the first time in the fight.
Of course, Obi-Wan is way too much of a doof this entire fight, getting thrown around by Dooku like a rag doll when he’s supposed to be among the most accomplished of all the Jedi. The choreography is mediocre, and the editing and acting are bad. Seriously, pay attention to the way this fight is cut. It completely disrupts the action.
#11 – Obi-Wan v General Grievous, Revenge of the Sith
This is one of the weirder lightsaber duels in all of Star Wars and the only one that includes a character who isn’t trained in the ways of the Force. The rules of this ranking don’t allow us to take into account the whole sequence – only the part where Obi-Wan and Grievous actually fight with lightsabers, which is pretty short and not very significant to the development of either character. (Other than the fact that the sequence ends in Grievous’s death, I suppose, but again, can’t really consider that part of the duel.)
Still, this wins points for being unique. A robot-ified figure wielding four lightsabers at once does have some curb appeal, and for once Obi-Wan looks like the competent Jedi master we’re so often told that he is.
#10 – Mace Windu & Jedi v Darth Sidious, Revenge of the Sith
This fight loses some points for occasionally having Sidious bounce around like he’s Yoda on acid, but stylistically it’s also a fairly unique duel. Mace and Sidious only trade blows when they need to, like their lightsabers are extensions of each combatant’s will as they trying to understand the other.
And for emotion, we have Sidious’s roiling hate finally unmasked versus Windu’s cold dispassion and zeal for justice. Yeah, there are some cheeseball moments and I’d have preferred it if both Yoda and Sidious had remained the lynchpins of their respective ideologies without having to take up arms themselves (as it was in the original trilogy) but the root idea of this fight, having Mace square off with a revealed Sidious, is noble, and some of that still comes through in the actual duel we’re shown.