Opinions on the RotJ duel?

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1 hour ago, Nytwyng said:

Yeah, but how did he fare falling down the rabbit hole of lemonlyman.com? :lol:

Being a frequenter of forums since the early days, that episode just made me wet myself, I was laughing so hard! :) 

"What Josh doesn't realise is that most of these people haven't had their medications today..."

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Heya everyone! Had to get my 2 cents in on this one. So, having been a practitioner of kendo and iaijutsu since the late 80's (when it wasn't cool to do anything other than Tae Kwon Do, and it certainly wasn't cool for me to do anything like it), I can tell you that the Obi-Wan duel in Episode IV was very close to a battle between masters. In fact, Bob Anderson, who was the fight choreographer for it (and was an amazing man) replaced David Prowse in the Vader suit. He was a half foot shorter than Prowse and was wearing lifts the entire time. Bob Anderson was an Olympic Fencer for Great Britain, a student of multiple forms of swordplay ranging from European to Japanese, Chinese and Filipino, and trained everyone from Errol Flynn to Vigo Mortenson. He wanted to represent two masters of the blade in that fight, and to do this he decided to go for a realistic duel as opposed to the standard fare flashy choreography. For those of you that have actually experienced live swordplay, fights aren't that exciting to watch - to make a sword fight entertaining for movies you have to get rather unrealistic. Anderson wanted to represent the calm and focus of expert swordsmen. The fact that it kept things well in hand for Sir Alec was a bonus.

As for the fight between Luke and Vader. We know that Palpatine was pissed that his apprentice (Anakin) failed in his fight against Obi-Wan, and in both the novelization of RotS and the newly released Darth Vader comic, Palpatine is disappointed in Vader, seeing him as a flawed apprentice and constantly challenging Vader. The very thing that had attracted him to Anakin Skywalker as an apprentice turned into disdain with Vader due to his failure on Mustafar, and limitation of his potential. It's why Vader's ploy about seducing Luke in ESB works - Palpatine sees that he could perhaps have a Skywalker as powerful as Anakin. Vader knows that Palpatine is looking to replace him, and it serves his purpose to get Palpatine to allow him to chase Luke.

This is the important thing to remember - Luke is the son of Anakin, and the Skywalker line is exceptionally powerful. Remember that Anakin was Luke's age when he took on Dooku aboard the invisible Hand and slew him, arguably alone as Obi-Wan was unconscious. Dooku was an experienced and powerful Sith, nearly the match of Yoda, and certainly the better of Obi-Wan (having defeated him twice in the films already). This is an important comparison, because we see Anakin take on Dooku in AotC and meet failure in much the same way as Luke in ESB does, and with the same amount of time between AotC to RotS and ESB to RotJ, we see that Anakin is able to then match and defeat Dooku. When we accept this parallel, and realize that for good or ill, Vader has hit a plateau in his power level (like Dooku) while Luke has been increasing in his own (like Anakin). We then can see that Luke's rise to power tracks alongside his fathers.

When we combine these two pieces of information, first that Palpatine knows that Anakin has lost future potential after Mustafar and has become lessened in his opinion, and secondly that Luke follows the same growth in power and ability as Anakin, matching his place in RotS, then even if we assume Vader's skills have not diminished over time (from hunting Jedi, killing insrgency, etc) we can see that Vader and Luke are on the same level of power in RotJ. If one gives more credence to the Emperor's opinion of Vader's diminished status, then Luke would actually have the upper hand in the battle. Even with personal feelings causing one or the other to hold back, the implied balance of power based on the storytelling of the movies establishes the power levels as even to favoring Luke.

Once we factor in the psychology of the fight, it becomes apparent that the back and forth is produced by the commitment to purpose each side has at the time. The rationale and choice of tactic is produced by a desired outcome, and not necessarily the need to overcome one another's skill. This is telling - most sword fights are dictated based off of setting one's opponent up for a killing strike, or defending against a better opponent. This isn't what happens between Luke and Vader until the very end, when all pretense of communication dissipates. Prior to this, each side is attempting to tell the other something - be it the mercy of redemption or the power of acceptance. The conversation dictates strike/feint/counter, not the inability of either combatant.

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Some good points Kyla, although there's one difference between Anakin and Luke's progressions that while generally minor is worth noting.

In the case of Anakin vs. Dooku, there was three years in between their two film duels, with Anakin being 19 in AotC and a seasoned battle veteran at 22 in RotS when he rather decisively defeated Dooku.  And Anakin had the benefit of access to Temple records and instructors as well as fellow Jedi to spare with to improve his technique and refine his mastery of Djem So to the point that in the RotS novelization Dooku noted that the boy was probably one of the finest masters of Djem So that he'd ever seen, and that if the Count didn't change tactics, Anakin was going to overwhelm his Makashi through sheer brute power.

But with Luke, there was only one year between ESB and RotJ, and that's not accounting for Luke having had minimal training in lightsaber combat under Yoda during his first battle with Vader; at that point in time, most of what Luke knew about lightsaber combat was self-taught.  That he did as well as he did against a seasoned opponent of Vader's caliber (diminished as it may have been) is what gave rise to the notion in Legends of Luke being a natural prodigy at lightsaber dueling, leading to his near-perfect mimicking of Form V's raw power in the last exchanges of the Luke vs. Vader rematch aboard the second Death Star.  It's also very likely that unlike Anakin, Luke didn't receive any additional supervised training in lightsaber combat, and didn't face off against any other lightsaber-wielding foes; according to Filoni, the Inquisitors in the new canon have apparently ceased to exist as of the time of the original films, so there's no chance for Luke to further hone his lightsaber skills against another lightsaber-wielding opponent.  Plus it's currently indeterminate as to at what point did Luke build his new lightsaber, so it's entirely possible that Luke went months without having the opportunity to properly practice his bladework.

Even discounting the Legends belief that Luke was indeed a prodigy at dueling, that he was able to grow so quickly in the span of one year without proper instruction does say a lot about his potential, both in the Force and in lightsaber combat.  And that fact likely made Palpatine salivate even more at the prospect of having Luke as a replacement for Vader as a Sith apprentice, that the boy could have grown so quickly in both power and skill in such a short span of time.

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I think most of the discrepancy  in Luke's ability vs experience can be easily summed up by the Force controlling his actions.  This seems to be a point that is often overlooked in the endless debates about Force users, despite it being one of the first things we learn about the Force in New Hope.

Ben: "A Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him"
Luke: "You mean it controls your actions?"
Ben: "Partially, but it also obeys your commands."

To me this always translated to sometimes being able to let the Force "shore up" any deficiencies someone might have in a skill (lightsaber dueling, piloting, etc), by letting the Force control your actions to a point.  The user has an intent in mind, and the Force translates that into physical action to accomplish the goal.   Sure, you can also direct it yourself, to amp up your abilities, but there is more to the Force than just being an energy source that acts like a supercharger for abilities.   It apparently has a will, and is alive.  I mean, it kept Chirrut safe long enough to flip that switch, when he let it guide him completely (and then it let him die once he'd served his plot element, thanks Living Force!), it let Rey be able to hold her own against a Sith apprentice, it helped kid Anakin pilot a starship in combat for the first time without dying, and even take out ships.

So I don't see why it's that big of a stretch that Luke gave into the Dark Side, and it gleefully puppeted him around to a degree, fueling his intent of "DIE DIE DIE DIE DIIIIIIEEEEEEE!"  by smashing everything in front of him with furious intent.   There's no real need to say he's some saber savant, and naturally understood some long dead saber style, when "LUKE SMASH!" fueled, and directed by the Dark Side is more than enough to justify why he was able to overpower Vader, a trained expert in saber styles.

Then of course, there is the time honored reason of "Luke is the protagonist, Vader was the Dragon Lancer for the Evil Emperor."  Narrative tradition pretty much dictates he's going to win at the climax of a story.  That's why he's the protagonist.  :D  

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