For all its faults, the Star Wars prequels undeniably got one thing right: lightsabers. No other era of the franchise has had so many different lightsabers, wielded by so many different characters. And now, it appears a sequel to the prequels — the forthcoming Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi — could go hog-wild with the maximalism of lightsabers once more, bringing back one of the best traditions in Star Wars history.
Star Wars and lightsabers
In the sequel trilogy, Rey had the same lightsaber in every single movie. Meanwhile, in the prequel trilogy, Obi-Wan swung five different lightsabers in three different movies. Yes, that’s right, he had his first lightsaber in The Phantom Menace, borrowed Qui-Gon’s green one at the end, had two different lightsabers in Attack of the Clones, and finally settled on his Alec Guinness legacy saber in Revenge of the Sith.
In that same film, Obi-Wan also fought General Grevious, a villain who wielded four lightsabers at once, a hilarious upgrade from Darth Maul’s double-bladed saber in The Phantom Menace. Yoda was revealed to have a lightsaber for the first time in these movies, and even Palps got in on the saber action. You get it, the prequels were a time of a ton of lightsabers.
However, not all of this was met with adoration. While younger fans tended to love the excessive lightsaber swinging, there was a general grumble from older fans at the time. Arguably, this led to a kind of retreat from lightsabers in the Disney-owned sequel trilogy era of Star Wars. In fact, two of the Star Wars films released by Disney — Rogue One and Solo — barely had any lightsabers at all. In the pre-buzz for Rogue One, the absence of a big lightsaber fight was part of the selling point of the movie. Words like “realistic” were used by director Gareth Edwards to describe the notion that the film downplayed both the Force and lightsabers. (The famous red lightsaber-heavy Darth Vader scene in Rogue One was added by reshoots.)
When Solo: A Star Wars Story featured basically no lightsabers, nobody was surprised. And other than the Darksaber at the very end of Season 1 of The Mandalorian, that show (at first) had few lightsabers, too.
Return of the lightsaber
But lately, things have been swinging back toward the prequel way of thinking, and it seems like Star Wars is more willing to party like it's 1999. Season 2 of The Mandalorian had a lot of lightsaber variety, as did (shockingly) The Book of Boba Fett. Meanwhile, the concept of a lightsaber was central to nearly every single installment of Star Wars: Visions, including the excellent lightsaber love letter, “The Ninth Jedi.”
The point is, it seems like the pseudo-lightsaber minimalism of the post-Force Awakens era might be over. And now that Obi-Wan Kenobi is coming, we might reenter an era of lightsaber-palooza. According to the recent EW coverage of Obi-Wan, the prequels are a direct influence on the new series, more than any other version of Star Wars. On top of that, the new trailer clearly shows Inquisitor Reva and the Grand Inquisitor firing up their red lightsabers quite a bit.
Essentially, even the very brief teaser trailer gave us two red lightsabers wielded by two different people. We didn’t see Obi-Wan (or Darth Vader!) ignite their lightsabers. We also didn’t see Ahsoka (although we might?) nor did we see these rumored Clone Wars-era flashbacks.
But let’s face it, all of that is probably coming, and that’s a good thing. There’s no need to pretend anymore. The reason why people love Star Wars is inexorably linked with lightsabers. No other sci-fi franchise has such a shorthand to demonstrate both its style and coolness simultaneously. These are elegant weapons for a more fun-loving age. The prequels let George Lucas really go gonzo with the concept of lightsabers, and if that aesthetic influence is guiding Obi-Wan Kenobi, we might be headed for a true lightsaber renaissance. Don’t forget, Obi-Wan, this weapon is your life!
Obi-Wan Kenobi hits Disney+ on May 25.