Kill Bill’s Sword Choreographer Critiques 5 Iconic Star Wars Lightsaber Battles

Playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton believed that “The pen is mighter than the sword.” back in 1839,  but if he’d stuck around to pick a fight with Tetsuro Shimaguchi, he might’ve have reconsidered that stance.

As the drumbeat of anticipation grows for the Dec. 18th release of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens with the latest news about the film soon to be revealed at Comic-Con this Friday, we asked Shimaguchi, the sword choreographer responsible for the blood soaked blade-clashing scenes in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 films to cast his critical eye on the staging of five iconic lightsaber battles from the Jedi universe. We visited him at his studio in Tokyo, and are grateful to Adrian Bertrand for translating.

We'll be publishing our in-depth interview with Shimaguchi later today, for now, see what a real life master swordsman has to say about some of the galaxy's most memorable duels.


Yoda vs. Count Dooku in Episode II: Attack of the Clones – (at minute 1:16)


Shimaguchi: “A lot of rotations, a lot of spin. I like that very much. Evidently Yoda is able to do cool maneuvers!. It seems like every movement has a certain meaning and significance —  it’s extreme and it’s just beautiful from an artistic standpoint.”


Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan vs. Darth Maul in Episode I: The Phantom Menace


Shimaguchi: The distance is the one thing that worries me, in terms of it being a lightsaber, so it's unrealistic because of the heat — obviously it’s science fiction, and from an action standpoint it’s very cool, but the actual physicality [of the duel] should have required more space between them.

# 3

Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (at minute 2:04)


Shimaguchi: “I very much enjoy where they’re clashing swords and they’re basically at a standstill for a moment. That very much resembles the idea of a samurai battle, the idea of eye contact, waiting for the next movement, that seriousness.”


Mace Windu vs. Jango Fett in Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Shimaguchi: “The defense of trying to dodge the bullets is actually pretty weak. Not only can you tell that it’s not effortless, but they could’ve done a much better job trying to reenact blocking bullets with a lightsaber.”



Obi-Wan vs Anakin Skywalker in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (at minute 2:40)


Shimaguchi: It’s a bit of a waste since it’s such a great scene, but at such a simple tempo. I would’ve switched it up a bit, like one-two, one-two-three, instead of one-two, one-two. Everything’s too in sync between the two people. If I had been able to influence what happened, I would’ve tried to change the tempo.

Check back in for our interview with Shimaguchi later today.