Video Featurette: The Birth And History Of The Lightsaber

April 2, 20140 Comments

A new 15-Minute featurette has been released explaining the origins of the lightsaber, one of the most powerful weapons in the universe. The concept and creation is discussed by George Lucas, Mark Hamill and sound designer Ben Burtt.

George Lucas recalls that Star Wars was influenced by the pirate and swashbuckling films of the ’40s, which showcased the romantic side of fighting, illustrated in characters like Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood. With Jedi, who were heroes in this tradition, the director needed a weapon that would match their ideals. Originally, Lucas says, Jedi were meant to fight with just swords. But to give the weapon a technological edge, they became “laser swords,” able to deflect incoming fire, which made sense, character-wise, as Jedi were not meant to be warlike, aggressive fighters.

Ben Burtt says that the lightsaber was the first sound he created for the film. Upon hearing the hum of an old film projector idling, he felt it was the perfect, saying it was “musical, in a way. ‘That’s probably what a lightsaber would sound like.'” Burtt wanted another element — the iconic whooshing sound — which he accidentally created through electronic feedback.

In discussing the intensity of the lightsaber duels, Lucas says it changed with each film, often times reflecting the emotions of Luke and the ongoing story. Still Luke was not trained as a Jedi in the classic sense. It wasn’t until Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace that audiences would see Jedi battling in their prime; the duels were more aggressive and acrobatic than anything seen in the original trilogy, and only grew in scale and intensity as the series concluded with Revenge of the Sith.

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