That innocent period where what little we knew of The Force Awakens was the debate over the feasibility of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber was a wonderful time. But it turns out aside from the debate about if it was THE BEST or THE WORST, from a practical point of view, the movie’s sabers had two new features that finally achieved Lucas’ original vision for the props: heft, and light.
In a new interview with The Telegraph, Adam Driver briefly spoke about the initial controversy over the unconventional design of his lightsaber, but quickly diverged into some interesting little factoids about the actual physical build of the sabers used on the set of the film:
When George Lucas did the first film, he wanted them to be really heavy, but they couldn’t quite figure it out. This is the first time that we’re actually fighting with the whole lightsaber too. Before it was just the hilt with [something] like an antenna or a green stick, but this was state of the art – it actually sends off light.
It’s a minor thing, but Driver’s right—in the original films, the lighsabers were at first covered in a spool of rotating reflective tape that shone light back at the camera. They were later upgraded with thin aluminium poles attached to the hilt as a guideline for rotoscoping effects to be added in post-production. Eventually, in the prequels, the effect was entirely digital—which meant, for all six movies, the blades of pure green, blue, red, and purple energy never actually emitted any light on their surroundings or their users. You don’t really notice it at first, but looking back, it’s surprisingly jarring.
Combined with an increased weight to replicate an actual sword being swung around, and the fact that The Force Awakens’ sabers actually emitted light—we’ve already seen examples thanks to Finn and Kylo’s lightsaber duel in the trailers—it seems like the upcoming movie could be the closest to a logical or realistic take on lightsaber dueling we’ve ever seen in a Star Wars film.
Or, you know. About as close to “real” as you’d ever get to something so outlandishly fantastical as Star Wars.