De-mythologizing the Lightsaber

Obi Wan called it a more elegant weapon from a more civilized age, but is the lightsaber really all that great a weapon?

When all we had was the original trilogy, the lightsaber appeared to be the top weapon in the food chain: it sliced, it diced, and it made limbs go away. But then George Lucas gave us the prequel trilogy. Suddenly Lightsabers were both more and less than they were before.

I?m sure everyone remembers watching Qui-Gon Jinn using his lightsaber to melt through a door. But then it wasn?t a weapon good enough to defeat droidekas. Niether Qui-Gon nor Obi Wan even tried to throw his saber at one of those shielded mechanical beasts.

Attack of the Clones gave us the Obi Wan versus Jango Fett fight in the rain. This showed us that the lightsaber was best used as a defensive weapon, something that Jedi are apparently good at, but not as an offensive weapon, which kind of makes sense, since aggressively attacking someone with the intent to do harm sounds more like a Sith than a Jedi. When Sith fight with the lightsaber, it is one of a number of weapons that they use. Their best weapons are quite often the improvised projectiles that they throw around.

The Sith know it’s not a primary weapon, why don’t the Jedi?

So, now the lightsaber is at best a defensive weapon.

Then it got worse for the venerable lightsaber: Episode III Revenge of the Sith came out. Now we see that there are weapons that are immune to the lightsaber?s energy. The weapon of a Jedi is no better that of the double-ended power sticks used by General Grevous? guards. This movie also gave us a clear indication that for the Sith, the lightsaber is only one weapon among many, and not an offensive one. Each Sith Lord we meet uses Force Lightning and Force Push (throwing objects around) as offensive weaponry. So the Sith know that the lightsaber is not a primary weapon of combat. Why don’t the Jedi?

It takes a Jedi to make one but anyone can use it?

This film also taught us that, although it takes a Jedi to make one, anyone can handle a lightsaber. General Grevous is not a Jedi, and there’s no indication that he’s Force sensitive. Worse, as a defensive weapon, we repeatedly saw the lightsaber be overwhelmed and become ineffective in protecting the Jedi once Order 66 was given to the clones. So it’s not even a good defensive weapon.

Now we see in the trailers for The Force Awakens that even lowly Storm Troopers carry weaponry that is capable of defeating a lightsaber.

So why all the mythology and love for the lightsaber? Because the first time we saw it (in 1977) it was unprecedented?

Sure, OK, that works for the fans.

The lightsaber is a mediocre offensive and middling defensive weapon.

But why do the Jedi invest such symbolic power in it – it isn?t an alpha predator weapon, not even Darth Maul’s double-bladed one, not even Kylo Ren?s flaming cross. The lightsaber is a mediocre offensive weapon and a middling defensive weapon. If evidence shows that it isn?t as grand as we were first led to believe, maybe we should re-think the respect we give to the people who held it in such high esteem, the Jedi.