Here’s a look at the latest entry into the world’s biggest sci-fi movie franchise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi! Following on from 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens the story picks up right where it left off with young apprentice Rey learning the ways of ‘The Force’ from Jedi Master, Luke Skywalker.
The Star Wars saga has been steeped in martial arts lore and spiritual beliefs since the very first film amazed cinema goers way back in 1977. The older films’ martial arts action was very much based in the worlds of Kendo and fencing. When George Lucas revived the franchise in 1999 with “The Phantom Menace”, he brought in a fresh and exciting style of lightsaber combat, heavily based on the Chinese martial arts skills of Ray Park. British martial artist Park was a wushu champion and talented gymnast, whose expertise with swords and cudgels changed the nature of lightsaber combat forever.
Darth Maul (Ray Park) takes on Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor)
Since 1999, the entire franchise, from further entries into the movie series, through to the animated television shows and computer games, have all featured this acrobatic style of combat to depict the powers of the light side versus the dark side. A highlight for many martial arts’ fans was getting to see action star Donnie Yen bring his distinctive fighting style to 2016’s spin off movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Following on from being a stunt performer in “The Force Awakens”, another former wushu champion, Liang Yang, was brought in to train the cast of “The Last Jedi” in long and short weapon skills. He had also previously trained Felicity Jones for her role in “Rogue One”.
Felicity Jones talks Kung Fu & Demonstrates Her Weapons Skills
Yang gained something of cult following after a brief skirmish as a Stormtrooper in “The Force Awakens”. Known by fans as “TR8-R” after shouting “Traitor!” at Finn, played by John Boyega, he used his futuristic baton as a tonfa.
Finn vs TR-8R/FN-2199
In “The Last Jedi”, Daisy Ridley returns as Rey now aware of the power of The Force awakened within her. The training with Yang and the wushu influences have paid dividends and kept the need for stunt doubling to a minimum. Ridley deftly performs both sword and staff skills as she wields her weapons. Rey is not the only one to demonstrate her prowess with the weapons of Star Wars though. John Boyega’s Finn has a particularly satisfying duel with Game of Thrones star, Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma.
The Last Jedi Training Featurette
Of course, a Star Wars film is only as good as its villain. Whilst Snoke brings a simmering menace, it’s Adam Driver as Kylo Ren who physically embodies the power of the Dark Side. Driver certainly looks like he’s been working out since the last Episode, and this only adds to his ruthless edge!
The payoff is an exciting battle in the third act of the film, with some new toys on display, some of them resembling some very traditional martial arts weapons.
And what of the old master himself, Luke Skywalker? Without giving too much away, the reclusive Jedi Master still gets to show he has one or two tricks up his sleeve!
The Last Jedi wisely retains more realistic and grounded weapons choreography rather than resorting to some of the CGI and special effects that hampered some of the previous instalments.
Each cast member excels in their respective fight scenes and they have certainly benefitted from the rigorous training the Stunt Team put them through.
It’s stating the obvious that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the biggest film of the year. It attempts some refreshing new beats: bonus being that martial arts fans can recognise and enjoy much of the weapons work when it appears. May The Force Be with You this Xmas!
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