One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, two StarWars.com writers duke it out over the best battle sequence in the entire saga.
It’s the Battle of Naboo in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, says Megan.
George Lucas’s multiple-part finales are a staple in Star Wars films, and in The Phantom Menace, he had the best technology yet to create the four prongs of the battle. Each part works in concert to show a different aspect of the Battle of Naboo: Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon and Darth Maul play out a furiously energetic battle that establishes the operatic stakes the Force users of the galaxy will be subject to for the next several decades. The “Duel of the Fates” lightsaber battle is objectively one of the best fights in the saga. Nick Gillard’s combat choreography propels the actors through the acrobatic lightsaber battle, which has a fluidity that wasn’t possible during the making of the original trilogy. In a moment that particularly highlights the tone of the scene, the music stops after Qui-Gon’s death, leaving only the performers and the whoosh and buzz of lightsabers.
Elsewhere, Queen Amidala and her troops break back into her own palace, only for their victory to be welcomed by Palpatine, the very person who orchestrated the coming war. Padmé is a force of nature: watch the conviction with which she — physically the smallest person in the room — demands “we will discuss a new treaty.” Palpatine praises her for her boldness, one of many lines which will become ironic when his machinations are made clear. Even while both Padmé and Anakin are experiencing some of the most triumphant moments of their young lives, Palpatine is manipulating the galaxy.
Outside the city, Jar Jar Binks and the Gungan soldiers engage droid troopers in a spectacular battle. Some shots in these battle scenes have all the beauty of a painting, such as the Gungans emerging from the fog on their alien beasts. The sound design is also particularly good, with the electric snap of the shields and rubber-ball bounce of energy weapons giving the battle a jaunty tone.
Meanwhile, Anakin Skywalker’s first space battle mimics the thrills of the original trilogy. Anakin’s destruction of the droid ship treads the line between foreshadowing and repetition. Its similarity to Luke Skywalker’s Death Star run is the simplest interpretation: like father, like son. But it’s also connected to the fall of Anakin Skywalker and his later characterization. Even more so than the podrace, Anakin’s triumph is a sign of his innate Force use and ability to survive the unlikeliest situations. R2-D2 saves him and Anakin discovers his own capabilities — once a slave, now a hero. “We will watch your career with great interest,” Palpatine says, a line which gets more chilling the more the prequel trilogy shows about his goals as Darth Sidious.
Thanks to the production design, sound, and pacing, the final battle sequences in The Phantom Menace are extraordinary. But strangely enough, the Battle of Naboo isn’t a victory. It looks like one, but it’s actually the opening act to a tragedy.
It’s the Death Star assault during the Battle of Endor in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, says Matt.
The notion of conflict within Star Wars is evident from the very beginning, be it The Phantom Menace or A New Hope. Laser bolts fly to and fro, filling up the screen, portending even more strife to come, despite hopes for a more civilized outcome.
It’s why the notion of battles in Star Wars is as integral to the story as is the coming of a hero or villain. Such events are diminutive in their scale to otherwordly and massive, encompassing thousands — even hundreds of thousands of souls — all locked in mortal struggle, fighting for what they believe in, protecting what they know and what they hope to know.
But which battle or duel is the most important within the Star Wars saga? Which one has ramifications where the outcome would echo through the entire galaxy for better or worse, an indelible turning point for galactic denizens?
No contest: The showdown between the Rebellion and the Empire over the Endor moon in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
It was an astonishing sight to behold on the silver screen in 1983: The Rebel fleet in its entirety. Blockade runners mixed with Nebulon-B frigates and transport ships, while A-wings, Y-wings and X-wings zipped to and fro, as the fleet moved through a star-studded expanse of space, protecting the Mon Calamari-made capital ships, including Home One. What a precarious situation it was, too. The rebels on the move, always, staying steps ahead of the Empire, yes, but also annihilation, too.
The audacity of it all was made clear. Our heroes — Leia, Luke, Han, Lando, and Chewbacca in the same room as Rebel Alliance officers and crew hovered in the fore and background. Then, like a thunderclap: “The Emperor’s made a critical error, and the time for our attack has come,” Mon Mothma says without emotion yet precise in the opportunity that now lay before them. “The data brought to us by the Bothan spies pinpoint the exact location of the Emperor’s new battle station. We also know that the weapons systems of this Death Star are not yet operational.”
With that, Admiral Ackbar steps up, the enormous holo of Endor and the not-quite-operational Death Star orbiting it filling the screen, and details a simple yet daring plan of attack, taking advantage of the Imperial fleet being spread across the galaxy in a hunt for the rebels.
It was an immense gamble for the Rebellion. So many things could have gone wrong. The shuttle codes could have been bad, the Ewoks could have pulled a DJ and not joined in to fight the Imperials on the Endor moon. Leia and Han’s team could have fallen to the stormtroopers and biker scouts. Luke could have fallen sway to Palpatine’s influence. The fleet could have been trapped, picked off one by one in a hail of turbo laser fire, the Rebel’s alphabet soup of fighters hunted to the last by TIE fighters, interceptors, and bombers.
Only it didn’t. Oh, we weren’t certain, at first, that this gambit so daringly pulled off by Lando, Nien Nunb, Wedge Antilles and countless other rebels would or could work, but it did, despite it being “… a trap!”
Why? It was a blend of courage, hubris and, yes, hope. The rebels had everything to lose and the fate of the galaxy was literally riding on their shoulders, aboard their ships and in their shoes as they faced odds that would have led others to give up and flee for the Unknown Regions.
The Empire? It was just another skirmish that its vaunted navy could crush, backed by the might of what Palpatine revealed to be “this fully armed and operational battle station!” Yet, it was hope, resolve and, yes, maybe a little luck (the Force works in mysterious ways).
The Rebel Alliance scored an astonishing victory, one for the ages, though it wasn’t the last battle. Still, for awhile, it seemed all was right in the galaxy.
Is Megan right about the conflict on Naboo? Do you agree with Matt’s point of view? Or do you think another battle takes the crown? Let us know in the comments!
Megan Crouse’s work has appeared in Den of Geek, FangirlBlog, and Star Wars Insider. She podcasts on Western Reaches and Blaster Canon and can be found on Twitter at @blogfullofwords.
Matt Moore is a long-time reporter and editor whose work has taken him to four continents, numerous countries and put him in an incalculable number of situations where uncertainty reigned. A long-time love of science fiction began early — his parents read Frank Herbert’s Dune novels as bedtime stories to he and his sister. When not exploring the U.S. with his wife and their two teenagers, he can be heard discussing contemporary Star Wars comics as co-host of the weekly Star Wars Splash Page podcast.
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