I've seen so much debate around that crossguard saber, and for the first time I wish I had a blog or something where I could write an article exploring the topic and its validity for as many people as possible to see. Consider this thread me getting things out of my system.
1) "It looks impractical".
Most common complaint I hear. My retort: Have you seen Star Wars before? Specifically its combat? Did it look realistic? Practical? Did it look like people were regular mortals concerned with life and limb, and took appropriate precautions?
Hand millimeters from the blade.
Ridiculously risky spinning for no good reason.
Hand-held Gatling gun.
And for good measure, a small article pointing out the, erm, safety concerns in SW.
Practicality towards danger, you say? What have you been smoking, I say.
2) "The crossguard can be used to protect the hands".
Let's assume for a moment that point 1 was void. That practicality mattered in the slightest. Would the crossguard have some worth? Sure, maybe. Having something protecting your hands is still better than nothing. But everything about the thing belies that possibility. If the emitter studs were lightsaber resistant, having actual blades as well would make little sense, you could just make a sword-shaped handle and be done with it. If they aren't, they are vulnerable to attack. By a weapon that slices through heavy battle droids like butter.
Speaking of vulnerability, real swords have crossguards in large part to protect against one blade sliding down the other. With lightsabers, that never happens. I haven't seen that happen once. The blades just seem to clash and stick toghether. The only case where it may have happened was when Anakin was scissoring Dooku's head in RotS, and even then it happened just offscreen, and thus might as well have been him separating them before attacking. If someone can think of a blatant example of lightsabers sliding on one another, I'm interested.
In any case, sliding clearly isn't a viable tactic even in a pulpy cinematic universe full of Rule of Cool like SW, so crossguards on a lightsaber would offer minimal protection in the first place.
3) "The extra blades can be used for attack"
This one I agree with. Having extra blades on your weapon in a universe where you are more or less guaranteed to never hit yourself no matter how unsafely you fight would make perfect sense. There is a question of precedence, though, which I will get into below.
4) "There are examples in Star Wars of this sort of thing already".
True, the Legends universe did feature some wacky lightsaber designs. But seeing as it has been swept out of canon for the sake of this very movie, these prior designs don't really provide precedence for anything anymore.
On a personal note, I always hated these deviations from the movies, and saw them as one of the best reasons for disregarding the EU. When an EU creator takes such liberties with iconic weapon designs from the primary media, with weapons that are supposed to be traditional even, he is going too far off the reservation. Not least cause he opens the can of worms of why other lightsabers don't feature such practical features if this is possible. He should have simply taken his cue from the movies and assumed that it wasn't possible, or else lightsabers would have featured crossguards already. But I am getting ahead of myself.
5) "Besides, it's the future, and we don't know who this villain is. Maybe his "people" figured out a better way to build a lightsaber."
A thousand generations of Jedi and the biggest design deviation we've seen from the Lucasverse is the Darksaber. The Sith are gone in accordance with the prophesy of the Chosen One. Yet this new Kylo Ren and whatever nobodies trained him have managed to evolve the design beyond its Jedi and Sith roots? The Jedi knowingly used an inferior weapon out of tradition? And the Sith chose to do the same? But in reality there were improvements to be made, so glaringly obvious that some unknown engineers arriving on the scene after their fall were able to evolve a design unchanged for who knows how many centuries in the span of just 30 years? Even the radical differences between PT and OT tech level knew to leave lightsabers well enough alone.
I don't think this particular piece of technology should be subject to whatever crazy backwards technological development the GFFA operates by. Particularly now that we know for certain it is a weapon primarily mystical in nature, not technological.
6) "Real swords have crossguards. What is wrong with adding them to lightsabers?"
This is the question I am personally most concerned with, and which the above is merely a preamble for. What indeed?
In a universe where Rule of Cool dictates that as long as the action looks fun and swashbuckling in an Errol Flynn manner, anything goes, reality and practicality be damned, what exactly is wrong with making a space opera lazer sword look like a real one? Shouldn't that be entirely appropriate, even?
From a purely OOU design perspective, I can agree with such a sentiment. Making a fictional sword that looks like a real one makes sense, and I can only assume that is what the TFA production crew is going for with the crossguard saber, unless the whole thing is just a PR stunt with no basis in the actual film.
The real problem to my mind is one of lore and precedent. As much as SW is just lighthearted, over-the-top fun, with according combat, it is also a cultural treasure of the Western world, with too many fanatical fans globally. You don't take liberties with such a property lightly. Even Lucas himself found that out when the PT didn't align with the OT. Newcomers like Disney and JJ, who not only have to prove their worthiness as stewards of SW, but also that they will use the property better than Lucas last did, can't afford to take risks like this. Risks of disrespecting the holy cow they are now in charge of, at least not on their first try.
What that amounts to in practice IMO is to be extremely mindful of the existing lore and precedent set by the still canon Lucas productions. To look carefully at what came before and build upon that. Rather than looking at practicality as the litmus test of this new lightsaber's validity, existing lore and precedent is what we should really be looking at.
And per my understanding, this crossguard saber falls completely flat on that point.
The above image comes from a prop made for the PT, showing what Anakin's lightsaber looks like on the inside. The component names may or may not be canon, originating from the Visual Dictonaries, but there is every reason to believe the picture is, even if it doesn't feature in a movie. In the old Holocron canon system, notes sent to Leland Chee from the film production team -not just GL himself- were entered into the database as G-canon, showing that even lesser details from the production counted as the highest canon. It thus stands to reason that an elaborate prop like this would still hold the same value.
The prop shows components arranged in a straight line from battery at the bottom, focusing crystal in the middle and emitter at the top, with the implication being that the battery produces energy, which is then channeled through the crystal for some sort of critical change in nature, and finally emitted as a weapon potent enough to slice through virtually anything in the setting. The implied component logic speaks against the crossguard saber, in that a piece of tech which produces a blade in a straight line from bottom to top like this wouldn't be able to just divert the energy into several emitters at will.
And if this was indeed always possible, why on earth would every previously seen lightsaber only have one emitter? The Clone Wars season 5 episodes 6-9 feature the Jedi droid Huyang who claims to have taught Jedi to construct lightsabers for a thousand generations, aka the Order's entire existence as per Obi-Wan in ANH. He offers them several holographic examples of previous lightsabers, and they all follow the same formula of the simple cylinder with one emitter:
Further precedent is provided when looking at Darth Maul's ligthsaber:
The thing is twice as long as the standard variant, in fitting with it being able to produce two blades. When cut in two by Obi-Wan one piece even works like a normal ligthsaber, overwhelmingly suggesting that this two-bladed variant is simply two standard lightsabers grafted together at the bottom, with the same exact components within.
From all of this the Lucasverse precedent seems clear: One hilt in a straight configuration is able to produce one blade. Not several. Such a thing would be a blatant retcon, ignoring implications by abusing the fact that nothing explicit has been said on the topic.
6) "So what if the crossguard studs are simply additional tiny lightsabers grafted onto the end of a regular one?"
Admittedly, this is supported by looking at Yoda's ligthsaber:
Clearly smaller than the standard variant, it proves that the required components can be miniaturized at least somewhat, at the cost of blade length. On its face this would open up for the crossguards being merely additional mini-ligthsabers grafted onto the standard one, with their own components and greatly reduced blade length.
The biggest barrier in such use of precedent is the lightsaber crystal. From the same TCW arc mentioned above we finally learn from a Lucasverse source that lightsabers are basically magical swords through their crystals. Crystals the Force pairs with individual Jedi, who have to undergo a vision quest to attain them, and then attune them to the Force before insertion in the hilt. Clearly the crystal is the most critical component of the weapon, and looking at the cross-section of Anakin's lightsaber again, there just doesn't seem to be space enough for two extra crystals in the studs of the crossguard, let alone the rest of the components, no matter how miniaturized. Even a pulpy universe like SW should respect conservation of mass.
So if this is supposed to be the logic behind the crossguard, it isn't very convincing.
To conclude, for these reasons I just don't think the crossguard lightsaber fits with Lucasverse precedent, no matter how you look at it. And Disney's first foray into the universe after the PT really shouldn't be characterized by such sloppy and lazy adherence to the rules and precedent established by George. Especially when the result is of questionable practical value, and seems mostly geared at appealing to the Game of Thrones crowd by abusing the fact that SW is pulpy and cinematic enough to allow it. That is just poor stewardship of Star Wars IMO.
I discuss to learn, not to win. Then again, learning enough tends to translate to victory in the end anyway.
Last edited by DarthMRN on Mon Jan 05, 2015 9:27 am; edited 2 times in total