Dark Rey's Lightsaber in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker teases a more in-depth backstory from what we saw on the big screen. Star Wars fans were shocked to see the double-sided blade in the earlier promotional footage for the final installment in the Skywalker Saga. Everyone was wondering if Rey had really gone to the Dark Side. It was very intriguing, to say the least, and the visual was enough to prompt excitement on its own. However, the Lightsaber and Dark Rey are only in the movie for about 15 seconds and nothing is really explained.
The official Star Wars website recently shed some light on three of the major Lightsabers in The Rise of Skywalker, including Dark Rey's, Leia's, and Luke Skywalker's iconic weapon. Lucasfilm Archivist Madlyn Burkert shows fans the three weapons and goes into detail about them. For something that was only on screen for 15 seconds in a Force vision, Lucasfilm spent a decent amount of time on Dark Rey's Lightsaber.
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Dark Rey's Lightsaber has some qualities that are similar to Light Rey's weapon. The Rise of Skywalker novelization reveals that Rey was working on a Lightsaber with a hinge far before she saw the Dark Rey version in the Force vision. When Rey was working on her weapon, she initially had thoughts about her staff, which was her previous weapon of choice. This explains the foldable double bladed version we see on screen, or at least where the idea came from. However, Lucasfilm chose to go in a different direction, says Madlyn Burkert. "Early designs envisioned the Dark side saber as being created from Rey's staff, but it was decided that the weapon would have been too much in line with the Light side version of her character," Burkert notes.
The red details on Dark Rey's Lightsaber were no coincidence and were originally thought of as a nod to Darth Maul's blade from the prequel trilogy. "There's a lot of red details on this, and we often associate that color with the dark side, with the Empire or the First Order," says Madlyn Burkert. When all is said and done, one can assume if Rey had turned to the Dark Side, she would have ditched her staff for her custom Lightsaber, which could have also had some help from Kylo Ren. They both have the crackly and spitting characteristics and it's assumed he would have been happy to help.
In addition, Dark Rey's Lightsaber had a pretty awesome feature that is barely shown in The Rise of Skywalker. The red double-bladed weapon doesn't just flip around to look cool, it allows Dark Rey to trap Light Rey's Lightsaber with a scissor-like action. Looking at Dark Rey's Lightsaber further, it's revealed that it has a black accent near the end where the blade ignites in the same shape as a detail found on one of Darth Vader's Lightsabers. There's a whole lot to unpack in the weapon, which could be a story told at a different time. You can check out the Lightsabers below, thanks to the official Star Wars YouTube channel.
There’s one particularly telling and effective moment in The Skywalker Legacy, the feature-lenght documentary that’s included on the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker home release that sums up much of the ambivalence and consternation that some had with J.J. Abrams’ return to the Star Wars universe. After showing the intricate construction of a giant, practical snake monster, the doc cuts back to footage of Jabba The Hutt, that old analogue beast that slithered its way into our hearts. The sentiment is clear – we’re making movies like we used to! A celebration of practical effects, the dripping of k-y jelly to give viscosity just like the old costume days, it’s all there. There’s excitement on set, everyone talking about how amazing it looks, how lifelike, how this is how you’re supposed to do movies like this.
Cut to Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett who shatters the myth, letting us know the creature was replaced by a CGI version in post.
Guyett’s resume is mighty. Having made his bones on groundbreaking films like Twister and Casper, he helped Spielberg bring the events of D-Day to screen in Saving Private Ryan, helped bring to life the best looking film in the Harry Potter series, Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban, and even made the theatrical version of Rent feel more than a stage production. Guyett has had many collaborations with Abrams – from the Star Trek Reboots through The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker he was even second unit director on the former, as well as working with George Lucas on Episode III to round off the prequels. He’s in a unique position to speak to these changing landscapes of epic filmmaking.
We spoke at length about the apparent contradictions and indulgences in making a Star Wars film, and he made the case for why nothing was wasted and all contributed to the final presentation. He was erudite and open to the discussion, making for a dream conversation with a man who quite literally has helped shape what amazes us on screen for decades.
The following has been edited for clarity and concision.
We see practical effects being championed as almost a marketing ploy with the “postquels” as a mix of nostalgia and an attempt to delineate from Lucas’ second trilogy. In some ways the love of the practically-realized snake undercuts the extraordinary CGI you and your team accomplished, and raises questions about why the need to fetishize the on-set inclusions when they’re replaced anyway. Could you talk about that ethos, that somehow doing stuff on a computer is a “cheat” while doing an effect practically is not?
I think at the end of the day we’re all trying to do the best that we can, trying to make the best, most dramatic or emotional movie we can visually. I’m coming from figuring out how do you get the most...