By now, you’ve seen that clip of the lightsabre from the upcoming Star Wars money grab, due out soonish. And you’ve probably seen people dump on it. And you’ve probably seen people defend the design with an argument like: It’s just a movie.
Yes, it is just a movie. I can’t deny that.
However, fiction movies work on a principle known as “Willing suspension of disbelief.” If you’ve never heard of it, nor thought about it much, that is the notion that we all know when we’re watching fiction, but we enjoy it because, for the duration of the show, we willingly override our desire to scream “BULLSHIT” and simply enjoy the show for what it is.
The problem here is that keyword: Willing. If you’re not willing to suspend your disbelief, your brain will naturally migrate to the “bullshit” box.
Star Wars is a created, imaginary universe. It is rife with retcons, and a massive deus ex machina that is The Force, but in general, it is consistent from the point of view that things can generally said to make sense once you apply a willing suspension of disbelief.
In the Star Wars universe, lightsabres function like swords. People are willing to disbelieve all the physical effects that make a laser sword impossible in the real world, but it works because at the end of the day, a lightsabre is a sword. We know swords. We understand swords. We’re comfortable with swords.
And when we see a stupid-looking, that-is-ridiculous sort of sword, it pushes our disbelief beyond the willing and into the bullshit territory. This sword is stupid because we can all see it wouldn’t work as a sword. It breaks the illusion that we put up with due to its utter impracticality. That’s why people hate on it, and that’s why they’re right to do so. It’s not a matter of “it’s just a movie,” it’s a matter of “you’re taking a bit of a dump on the movie universe, almost certainly to sell a toy after the movie wraps up.”
Any film student should understand that, let alone the big-market producers.