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See Ray Park back in action for Darth Maul’s last big Clone Wars saber fight

The stunt performer returned to breathe motion-captured life into the Star Wars character

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Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

Fans of The Clone Wars expected the final batch of episodes to intersect the events of Revenge of the Sith, but maybe not in such spectacular fashion. In last Friday’s “The Phantom Apprentice,” the penultimate episode before May’s two-part Clone Wars series finale, ex-Jedi Ahsoka Tano and the unexpectedly resilient Darth Maul clash on Mandalore over the fate of Anakin Skywalker. Is Anakin good or evil? Will he save the galaxy, or forsake the Order to become a knight of the Dark Side? Maul says he knows the truth (and he does), but Ahsoka still has hope — and fights for her life to prove the gangster wrong.

In the history of Star Wars animation, there hasn’t been a saber fight that’s moved at quite this clip. And the reason has everything to do with what’s happening behind the animation: unlike previous hand-animated fights in Clone Wars, the Ahsoka/Darth Maul face-off was based on an actual fight between stunt performer Lauren Mary Kim (The Mandalorian, Alita: Battle Angel) and the original Maul himself, Ray Park.

“I wanted this fight to be big,” Clone Wars creator Dave Filoni says in a new behind-the-scenes video. “And it got me thinking — and I’ve known Ray for awhile — but why don’t we bring Ray in and do some motion capture? He could be Maul one more time, physically fighting.”

In the clip above, Kim and Park spar in a motion-capture chamber, giving their cartoon avatars gravity and velocity for the first time. That didn’t make the actual animation process any easier; in order to click with the traditional look of The Clone Wars, animation supervisor Keith Kellogg and his team had to accentuate the duo’s combat session through saber hits and acrobatic moves. Star Wars is still fantasy, even with two professionals swinging the light-swords.

The final episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars air on May 1 and 8 on Disney Plus.

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