OK, I'm not a huge Star Wars nut. I like the movies but I'm not a hardcore fan. Fortunate for you guys (and gals but let's be serious, there aren't any gals clicking on that thread title), I happen to be fairly certain that ES is crawling with Star Wars nuts... crawling.
I stumbled across a facebook post from a fried a while ago. He posted a link, said that it was a long read but suggested that the method he posted was the correct order in which to watch the Star Wars saga. Needless to say, I spent the new few minutes reading it over and it makes plenty of sense to me (the non-hardcore fan). It made so much sense that I figured I'd share it with you guys.
Brace yourselves, what follows is an amazingly long blog post about Star Wars.
Iíve already discussed how Iím not a huge fan of the various modifications made to the original Star Wars trilogy, so itís reasonable to assume Iím not a big fan of the prequel trilogy either. There are many people who dislike the prequel trilogy so much that they donít even consider watching them. On bad days, Iím one of those people, but on good days I see some value in the prequel trilogy, even though I consider them inferior in virtually every way.
For people that couldnít care less about the prequel trilogy, I suggest Harmyís Despecialized Editions. They are 720p blu-ray discs (AVCHD discs actually) that are the result of ďHarmyĒ from The Original Trilogy forums painstakingly reconstructing the theatrical releases of all three films utilizing a wide variety of video sources as well as custom mattes. Downloading, burning, labeling, and printing cases for these films is one of the neckbeardiest things Iíve done (aside from writing this blog post), and Iím extremely glad I did it. When I feel like watching Star Wars for just me, these are the ones I watch. If thatís enough for you as well, stop reading now.
There are two obvious options for watching the Star Wars saga.
- Release Order Ė Watch the films in the order they came out, recreating your experience with the films for someone new to them.
- Episode Order Ė Watch the films in the order George Lucas intends, starting with Episode I and going straight through to Episode VIThere are two critical flaws with both of these orders, unfortunately, that prevent either from being appropriate.
The problem with Episode Order is that it ruins the surprise that Vader is Lukeís father. If you think that this reveal doesnít matter since itís common knowledge, I suggest you watch the looks on these kidsí faces. This reveal is one of the most shocking in film history, and if a newcomer to the series has managed to avoid having it spoiled for them, watching the films in Episode Order would be like watching the ending of The Sixth Sense first.
The other problem with Episode Order is that the prequels donít really have a story. Theyíre just background for the real story, which is Lukeís attempt to destroy the Empire and save his father. Watching 3 films of backstory is boring if youíve never seen the films theyíre the background to. Hell, thatís why George Lucas made A New Hope first, he knew if he started with Episode I heíd never be able to complete the series. Starting someone off with Episode I is a surefire way to ensure they donít make it through the entire franchise.
Unfortunately, Release Order is also an instant failure, and the reason is a single shot. If youíre watching the original trilogy first, then after the Empire is destroyed and everyone is celebrating, Luke looks over at his mentors, Ben Kenobi and Yoda, and suddenly they are joined byÖ some random creepy looking teenager who needs a haircut. Placing Hayden Christensen in the ending of Jedi, since heís not in ANY of the other films, turns an ending that should be celebratory into one that is confusing for the viewer. The fact that Christensen looks like heís undressing someone with his eyes doesnít help.
So neither order really works. What to do?An Alternative Suggestion
How can you ensure that a viewing keeps the Vader reveal a surprise, while introducing young Anakin before the end of Return of the Jedi?
Simple, watch them in this order: IV, V, I, II, III, VI.
George Lucas believes that Star Wars is the story of Anakin Skywalker, but it is not. The prequels, which establish his character, are so poor at being character-driven that, if the series is about Anakin, the entire series is a failure. Anakin is not a relatable character, Luke is.
This alternative order (which a commenter has pointed out is called Ernst Rister order) inserts the prequel trilogy into the middle, allowing the series to end on the sensible ending point (the destruction of the Empire) while still beginning with Lukeís journey.
Effectively, this order keeps the story Lukeís tale. Just when Luke is left with the burning question ďhow did my father become Darth Vader?Ē we take an extended flashback to explain exactly how. Once we understand how his father turned to the dark side, we go back to the main storyline and see how Luke is able to rescue him from it and salvage the good in him.
The prequel backstory comes at the perfect time, because Empire Strikes Back ends on a huge cliffhanger. Han is in carbonite, Vader is Lukeís father, and the Empire has hit the rebellion hard. Delaying the resolution of this cliffhanger makes it all the more satisfying when Return of the Jedi is watched.
Narratively, itís just like a movie that starts with a big opening, then fades to ď2 years earlierĒ for most of the movie, until it catches up with the present time and concludes.Much, much more at the link.Introducing: Machete Order
Now Iíd like to modify this into what Iíve named Machete Order on the off chance that this catches on because Iím a vain *******.What Gets Removed?
Next time you want to introduce someone to Star Wars for the first time, watch the films with them in this order: IV, V, II, III, VI
Notice something? Yeah, Episode I is gone.
Episodes II and III arenít exactly Shakespeare, but standing next to the complete and utter trainwreck that is Episode I, they sure look like it. At least, III does anyway.
Episode I is a failure on every possible level. The acting, writing, directing, and special effects are all atrocious, and the movie is just plain boring. Luckily, George Lucas has done everyone a favor by making the content of Episode I completely irrelevant to the rest of the series. Seriously, think about it for a minute. Name as many things as you can that happen in Episode I and actually help flesh out the story in any subsequent episode. I can only think of one thing, which Iíll mention later.
Every character established in Episode I is either killed or removed before it ends (Darth Maul, Qui-Gon, Chancellor Valorum), unimportant (Nute Gunray, Watto), or established better in a later episode (Mace Windu, Darth Sidious). Does it ever matter that Palpatine had an apprentice before Count Dooku? Nope, Darth Maul is killed by the end of Episode I and never referenced again. You may as well just start with the assumption that Dooku was the only apprentice. Does it ever matter that Obi-Wan was being trained by Qui-Gon? Nope, Obi-Wan is well into training Anakin at the start of Episode II, Qui-Gon is completely irrelevant.
Search your feelings, you know it to be true! Episode I doesnít matter at all. You can start the prequels with Episode II and miss absolutely nothing. The opening crawl of Episode II establishes everything you need to know about the prequels: a bunch of systems want to leave the Republic, they are led by Count Dooku, and Senator Amidala is a senator who is going to vote on whether the Republic is going to create an army. Natalie Portman is called Senator Amidala twice in the first 4 minutes of the movie, so thereís no question of whoís who.
Hereís some stuff that you no longer have to see as part of your Star Wars viewing experience, thanks to skipping Episode I.
- Virtually no Jar-Jar. Jar-Jar has about 5 lines in Episode II, and zero in Episode III.
- No midichlorians. There is only one reference to midichlorians after Episode I, and in the context it appears to mean something as benign as ďDNA.Ē
- No Jake Lloyd. Sorry Jake, your acting is terrible and I never really wanted to see Darth Vader as a little boy.
- No confusing Padme/Queen switcheroo. The whole subplot with Padme and her decoy makes absolutely no sense. Itís clear that this was just so people could interact with Padme without knowing she was the Queen, but itís incredibly convoluted and pointless.
- Less confusing master/apprentice relationships. Darth Sidious is training Count Dooku, Obi-Wan is training Anakin. No other trainer/trainee relationships exist to confuse the backstory. Fewer characters to learn about, so the story is more focused.
- Nothing about trade disputes. The ďproblemĒ as of Episode II is that a group of systems want to leave the Republic. This is much easier to understand for a kid than trade disputes.
- No pod racing. Seriously, who gives a ****? An action sequence for the sake of an action sequence and it goes on forever. A huge number of plot holes surrounding gambling and the subsequent freeing of Anakin are removed as well.
- No virgin birth. We simply donít know or care who Anakinís father is, and the subtle implication that itís Palpatine is gone.But booting Episode I isnít merely about pretending a crappy movie doesnít exist. Viewing Episode II immediately after V and Episode III immediately before VI actually tells the story better than including Episode I does.