As a kid I had the complete Star Wars saga in VHS, which at that time were episodes IV-VI, so imagine how I felt when Episode I was announced. Besides Jar-Jar, I failed to see why people were so upset about a NEW Star Wars movie, it had pod-racing! And the best lightsaber duel ever. At least from an artistic point of view, granted it didn’t feel as emotional or real as the ones between Vader and Luke. But then Episode II came in, Anakin was a slap in the face on so many levels, and after losing all hope, Episode III was released and thanks to my lower quality bar for that one, it actually healed some scars left by the weaker prequels, for someone who has been a fan since memory, Revenge of the Sith was a well crafted emotional good bye, the closing chapter of Revenge was fan service as it’s highest.
Now, to my current problem. Episode VII is coming and my wife, my movie partner, had never watched a Star Wars movie, most of the blame lies on me, since I never bother to get a Blu-Ray player, I jumped from DVD to the Hard Drive, then cloud-streaming. I’ve always felt the use of discs a tad archaic, so I’ve waited for the iTunes release which took even longer than the Beatles to get there. But now, thanks to Disney and Episode VII momentum they are here. And I’ll be the one responsible to introduce to my wife the Star Wars universe, which for a guy that sported a padawan braid for two years, means a lot. I want to maximize the impact of the Star Wars saga, the far far away Galaxy has to have a bigger impact than what the Hobbit has done for her, and I feel it depends on how I present the movies to her.
A lot has been said about the order in which you should watch the entire saga. For those who had given some thought it is clear that the order in which they were release leaves a sour taste by leaving the weaker prequel trilogy at last, even if you enjoyed how Revenge of the Sith connected everything it still leaves you with the darkest movie at the end. The other obvious approach and somewhat logical way to watch them is an episodic order, the story arcs work well for the most part on both trilogies, and it leaves you with the strongest movies at the end, but it has two huge red flags. First it starts with the weak Phantom Menace (I consider episode II the weakest episode). Second it kills most of the surprises for the Original Trilogy, although thanks to pop culture my wife knows that Vader will say “No, I am your father.” she may forget to who he’s going to say it to, not to mention all the other subplots. I think there’s no need to dive to deep into why both of this approaches are less than ideal.
I won’t even consider the option of skipping the prequels, even as weak as they are, they are part of the saga, the prequels even with their faults enrich the universe a lot, and played in the right order makes Anakin redemption and the Rebels win have way more magnitude and meaning.
Mostly because of lack of convenience I won’t consider any fan edits. There’s the one that compress all the prequels into a single movie which leaves so many things behind, even the Ep I.II and Ep II.I which are highly successful fixes. With all his faults I have too much respect to George Lucas to go that route.
The Ernst Rister order is an interesting one, if it wasn’t for the fact that it throws all the prequels together, separating Return of the Jedi too much from the Empire, it’s a near perfect way to watch the complete saga. The other approach that’s pretty well received is the Machete order, I agree with most of the points made by Rod Hilton on why the Machete order tops the Ernst Rister one, it just make sense if it wasn’t for the fact that it actually skips Episode One.
As it is acknowledge by Rod Hilton himself eliminating Phantom brings up a lot of narrative issues, for me it also makes for a broken experience. Without Phantom Menace, you feel in Attack of the Clones like they just decide to throw Anakin’s mother to give him a reason to go bad, Episodes II and III mention a great deal of Qui-Gon and it is never explained who he is if you skip it. But above all, the prequels were intended to be the origin story of Darth Vader, episode I is the one that really show us where he’s coming from, it shows him as a kid, but not only that, it shows Obi-Wan’s reluctancy to train him initially, giving you a nice aha! moment as the arc evolves, it also shows Palpatine raise to power. So taking into consideration that even with all it’s faults, Episode I does have it’s importance, and knowing that lining up the prequels between V and VI makes for a too long gap between those two, here’s the way I’m going to introduce my wife to the Star Wars universe…
The Macaroni order
IV, I, V, II, III, VI
Episode IV — A New Hope
Clearly the strongest way to dive into the saga for the first time, the very same movie that created all the frenzy initially, there’s so little to add here that haven’t been said before. Because is the only movie that was ever considered to potentially be a stand alone, it does a great job to introduce you to the Star Wars universe. Obi-Wan talk about Luke’s father, the Jedi Anakin Skywalker, we get a nice introduction to the Force as well, we see our first lightsaber duel among many other cool things. Again, the perfect way to start, no questions asked.
Episode I — The Phantom Menace
Since this is the first episode of the prequels, it also is the best one to show the grandeur of the old days, thanks to the new special effects we get to see the real magnitude of the Galaxy Far Far Away. Even the much critized politics in the movie actually helps to give more depth and the weight to the Republic, and ultimately gives a bigger impact to the actions of episode IV. Also we get to see a young Obi-Wan and his Master, we see C3PO origin story as well and how he met R2. We get a better exposure of the force, it deparart from the notion of some sorcerer myth seen on A New Hope, the Force is more meaningful and tangible, and we see what can be accomplish with it by more skilled Jedi, we also got introduce to their counterpart the Sith. And now, you can say whatever you want about this episode, I know there’s Jar-Jar but the Pod Racing is just way too cool to skip. We get to see lightsaber duels like never before, the Darth Maul double edge lightsaber still is the coolest lightsaber. By the end of the movie it is established how Obi-Wan gets to be the new Master of Luke’s father.
Empire Strikes Back
Putting Episodes VI and I next to each other puts a nice parallel story between Luke and Obi-Wan, both having their masters killed by Sith lords, Obi-Wan gets to revenge his master, setting up Empire to be Luke’s time to revenge his, and raising the stakes of one of the biggest movie twists (that is if pop culture didn’t ruin it at this point to the viewer), but still having I between IV and V makes the question of how Anakin become Vader bigger since your image was of this little nice Yipee boy, which then leads to episodes II and III. Everything is downhill for the Rebels from here, it engage the audience for what’s to come perfectly.
Attack of the Clones
On episode I you saw how this promising kid starting as a Jedi. Now with the knowledge of Vader as Anakin, you start connecting the dots on what went wrong with the chosen one. You get to see Yoda kicking ass for the first time too, and Jedi in numbers never dreamed before. If the viewer remembers the mention of the Clone Wars from Episode IV it makes this episode even cooler, specially when you see the clones in uniform, raising a little bit the bar for this chapter. And as cool as it ever seemed, we never actually saw Boba Fett doing much, here we actually get to see papa Fett kicking ass for a bit (that’s it until he faces Master Windu), and with the whole clone thingy, it makes Fett more even relevant.
Revenge of the Sith
As stated by the Machete order, showing how Anakin became Vader immediately after Empire raise the stakes for Return of the Jedi. It makes you wonder if Luke may actually go to the dark side like his father before him. It does push forward the reveal about Leia and Luke, which I think is better executed on Revenge instead of Return of the Jedi, making the finale of the prequels have their own WTF moment! We see how Yoda failed to defeat the emperor, ending with him going to Dagoba.
Return of the Jedi
After a brief detour in Tatooine where we see a darker Luke and the end of Boba Fett. We visit Dagoba for one last time, to see the passing of Yoda, leaving Luke as the last hope, putting the stakes on an all time high. Just like episodes IV and I shared some interesting parallels, as it has been noted by David Pallant episodes III and VI:
“Through the Machete Order, there is also a third reason for Vader’s change of heart; there is clear duality between the Emperor’s electrocution of Mace Windu and his attempted murder of Luke.
The brainwashing of Anakin, that occurred through shock when Windu was electrocuted into the Coruscant skyline, is washed away.
The real realization for Anakin, now Vader, is that Emperor Palpatine has been the bad guy all along, and as remembers the original incident — he realizes the side he picked all those years ago was the wrong one. His subsequent self-sacrifice is the price he willingly pays for correcting the atrocities he committed over the previous 20 years of oppression, which began with one foolish decision decades ago.”
We just need to close our eyes to Jar-Jar Binks and Episode I becomes bearable. But even with Jar-Jar I cannot phantom watching the complete saga by skipping the first chapter. The right way to see Star Wars cannot be by removing an episode, it has to be by watching the complete saga in a way where it can have the most sense possible, and leave the biggest impression on the viewer.
The Macaroni order puts The Phantom Menace not only where it does less harm, but also where actually adds value to the story. Again, it’s the best episode to introduce the real grandeur of the Empire nee Republic, it raises the bar on lightsaber duels, it gives origin stories to Anakin, C3PO, R2 and Obi-Wan as a Jedi Master. And even though some die-hard fans try to dismiss the introduction of midiclorians, I really enjoy how much depth and meaning it gives to the Force as the driving force of the universe, I like that the knowledge the Jedi Order use to have was way more advanced than what we see on later episodes, the Force it’s more than old wizardry. For all we know, the Force could be this thing we now call Dark Energy.
Coincidentally throwing II and III before VI gives you a sense of just how big this whole thing is, it paints a different picture to the victory on VI, maybe destroying the Death Star and the Emperor wasn’t enough, unintentionally setting up turmoil and conflict because of the leadership void left on the Galaxy by the Emperor.
There has been an awakening, have you felt it?