Brendan Shick | Freelance Film, Broadcast, & Digital Media

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How to Watch Star Wars: The Merits of Machete Order

May 04 2012 by Brendan Shick Add Your Thoughts

I may not have any kids yet, but I have recently discovered the answer to the most important parenting question of all time. That’s right, I’ve decided in what order to make my kids watch Star Wars.

The link above is an absolute must read in its entirety for anyone who is a fan of the series or has seen the series and cares about learning how to tell a story. Needless to say, there are plenty of major spoilers for all six films in the link above as well as in the quotes and content in the remainder of this post.

Merits of Machete Order

I first skimmed the article when I ran across it a few months ago because of its immense length. What I read made a ton of sense, so I came back and gave it a more thorough read later – and I was blown away by how much sense it made and how much better it made the series (which was already my all-time favorite). To summarize: Episodes IV, V, II, III, VI is the correct viewing order.

“Effectively, this order keeps the story Luke’s tale. Just when Luke is left with the burning question ‘how did my father become Darth Vader?’ 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 Luke’s 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.”

Where I Disagree

As a true Star Wars fan, I don’t agree with what the author says about the sub-parness of the newer editions and the prequel trilogy. All six films have their own merits and are worth watching and including as part of the Star Wars franchise. The author recognizes this in his post at times, but there are also long stretches where his rants don’t make it clear whether or not he truly believes it.

So, to be clear, I’m subscribing to the idea he presents at the end of the post: Episode I should be included with the Clone Wars film and tv series as an “Expanded Universe” type backstory. Contrary to popular belief, The Phantom Menace is not the worst film in the saga and it does add important information and backstory for anyone fully invested in the universe. However, there is no particular time that the viewer needs that information to understand any key plot points. It serves more of a curiosity than adding anything crucial to the main story arc. Much the same with the cartoons, books, Ewok movies, and other expanded universe content (although Episode I would rank over all of those).

Conclusion

There are plenty of other awesome points about how to enhance the viewing experience, tension, and overall story arc just by rearranging the films in a very unique order. He points out several things that I never really thought about (and not for lack of trying!).

“This order also preserves both twists. George Lucas knew that watching the films in Episode Order would remove the Vader twist, so he added the Palpatine twist to compensate.

[…]

Best of all, this order actually makes a particular tension in Return of the Jedi stronger.

Remember, we see in Episode V that Luke’s vision in the cave on [Dagobah] is that he turns into Darth Vader, then we find out Vader is his father. Then we watch Episodes II and III, in which his father turns to the dark side in order to protect his loved ones. After that we go back to VI, where eventually Luke confronts the Emperor.”

He goes on for several paragraphs to explain how the ROTJ tension is much higher this way, given the obvious strong parallels to ROTS. This makes the final film in the saga much better when viewed this way.

It’s simply amazing that anyone who has already seen all six films in the order they were released can clear their mind and make such a reasoned argument about how someone would feel when seeing them in a different order for the first time. I don’t think I will ever be able to introduce someone to the saga in a different way again.


Brendan Shick

Brendan Shick is a freelance DP, gaffer, and sports broadcaster serving primarily the Chicago, IL; Pittsburgh, PA; Grand Rapids, MI; and Fort Wayne, IN, regions. You can find out more by following this blog, his recent work on Vimeo, or by connecting with him on Twitter or LinkedIn. Brendan is also an occasional contributor to the Project Updates feed for one of his most recent films, To Turn Back Time.


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