Friday, 22 February 2013

How To Watch Star Wars

So, the other day, I was killing time at the bus stop, in the freezing wind and snow, letting my mind drift, and I wondered to myself, what movies would I wish to watch for the first time again.

Obviously some movies with big twist endings. Maybe Chris Nolan’s movies, The Prestige, Memento, Inception. I wish I could see The Matrix in the cinema, or Jurassic Park on the big screen.

And while those are good thoughts, those are not the right answer. I wish I could watch Star Wars for the first time again. Because I want to watch it in machete order. I don’t want to watch it in the normal order, and neither should you. Just listen as to why.

First though, a disclaimer. This isn’t my idea. I wish I had thought of it, but I didn’t. The original idea, as far as I know, comes from an American blogger called Rod Hilton, back in 2011.

Second, this is a spoiler free zone. If you’ve never seen Star Wars, well, you’re priorities need straightening. But I’m not going to tell you what happens and ruin the fun for you, so don’t worry about that.

OK. So. Star Wars. The first film, which is Episode 4, came out in 1977. It’s followed by Episodes 5&6 in what’s called the Original Trilogy. Then, in 1999, there was Episode 1, followed by Episodes 2&3. The general view is that the new films, or The Prequel Trilogy, are not quite as brilliant as the Original Trilogy.

If you decide to watch Star Wars for the first time, you are presented with two basic options. You could either watch them in Release Order, or Episode Order. Both of the options have massive flaws.

Watching them in Episode Order (1,2,3,4,5,6), ruins the twist in Empire, which you might already know, but more than that the prequels don’t tell a very good standalone story. You need the knowledge of the 4,5&6 to really enjoy the prequels.

The problem with watching them in chronological order is that the prequels are designed to lead into Luke Skywalker’s story, and so the ending of episode 3 is unsatisfactory as it’s not meant to be THE END, but just a natural pause between episodes 3&4.

The alternative suggestion, which has exploded in popularity amongst Star Wars fans, is affectionately known as Machete Order.

Star Wars isn’t really the story of Anakin Skywalker, it’s the Story of Luke Skywalker. Machete Order maintains this by starting with Episode 4, which is the beginning of Luke’s journey. We then continue into Episode 5, which famously ends with somewhat of a cliff-hanger. BUT, and this is the fun part, instead of going straight on, to Episode 6, we take an extended flashback to the Prequels. This means that we get to see the best start to the series and the best end to the series, in their rightful places. Delaying the resolution of Luke’s story makes it all the more satisfying, and it frames the prequel story neatly.

So, after finishing Empire Strike Back, what do you watch next?

This is the clever part. SKIP EPISODE 1.

Star Wars Episode 1 is one of the most disappointing films ever made. If you want to know exactly why, I name Mr. Plinkett’s review as one of the best videos on all of youtube. Simply put, Episode 1 is boring and pointless. NOTHING that happens in the movie is necessary to the grand plot of Star Wars, and almost none of it is enjoyable to watch.

EXHIBIT B – The Senate

In Machete Order, you skip straight from Episode 5, back into the flashback prequel story of Episode 2. And the things which get removed, are gone for the good of everyone involved.

There’s almost no Jar-Jar, there’s no terrible acting from Jake Llloyd, no midichlorians. We don’t need to know about pod-racing, and while Darth Maul is cool, he’s not actually important to anything. There’s no confusion between Padme and the Decoy, there’s no Trade Disputes, no references to a virgin birth.

But it’s not just about removing the unloved ugly child of Star Wars, removing Episode 1 tells a far better story. Every new character in Episode I is removed from the main story afterwards (Darth Maul, Qui-Gon, Chancellor Valorum), or re-introduced more effectively in Episode 2(Mace Windu, Palpatine, Watto). Anakin is never an annoying child, he’s an impulsive young man when we first meet him. Obi-Wan looks like Obi-Wan did in the Original films, and in Episode 2 he acts more like he did then, compared to Episode 1 when he was only an apprentice. Knowledge of the prequels also adds a great deal to the final film, episode 6. (To explain why would be a severe spoiler, so if you want to know why you should check out Rod Hilton’s original article.)

The biggest problem with machete order is that viewers tend to think there was more back-story in Episode 1 then there actually was. People assume Episode 1 was important somehow, when it really, really, isn’t important at all.

You can still watch Episode 1, after everything else. It does have some fun moments, but it’s best to treat it in the same way you’d treat any Expanded Universe stuff, like the TV show or the video-games. It’s not part of the main story.

I wish I could re-watch Star Wars. I wish I could watch it just for machete order. Just so I could see it the best way.

4 - 5 - 2 - 3 - 6

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