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Star Wars: Machete Viewing Order

So my brother and I were doing errands about town the other day, and as this involves a very long drive from one place to another, we got to talking about Star Wars. And this is how he introduced me to the Machete Viewing Order, which I'm so going to have to try, possibly even tonight since I have tomorrow off.

The idea is this:




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 aren’t 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.




which works because:



As I mentioned, this creates a lot of tension after the cliffhanger ending of Episode V. It also uses the original trilogy as a framing device for the prequel trilogy. Vader drops this huge bomb that he’s Luke’s father, then we spend two movies proving he’s telling the truth, then we see how it gets resolved. The Star Wars watching experience gets to start with the film that does the best job of establishing the Star Wars universe, Episode IV, and it ends with the most satisfying ending, Episode VI. It also starts the series off with the two strongest films, and allows you to never have to either start or end your viewing experience with a shitty movie. Two films of Luke’s story, two films of Anakin’s story, then a single film that intertwines and ends both stories.

Beyond this, Episode I establishes Anakin as a cute little kid, totally innocent. But Episode II quickly establishes him as impulsive and power-hungry, which keeps his character consistent with eventually becoming Darth Vader. Obi-Wan never really seems to have any control over Anakin, struggling between treating him as a friend (their very first conversation together in Episode II) and treating him as an apprentice (their second conversation, with Padme). Anakin is never a carefree child yelling “yippee”, he’s a complex teenager nearly boiling over with rage in almost every scene. It makes much more sense for Anakin to have always been this way.

In the opening of Episode II, Padme refers to Anakin as “that little boy I knew on Tatooine.” The two of them look approximately the same age in Episode II, so the viewer can naturally conclude that the two of them were friends as children. This completely hides the totally weird age gap between them from Episode I, and lends a lot of believability to the subsequent romance. Scenes in which they fall for each other seem to build on a childhood friendship that we never see but can assume is there. Since their relationship is the eventual reason for Anakin’s fall to the dark side, having it be somewhat believable makes a big difference.

Obi-Wan now always has a beard for the entire duration of the series, and Anakin Skywalker always wears black. Since these two characters are played by different actors (and are the only characters in the series with such a distinction), having them look visually consistent does a great deal toward reinforcing they are the same people.
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. Since we don’t really meet the Emperor until Episode VI (you only see him for one scene, in hologram, in V), this order preserves the twist around Palpatine taking over as Emperor. Episode I establishes that Darth Sidious is manipulating the Trade Federation in the opening scene of the film, and it’s pretty obvious Sidious is Palpatine. But if you skip Episode I, all we ever see is that Count Dooku is leading a separatist movement, all on his own. Dooku tells Obi-Wan that the Senate is under the control of a Sith lord named “Darth Sidious”, but at the end of the movie, after Dooku flees from Geonosis, he meets with his “master”, who turns out to be Darth Sidious. This is the first time we realize that the separatist movement is actually being controlled by Sidious, and it’s the first time we see him, which doesn’t give the audience a chance to realize he’s Palpatine (remember, nobody has ever referred to “Emperor Palpatine” by this point in the series).

Machete order also keeps the fact that Luke and Leia are siblings a surprise, it simply moves the surprise to Episode III instead of VI, when Padme announces her daughter’s name. This is actually a more effective twist in this context than when Obi-Wan just tells Luke in Return of the Jedi. We get to find out before Luke, and we discover she’s carrying twins along with Obi-Wan when the Gynobot tells him. Luke’s name is first, so when Padme names the other kid “Leia” it’s a pretty shocking reveal. As an added bonus, there are now about 5 hours of film between the discovery that they are siblings and the time they kissed.



You can read all about it here, and the further cinematic awesomeness of it here. I may actually have to do this tonight. It may be a great way to ring in the new year.