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Star Wars Saturday: Considering the Order of Presentation for Newcomers


As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we introduced our toddler to the Star Wars Universe with A New Hope. Because we started with Episode IV, we already made a major choice in how we would present the story. But as young as he is, we could easily start again. Our options are manifold and the decision weighty. Since he’s coming into the story with both the original and prequel trilogy available to him, we could:

  1. Show him in the order they were made: IV, V, VI, I, II, III. After all, that’s how WE experienced them. But obviously we also know that great disappointment came upon us with watching the prequels, so that’s not ideal.
  2. Show him in linear order: I, II, III, IV, V, VI. But then the prequels will take precedent, his expectations of the original trilogy will be deformed by the prequels. And that order makes the story all about Anakin, which is lame. Due to a combination of poor writing and poor acting, Anakin is not a compelling central character. Luke is. Anakin is only interesting at all in terms of the journey Luke takes. Plus all sorts of spoilers are given away in the prequels. So that’s not a great choice either.
  3. Ignore the prequels. Pretend they don’t exist. But like with Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, he’s going to find out. And then we’ll be the parents who lied to him, or at least gave him the truth “from a certain point of view.” So that’s no good.
  4. Show him in Machete Order. That is: IV, V, II, III, VI. This gets my vote. Here’s the full explanation of Machete Order from the man who originated the idea. His reasoning is multi-faceted. I shall summarize what I love about it below.

Star_Wars_Movies_Viewing_OrderThe merits of Machete Order:

  • The story, by opening and closing with original trilogy films, remains about Luke. The prequels just become the sort-of flashback that they really are. They show the parallels between Luke and Anakin and intensify the final battle between Vader, Luke, and the Emperor without making the whole story about Anakin.
  • The prequels don’t ruin the surprise at the end of Empire that Vader is Luke’s father. That surprise remains intact, and then we get to see that story. Of course, the surprise of Luke and Leia being siblings is still ruined, but that’s smaller potatoes.
  • Yep, you’re reading the order correctly–no Phantom Menace. If you think about it, not only is Phantom Menace the stinkiest of the prequels, it’s also largely irrelevant. Both major hero and major villain die at the end–Qui-Gon and Darth Maul. The whole thing is about a trade embargo (WTF). Other than identifying that Anakin has mad piloting skills, there’s just not much there of substance. And any information that is important gets reiterated at the start of Ep. II.
  • And consider the benefits of what gets dropped with Ep. I: the midichlorians explanation, the bulk of the annoying Jar Jar scenes, the weird age divide between Anakin and Padme. Totally worth getting rid of. There are many other junky inconsistencies and pointless plot diversions that detract from the mythic arc in Phantom. Get rid of it, and the whole span is much more streamlined. Again, check out the original article above to see more of those.

Next week on Star Wars Saturday, I’ll offer up a few alternatives to the alternative of excising Ep. I. The fans of Star Wars are mighty, and they’ve worked some magic on Phantom that’s worth a look.


Author: Erin Perry

I'm a high school English teacher specializing in AP Literature and Film Analysis. I'm interested in most things geeky, including superheroes, vampires, zombies, teen culture, postmodern philosophy, pop culture analysis, and combinations of the aforementioned. Follow me on Twitter @eriuperry.

5 thoughts on “Star Wars Saturday: Considering the Order of Presentation for Newcomers

  1. Why isn’t Anakin a strong enough main character? Although I’m just not a fan of Hayden Christensen, I still have to say he takes the longest transformational arc over the series, making him the most complex character. Essentially, a boy with a little talent and big dreams makes small concessions in his quest for success, giving away bits of his morality. Ultimately, he realizes all his power is meaningless, sacrificing it to save his son. How is that not relatable to any workaholic dad?

    Luke is too pure. Aside from kissing his sister, he never makes any moral compromises and thus, what has he gained from his experience?

    In actuality, I would argue the narrative is really depicting the story of Obi-Wan, a character who (despite being dead for two of them) appears in every movie. Obi-Wan starts as an apprentice in phantom menace (which by the way is necessary to demonstrate the deception of palpatine, one of the heroes of the movie), but after the death of Qui-Gon, rest in peace, (as Darth Maul rests in pieces) he is thrust into a leadership position he is both unprepared for and does not deserve. It’s his failure to instruct, educate, and lead Anakin that drives the story early on. Then it’s his humility to greet death at vader’s hand that gives Luke emotional purpose and demonstrates the path of service a Jedi knight follows. The story is about Obi-Wan correcting the mistakes he made in Anakin through Luke.


  2. Good points, Will. I simply don’t find Anakin sympathetic in the way I do Luke. Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen are both too annoying for me to care about. I honestly don’t think he’s ever really portrayed as other than a villain. Even when he’s just a bitty pod racer wannabe, he’s haunted by the dramatic irony that we know what will happen to him. We’re just waiting for his villainy to come. And that keeps him from being a proper hero for this kind of story. However, I understand that youngsters who saw the prequels first have no problem with Anakin as protagonist. Fair enough. He is not for me anything other than a villain in need of saving. He’s no hero.

    Your argument that Obi-Wan is really the key protagonist strikes me as more accurate, but I still think he plays too small a role in the original trilogy for me to really buy that this is his story.

    Ultimately, I feel like this question is one of the reasons the series doesn’t hold together as a six-film story. But by even paring out Phantom Menace, the whole thing gets tight enough to do something with it.


  3. All very true. However, I don’t think you can chalk up my perspective to the younger generation completely. I had parents much like Bast’s who were concerned with my “education” at an early age. I watched them all in the same order you did, and went to the three prequels in theatre.

    In fact, I would say the argument for the saga of Anakin is most compelling in the final moments of the Return of the Jedi and isn’t informed much by the rest if the new trilogy. It’s Lord Vader who kills Sidious, not luke, which is arguably the only heroic and purely selfless action of his life. Which is again reinforced on the Endor moon when Anakin is present at the festivities.

    I concede Luke is perhaps a more likable hero (which is sad because Mark Hamill can’t act either) but you’re playing a dangerous game. Learn from the mistakes of Sidhartha. Lucas Limited chose present the story of Anakin, not Luke, the same way Breaking Bad is the story of Walter White, not Jesse Pinkman, and ignoring that reality reinforces the “Easter bunny” issue.

    The best move should be to present the movies not with a focus on the first watch but on the watches to come. If the Star Wars trilogy really is as great as we believe the next generation will watch and rewatch in whatever order they choose! It won’t matter what they watched first because by rewatching the saga they will start to form opinions of the series as a whole. Your goal should be presenting it the way your most enthusiastic so that you can share that enthusiasm with your son and worry about having him grasp it all the first time through. (I’ve seen them probably +50 times and I still don’t have it all).

    (Hate to break it to you, but Bast’s allegiances may end up falling to the trilogy in progress now, since they’re his generation’s movies)


  4. Regarding the in process trilogy, I hope so. I really hope so.


  5. I always liked the suggestion:
    Watch 4,5 then watch 1,2,3 as flashback.

    Someone said this and it make sense. I’ve read this suggestions since then. In this way you can have the “reveals” then you conclude with the Last film to tie it all up.


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