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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.