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Hacking Up STAR WARS With Machete Order

January 27, 2013

Recently, Collider (one of my favorite sites), ran a series of reflections written by a Star Wars neophyte as she watched the films for the first time. A link to the last entry containing links to all the previous entries can be found here. Anyway, it was an entertaining read and one issue I think many Star Wars fans take for granted is the proper order in which to introduce the films to a newbie. Do you watch them in episode order (I-VI), or in theatrical release order (IV, V, VI, I, II, III)? Or is there an even better way?

This will certainly be an easy decision for some but reading about the decision-making process in the Collider series introduced me to a new way of experiencing the story. Behold “Machete Order:”

Episode IV – A New Hope
Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Episode II – Attack of the Clones
Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

Notice anything funny? The Phantom Menace is removed from the experience. For a full and eloquent description of the order and its rationale, I invite you to read this.

Having just watched the saga in Machete Order, I can now give my support for its structure. Basically, omitting The Phantom Menace gets rid of several annoyances that plague the prequel trilogy. Some of the big ones are Jar Jar Binks, midichlorians and the convoluted political drama. Removing Menace rids you of all these things (among others) and streamlines the overall arc.

Understandably, some will lament the loss of pod racing and Darth Maul but losing the former streamlines the story and losing the latter unclutters all of the trainer-trainee relationships. The benefits of Machete Order are myriad. In addition to the Menace-related benefits, it actually increases the tension as the story builds. Here’s how:

• You still get to experience episodes IV and V first, and let’s face it, those two are still favorites a lot of die-hards.

• Right at the height of tension in the saga (the climax of Empire), Machete Order ratchets up the cliffhanger by jumping to the prequels and leaving the viewer wondering what will happen to Luke and Han while watching episodes I and II.

• You enter the prequels without the long detour of Menace. The stage is set very neatly: Obi-Wan/Anakin vs. Sidious/Dooku and as for the politics, the only issue is a bunch of systems wanting to leave the Republic. Simple.

• Anakin’s descent into darkness parallels Luke’s arc in Empire very nicely. They each lose the same arm in battle and are slowly manipulated by the Dark Side and so forth. The difference between the two is why the cliffhanger of Empire is such a doozy; until the final episode, you don’t know if Luke is going to be able to avoid Anakin’s fate.

• The scenes from Return of the Jedi in Jabba’s Palace are given new meaning as they strongly indicate a Dark Side tendency in Luke. This is all the more evident watching Jedi immediately after Revenge of the Sith.

• If all this isn’t enough, the emotional climax of Jedi is made more powerful still as Luke gets to help Vader gain redemption and put and to the Emperor’s reign.

While it pains the completist in me to leave out Menace, I thoroughly enjoyed Machete Order. It has a mild Godfather Part II effect. This effect is strongest during the last two films as the journeys of Luke and Anakin are placed directly in parallel, lending more weight and emotional depth to the story.

If you are interested in trying this but simply cannot go through it without watching all six chapters, I recommend watching Menace after the completion of Machete Order. This way you get the best version of the saga and then can choose to tack on the missing chapter at the end as a sort of appendix.

Luke 4

To the Star Wars faithful, I recommend giving it a shot. It’s a good way to freshen up something you’ve probably seen countless times already. And for all the uninitiated padawans out there, this has to be the best way to experience the prequel trilogy in relation to the originals without tainting the experience.

Note: This post was updated in 2018 for grammar issues and formatting.

From → General Musings

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