This weekend, Ruth, JTA and I watched the Star Wars films in a single sitting, in Machete Order. What’s Machete Order, you ask? Well, assuming that you’re too busy to click the link and find out, the short summary is that you:
- Start with Episode IV: A New Hope (originally billed as just Star Wars), as if you were going to watch the films in release order,
- Then roll on into Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back,
- Set your blaster to rewind, and go back to Episode II: Attack of the Clones; yes, really,
- Carry on into Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,
- And finally, finish up with Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
This is a remarkable and unusual order in which to watch the films, but it’s not without its merits, especially compared to the two most-common alternatives: Release Order and Episode Order:
- Release Order – IV, V, VI, I, II, III – has the problem that you either watch the original cut of Return of the Jedi, and see Sebastian Shaw playing the ghost of the “unmasked” Darth Vader at the end (and then go “that doesn’t look anything like him!” when you get to Attack of the Clones), or you watch the 2004 edit of Return of the Jedi, in which they inserted Hayden Christensen in his place, and you go “who’s that guy? we’ve never seen him before!”, because he hasn’t been introduced until the next film that you’ll watch.
- Episode Order – I, II, III, IV, V, VI - should fix that problem, but it introduces an even worse problem: it completely ruins the surprise that Luke’s father is Darth Vader (and as a result, also ruins the surprise that Leia is Luke’s sister, and results in more “eww” moments when we see them kiss in The Empire Strikes Back).
Machete Order fixes those problems. The new films become a “flashback” in a longer ongoing narrative, and the timing couldn’t be better. At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Luke has just learned that Darth Vader is his father, and so we zip back by about 20 years and see the story of how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. You couldn’t plan it better.
You lose The Phantom Menace, but seriously, you’re not missing much (and you can always go back and watch it later): a surprisingly dull podrace, an incredibly annoying alien, “midichlorians”… all of these are dropped. You get to start and end with the strongest movies. And the continuity is actually pretty beautiful, seeing Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith as a flashback rather than a series in their own right.
So what did we learn:
- This is absolutely the way to watch Star Wars. If I ever come across somebody who’s never seen any of them films, this is the order that I’ll recommend that they watch them.
- It takes a surprising amount of energy to sit and watch 11 hours of a story in a single sitting. Make sure you’ve got plenty of booze and snacks lined-up, and are ready to sacrifice a day, if you want to do this in one stretch. It wasn’t quite as hard as when we watched all of the Lord of the Rings movies (Directors’ Cuts, no less) back to back at a Troma Night many years ago, but it was still a bit of a marathon.
- The model shots (IV, V, VI) have aged, but they still look okay. The CGI effects (II, III) have aged, and they look awful. Watching a mixture of old and new films in this way exaggerates this.
If you’d like to learn more about why this is such a great way to watch these films, I’d highly recommend that you read the original article that inspired us. And then – whether you’ve seen the films before or not – you should totally go and do this too.