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Ways to give the Star Wars saga its power

By Herb Scribner

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One laser blast and everyone was hooked.

The captivating science fiction saga “Star Wars” has fascinated fans for years, all beginning in 1977 with the original “Star Wars” film, which was later renamed “A New Hope” as the series grew in length. “A New Hope” tells the story of youthful, sandy brown-haired Luke Skywalker and his adventures through space to learn the force and become a Jedi – a sorcerer-like monk with a lightsaber – like his father.

And as the series grew with sequels “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” the fan appreciation grew along with it. “Empire” and “Jedi” both continued Luke’s adventures as he battled for the galaxy, his main foe being Darth Vader, the twisted and evil, more-machine-than-man villain of the series. Sure there were bumps in the road – the former’s ending and the latter’s use of teddy-bear like Ewoks – but ultimately the fairy tale in space enchanted audiences from generation to generation.

But then came the prequels, which divided the “Star Wars” fandom. Some, and probably a majority, disliked the first of the prequels, “The Phantom Menace,” which recently was re-released in 3D. Its successor, “Attack of the Clones” didn’t help things, more often than not being criticized for wooden dialogue and middle school-esque romance drama. The last of the prequels, “Revenge of the Sith,” earned the most praise out of the three, ending the series on a somewhat good note.

Over the years, fans have debated where the series’ strengths are and what episodes to watch over others. There have been a few different orders in which to watch that have come up for the saga, ranging from deleting movies entirely to adding in extra pieces of footage. No matter the preference, there are myriads of different ways to get a “Star Wars” fix.

The Way It Was Order

Oh, how viewers love the way it was.

This one’s simple – watch Episodes IV to VI, much like the original audience did, and then follow up with Episodes I to III. The story might seem out of place and a bit scattered in this manner, but it’s the way the original audiences watched the films.

With this order, viewers get to see Luke’s climb from farm boy to force dweller and his head-to-head battles with Vader and the Empire. Once that adventure’s done, fans can take a breather and start fresh, learning about how Vader became so maniacal and twisted.

A downside to this order is that it makes viewers think backwards, but to the future, meaning it forces viewers to think back to the original trilogy which happens after the events of the prequel trilogy. It gets messy, and definitely wasn’t the way the series creator George Lucas intended it to be.

Intended Order

And this is where Lucas smiles.

With the intended order, viewers get to see “Star Wars” the way Lord Lucas wanted it to be seen, Episodes I to VI, one after the other. It shows Anakin Skywalker’s development and downfall into Vader, who becomes the main villain in the second trilogy. Anakin’s son, Luke, becomes the hero in Episodes IV to XI and eventually confronts his father and seemingly turns him back to the light side of the force.

It’s an interesting story when watched like this. It makes Anakin appear as the series’ hero, only for him to become the villain, which ultimately causes the first three films to lose purpose. The story itself still works, as viewers get to see the rise and fall of the Republic and the subsequent rebellion against the Empire. Storyline-wise, it makes sense.

But as far as characters go, intended order suffers greatly.

Sure there’s attachment from the viewer to see Anakin’s downfall, but once he’s Vader, it’s almost impossible to care as much for him because he has become so lost and strayed so far from Anakin. The masked Vader and Anakin are nearly entirely different characters, making this order extremely difficult for viewers interested in character development.

 

Machete Order

For those interested in character development, Machete Order might do the trick.

First released by Rod Hilton on his blog, nomachettejuggling.com, this order might just be the ultimate order in creating the perfect “Star Wars” saga.

Hilton’s order is as follows: Episodes IV, V, II, III, VI.

Yes, Episode I is eliminated in this order.

“The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this order’s purpose is to preserve the Saga as Luke’s Story, but Episode I does nothing to advance that,” said Hilton in an email. “After re-watching the films in Machete Order, I was kind of dumbstruck with how obvious it seemed.”

Basically, Hilton’s machete order sets the scene and story as many viewers saw it, with Luke being the hero and battling Vader and the Empire. Then, once Vader reveals his paternity to Luke, viewers get to take a breather, look back and watch how Vader became Vader and how Luke was born.

According to Hilton’s blog, this order works best because it “actually makes a particular tension in Return of the Jedi stronger.”

Hilton’s blog post explained that because we see Anakin develop from a young adult age – remember Episode I is eliminated in this order – there’s this connection between him and Luke that wasn’t clear in any earlier viewings. And, according to Hilton, it makes the climactic battle between the two even stronger at the end of “Return of the Jedi.”

“I know that this idea has personally made the entire Star Wars franchise much more palatable to me, and I’m glad it could have a similar effect for others,” said Hilton.

To get a complete rundown of this order, check out http://static.nomachetejuggling.com/machete_order.html.

Topher Grace Order

According to Peter Sciretta’s article on slashfilm.com, actor Topher Grace made his own version of the Star Wars saga. And apparently, it’s only 85 minutes long.

“Topher Grace’s ‘Star Wars’ film is probably the best possible edit of the ‘Star Wars’ prequels given the footage released and available,” wrote Sciretta.

Grace, according to the article, wanted to experiment with film editing and decided to start with the “Star Wars” saga. He subsequently created an 85-minute film which used scenes from the prequels and original trilogy, music from “The Clone Wars” television series and dialogue from a C3PO audio book to create this new edition, according to the article.

While it isn’t public and probably won’t ever be, this order shows viewers yet another way the series can be watched. It shows the progression and rise of Anakin, his ultimate downfall and, according to the article, ends on a different note with Vader donning the mask.

To read up on this, check out the article here: http://www.slashfilm.com/topher-grace-edited-star-wars-prequels-85minute-movie/.

Fan Boy/Newbie Orders

Basically, these two orders call for viewers to watch one trilogy and not the other. Some may be happy with just watching the prequels and getting Anakin’s story, while others would prefer to see Luke’s journey.

Order 66 (still in the works)

This is the ultimate order.

This isn’t just Episodes I to VI. This isn’t just any random assortment.

This is the equivalent of the Jedi Purge.

In this order, viewers watch Episodes I and II back to back. Then, before Episode III, watch the entire “The Clone Wars” television series on the Cartoon Network. Until that series is finished, this order remains unfinished.

What this order does is it builds the continuity and expands the “Star Wars” universe far greater than the movies do. It gives viewers an overall sense of the “Star Wars” universe and what goes on.

Again, this isn’t for the faint of art and probably shouldn’t be attempted unless the viewer has a serious stake in obtaining full knowledge of both the force and “Star Wars.”

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Scribner.

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