Machete Order: Did You Know You Were Watching Star Wars Wrong?

Posted on Friday, December 11th, 2015 by

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Geoffrey Reynolds
Exclusive to Blade Brand Edge

One question resounds across all corners of the internet by Star Wars fans, and it isn’t “who shot first?” (Because c’mon, we all know Han did.) It’s a problem almost unquestionably unique to Star Wars: “In what order do you watch them?” It’s a strange phenomenon. It has to be the only film series where watching them in their numeric order actually spoils its most celebrated plot point, especially for a new viewer. Watching them in their chronological order doesn’t help either because watching the villains win in the last movie doesn’t mean as much when you’ve seen them defeated in the third. But if you’re someone who wants to rewatch them all before the release of The Force Awakens, or one of the lucky few that gets to introduce them to someone who’s actually never seen them, I’m about to let you in on the secret that is known to fans as the Machete Order.

In 2011, an internet comments section user known only as “Machete” addressed the issues of watching Star Wars in both their episode order, and their release order. Watching the prequels first doesn’t work because nearly everything they do is in service to the original trilogies story. Watching the original movies first is no better, as you end a six movie marathon on a down note that doesn’t conclude the story. His solution? Watch the first two original movies, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, then watch just the last two prequel movies, Attack of the Clonesand Revenge of the Sith, and then conclude the story with the last original film, Return of the Jedi. 4, 5, 2, 3, 6. This is Machete Order. Why do it this way? Well…

Star Wars is where a new viewer should begin. In the first film we meet Luke, Han, Leia and the struggle of the Rebellion vs. the Empire. Everything else doesn’t matter, just the story of a young hero saving a princess and the galaxy. The Empire Strikes Back expands on this. Luke begins training in earnest to become a Jedi as the Empire, well, strikes back. It’s also where we get our first two surprises of the series. First, the crazy muppet Luke finds in the swamp is actually the wise Jedi master Yoda, and second, the villainous Darth Vader is actually Luke’s father. If you watch the prequels first, you’ve already seen Yoda win a sword fight, and you’ve actually seen Luke be born. The most famous twist in movie history is spoiled by its own prequel. This is why we set up the story here, and by the time you have questions about how we got here…

We “flashback” to the prequels. But why go directly to the second episode? Because The Phantom Menace doesn’t matter. And I’m not saying this as a cranky fan that doesn’t like Jar Jar Binks. The closest thing to a main character the movie has, Qui-Gon Jinn, is dead by the end of the film, and so is the movies chief villain, Darth Maul. It’s not important to see how Obi-wan came to teach Vader, only what happens when he does. In fact, many aspects, such as the fact that Vader was once a slave, are better left to interpretation rather than being shown. So instead we start the flashback on Episode 2. Rather than meeting Vader as a child with a heart of gold, we meet him as a troubled yet talented boy on the cusp of adulthood, just like Luke.

As the prequels proceed, we see how Palpatine became the Emperor, who was only previously shown as a menacing hologram in The Empire Strikes Back. We also see how Anakin rushed into his romance with Amidala, and how the creation of clone troopers would first hint that the noble Republic would morph into the evil Empire. All of this informs what the viewer already knows without spoiling it. And then there’s the crowning achievement of this order for a new viewer: Luke and Leia are siblings. When this was originally revealed in Return of the Jedi, it was by Obi-wan’s ghost while having a chat with Luke. Here, it’s revealed when they’re born, a twist that works so much better it’s almost amazing it wasn’t planned specifically for this viewing order.

Lastly, we conclude with Return of the Jedi, which serves to wrap up all plot lines, even the ones that weren’t shown until 20 years later. When we watch this film we have a better understanding of Vader, a greater hatred for the Emperor, and Han Solo has been frozen in carbonite for two films, raising the tension. This is Machete Order; a simple way for Star Wars fans and neophytes to watch these films that not only preserves the story and its twists, but in some cases, enhances them.

Join is back here once more for the finale of our Star Wars series: a review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.


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