Star Wars movie viewing order… from a certain point of view.
As many Star Wars fans are anxiously awaiting, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray today. A great first effort into the tales not involving a Skywalker and friends, it gives us a look into the bigger Star Wars universe, a universe many of us have played out in our minds with our beloved Kenner action figures.
However, being the first “standalone” film, the question is where it fits in the logical story order, and would it be a good film to introduce someone to Star Wars. For me and many or my friends, the Machete Order (link) is the new gold standard for watching the movies. For those unfamiliar, Machete starts with episode IV (Star Wars: A New Hope), followed by episode V (The Empire Strikes Back), II (Attack of the Clones), III (Revenge of the Sith), VI (Return of the Jedi), VII (The Force Awakens), etc. with episode I (The Phantom Menace) being able to be viewed at any point, or not at all. This viewing order makes the best sense, preserving the famous twist from episode V, while giving the plot points of the prequels a little more weight.
To fans, it’s simple: Rogue One belongs just before episode IV. The movie leads right into the opening scene of the 1977 classic and they tie together beautifully. It is also good enough to bring in new fans to what many of us loved when we first saw a Star Wars movie. But how about the non-Star Wars fan, or someone who has never seen the films before? I asked my buddy, Robert, that very question as he just introduce his friend, Lyra (name changed to protect the innocent), to the saga in the last couple weeks. This is what he found out.
First movie: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story
“First 30 minutes I found to be very confusing” says Lyra, echoing a critique even Star Wars heavies like Rob and myself have. “[But] the next hour and a half were very entertaining, and I knew what they were trying to do. It was very good and deeper than I imagined.” Mission accomplished, Rogue…Rogue one. But dat last scene, tho! “Then the last 2 minutes happened and I was as confused, or more confused than at the beginning.” Lyra had witnessed something Star Wars fans had been clamoring for since the announcement of the prequels, SPOILER ALERT, Vader goes Vader. Now to a non-fan whose first run is this movie, it seems to come out of nowhere. But after discussing it with Rob, that’s a good thing. “The confusion had her intrigued. She didn’t know who this guy was, why he was going crazy, and what the deal was with the ‘light sword’. From that point on she wanted to see more.” And there is no better feeling than hooking in someone new. Onto the classics:
Second movie: Episode IV – Star Wars: A New Hope
“WOW, this is much more layered than I thought it would be. Good characters too. I liked it. You were right, it’s more fantasy than sci-fi.” Yes Lyra, the original brought people in with amazing characters and lore that you can easily lose yourself in.
Third movie: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
“No. I am your father!” Lyra slowly turned her head with eyes wide open and mouth falling ajar. “WHAT!?” That was the general reaction when many people saw it for the first time, in the most critically acclaimed film in the series. “This is so much deeper and layered than I ever thought it could be. And ‘I Love you, I know’ was hilarious!”
Fourth movie: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
“I like this. I hope they get together.” Interesting. As the first “flashback” episode in the Machete Order, it gives insight into who Anakin Skywalker is and who he becomes. Trust me, it works this way. “What’s with all the hands and arms being chopped off?” Don’t worry, it’s a Star Wars thing.
Fifth movie: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
“More Hands being cut off!! I think that was my favorite so far! I really knew what was going on and could follow it very easily. But it is DARK! And Luke and Leia are twins!? WOW! I LOVE Yoda!” Yes, this is considered the best of the prequels and a favorite amongst many of the more recent fans. This is also where many of the older fans expected to see the badass Vader that we ending up seeing in Rogue One. Better late than never I guess.
Sixth movie: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
“This is by far my least favorite of ALL!! Jabba is disgusting. This whole thing is horrible!” Usually intergalactic gangsters get more respect. But once the first act was done Lyra liked that the movie got back on the Skywalker track. “Ok so I am liking this MUCH better since they left Jabba.” The struggle with Luke and his father, temptation from the Emperor, and the ultimate redemption won Lyra over. “WOW, so I started off hating it but I think now it’s the best one!”
Seventh movie: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
“I’m a little confused with the new characters but I really want to know who Rey is!” Lyra enjoyed it but has many questions, and like the rest of us is anxiously awaiting the future episodes.
The Floater: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
Rob hasn’t shown Lyra this one yet. Mainly because in the grand scheme the movie has little impact on the overall story. It’s a nice intro to some of the characters, but the timeline difference between this and episode II makes anything that happened inconsequential. If anything, The Phantom Menace could be the first real Star Wars standalone movie.
So, there you have it. A new fan’s point of view on seeing the greatest saga of all time. Lyra did mention to Rob that she would like to marathon watch the movies, and Rob is considering trying a different order. Experiment with chronological order, release date, or even watching the trilogies separately. Find what works for you. And if you haven’t seen it on digital download yet, get the DVD or Blu-Ray as Rogue One may very well be your favorite Star Wars movie yet.
Haven’t seen Rogue One yet? Lucky you it comes out on DVD today and here’s one of the trailers.