‘Star Wars’ marathon ahead of the big day? Try the ‘machete order’

Story highlights

Star Wars fan recommends watching the existing films in a new order

'Machete order' begins with 1977 original, skips Episode I altogether

Inventor says this allows improved sense of coherence between storylines

CNN  — 

Before you start that “Star Wars” marathon ahead of the release of “The Force Awakens,” you might want to pause and decide which Blu-ray to put in the player first.

One fan suggests that the order George Lucas intended isn’t the best way to get to grips with the space saga. Whether you’re coming to it fresh or a diehard fan, he suggests you try the “machete order” instead.

Rod Hilton, a blogger and programmer who lives in Colorado, wrote a lengthy post on his blog, Absolutely No Machete Juggling, analyzing the fan-favorite series back in November 2011. In it he suggests that Episode I need not necessarily come first and instead he recommends starting, the way anyone over the age of ten did, with Episode IV: A New Hope.

Eschewing the two traditional ways to watch the series – the order it was created (Episodes IV to VI, followed by Episodes I to III), and the canonical order (Episode I through VI) – he suggests a new order, to create a new, more immersive experience. He also asserts that both the release and episode order are problematic and reveal spoilers for newcomers to the Star Wars universe, including the big one.

Reinventing Star Wars canon

It’s a compelling argument, and one that has convinced many, including superfan, comedian Patton Oswalt. It suggests that viewers begin with Luke Skywalker’s story, and joining the action when the Rebel Alliance is just striking its first blow against the Galactic Empire, before carrying on with “The Empire Strikes Back,” the second Star Wars movie to have been made, in 1981.

“Putting the prequels in the middle allows the series to end on the sensible ending point (the destruction of the Empire) while still beginning with Luke’s journey” Hilton writes.

At the critical “I am your father” cliffhanger of the second film, Hilton suggests we jump back in time to Episode II, to learn more about Anakin Skywalker, Luke’s father who becomes the ultimate bad guy, Darth Vader.

It’s an extended back story, which culminates in the eventual transformation of Anakin into Vader, setting the viewer up nicely for the finale of “Return of the Jedi” and the defeat of the Empire.

“I think to a lot of fans, Star Wars is Luke Skywalker’s story. Unfortunately, the prequels kind of refocused the entire saga on Anakin and made it his story – which doesn’t work as well because he’s not a sympathetic or engaging character,” Hilton told CNN via email.

“Machete Order includes the bulk of the prequel material… but Luke’s position as the narrative center is restored.”

The full order is: Episode IV, V, II, III, VI.

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Missing something?

Eagle-eyed readers will notice a glaring omission in the machete order – namely, Episode I. While many Star Wars fans will breathe a sigh of relief at this – it has widely been panned ever since its 1999 release – in his post, Hilton states simply that the first movie is “irrelevant.”

“The opening crawl of Episode II establishes everything you need to know about the prequels: a bunch of systems want to leave the Republic, they are led by Count Dooku, and Senator Amidala is a senator who is going to vote on whether the Republic is going to create an army,” the post asserts.

There are several advantages to starting at Episode II, Hilton says – including the removal of confusing and unnecessary subplots – and one’s a big one.

Skipping Episode I means “Virtually no Jar-Jar (Binks). Jar-Jar has about 5 lines in Episode II, and zero in Episode III.”

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The character is widely derided as an annoying, irritatingly clumsy, goofy and, more darkly, an even racist creation.

Machete order largely removes this irritant by ignoring the episode in which he is most prevalent.

Hilton relates the story of watching the movies in his custom sequence with a Star Wars newbie friend. At the end, he asked if she if she found Jar Jar annoying.

She responded, “who’s Jar Jar?”

Greater sense of coherence

For the fans who don’t want to completely disown the prequels, the order allows an improved sense of coherence between what often seems to be two completely unrelated storylines.

“With Machete Order, the Star Wars-watching experience gets to start with the film that does the best job of establishing the Star Wars universe, Episode IV, and it ends with the most satisfying ending, Episode VI.

“Two films of Luke’s story, two films of Anakin’s story, then a single film that intertwines and ends both stories.”

Hilton says he’s not sure if JJ Abrams’ next installment will invalidate his viewing order, but nonetheless he’s looking forward to the movie coming out.

“I think Episode VII looks pretty good, at least from the marketing material. It seems pretty clear that JJ Abrams is being very mindful of the desires of fans, which I think is going to be well-received.”

And for completionists? Hilton recommends that if the spurned episode must be watched, it be treated as an appendix to the series.

“If you want to watch Episode I, I’d recommend doing so separately, sort of like an ‘anthology’ film.”

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