As you are no doubt aware, the next installment in the latest Star Wars trilogy, The Last Jedi (Episode VIII), is opening in theaters nationwide this Thursday, December 14th at midnight. Whether or not it will be a frame-by-frame remake of The Empire Strikes Back (1980), like The Force Awakens and A New Hope (1977), has yet to be seen, but fans will undoubtedly be packing theaters to capacity from Friday until well into the New Year. If you already have a ticket for opening weekend, then let us know what you think. If not, however, you can still get your Star Wars fix by taking a brief (and by brief, I mean roughly 12-14 hours) refresher course with watching the series in “Machete Order.” Let me explain.
The Machete Order was first suggested by a fan of the series named Rob Hilton in preparation for the release of 2015’s The Force Awakens. According to Hilton, the machete order is a more effective way of watching the previous films, particularly for young viewers who are not familiar with the series. Obviously, with seven feature-length films and an eighth coming out this week, knowing where to start to get the full experience can be an overwhelming ordeal. Should you begin with the original trilogy and work your way up, or should you start with 1999’s The Phantom Menace and proceed chronologically?
Instead of doing either, Hilton offers an alternative. He recommends beginning with A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back (Episodes IV and V). Once these are done, the viewer then proceeds to 2002’s Attack of the Clones and 2005’s Revenge of the Sith (Episodes II and III) before concluding with 1983’s Return of the Jedi (Episode VI). To fans of the series, this may seem like an odd approach, but for people who haven’t seen any of the old movies, it’s actually brilliant, and here’s why.
The machete order of Star Wars places Luke Skywalker as its main character, an orphan who learns the ways of the mystical Force and becomes a warrior destined to save the galaxy from the rule of an oppressive empire. Viewers begin with the film that introduces him as a farmer isolated from his destiny on a desolate planet, A New Hope. Follow that with The Empire Strikes Back. This preserves the surprise of the famous, “I Am Your Father!” revelation by Darth Vader that would otherwise be spoiled by starting the series with The Phantom Menace and Anakin Skywalker. By extension, it also ruins the (albeit disturbing) surprise that Luke and Leia are siblings, and makes their smooch session in Empire Strikes Back a bit too creepy, but we’ll forgive Lucas for that one.
Now that you’re in the loop, go back to Attack of the Clones (it’s really not necessary to put yourself through The Phantom Menace) and watch the story of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi and how the former betrays the latter by turning to the Dark Side of the Force. With the origin stories of Luke, Vader, Kenobi, Yoda (kinda), and the Emperor intact, you can now complete the series with Return of the Jedi, before moving onto the new trilogy with The Force Awakens.
The machete order also retains Luke Skywalker as the main character throughout the entire series, from original trilogy, to prequels, to present trilogy. If you begin chronologically with The Phantom Menace, however, the first Skywalker you meet is Anakin, who goes onto become Darth Vader. While he is an important character in the story, Vader plays more of a supporting role in the original trilogy, especially in A New Hope. He is also not even present in the new trilogy (Episodes VII-IX), which follows Luke in his later years as a new order once again threatens the freedom of the galaxy. Although it’s possible we might see Anakin in the new films, his role would ultimately remain a supporting one, maintaining Luke as the focal point of the overarching story.
Star Wars has touched generations of moviegoers since day one on May 25, 1977. Despite a shipwreck of a production, the original film won six Oscars for Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Original Score. The series has gone onto receive numerous awards for its achievements in special effects, and has remained a source of inspiration for moviemakers and visual artists alike. If you know someone, a friend or family who has never seen the movies, I might suggest sitting down and watching the series with them before going to see The Last Jedi in theaters. Tickets are already available but may be sold out at this point, but feel free to check online for ticket information in theaters near you. Enjoy!