(Author’s note: there are really minor spoilers of the original and prequel trilogy, but there are no spoilers for Rogue One in the blog post ahead)
I was a huge Star Wars as a kid. I first encountered it in 1st or 2nd grade when I checked out a Star Wars juvenile paperback from the library and subsequently mispronounced “Jedi” when raving about it to my mom. Ultimately, my mom was the gateway to my soon-to-be obsession when she borrowed the VHS tapes for the original trilogy from the library, and we watched them as a family. Other than being very scared of Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back and needing my parents to cover my eyes, I was fully engrossed in every moment.
Many years and extended universe (now known as “Legends”) novels later, my Star Wars fandom has waned. However, it was given that I would see Rogue One. We ended up seeing it with Julie’s parents, and overall, I enjoyed it. I thought it was better than The Force Awakens, though seeing the gritty side of the Rebellion made me somewhat uneasy. I also was weirdly confused with the Michael Giacchino soundtrack sounding just like Star Trek, but that’s a minor issue.
In the car ride back from the movie theater, we talked about the merits and plot holes in the movie. Someone asked where Rogue One fit into the proper viewing order of the Star Wars movies, and of course, the Machete Order came up.
For your friends who have inexplicably never seen any Star Wars movies, the Machete Order (4, 5, 2, 3, 6) is the right way to go. It’s better than the episode order because you still get the big reveal at the end of 5, and it’s better than release order because you end with closure. Episode 1 is dropped for being largely unnecessary. When watched in this order, the Star Wars saga really becomes the story of Darth Vader: you watch his introduction, origin, downfall, and redemption. It’s very Godfather-esque.
Of course, in the car, I confidently explained from my memory of the movies having never watched the movies in Machete Order. Since Julie was fuzzier on the details of the movies, and we had the DVDs at my parents house, and I can’t watch Star Wars enough times, we went back and did it.
Despite having watched the original trilogy dozens of times, I last remember watching any of them at least 8 years ago, and at some level, the movies are just as fresh in my mind. I still know the scenes beat by beat with trash compactor numbers and facial reactions burned into my memory. Julie heard plenty of behind-the-scenes trivia and was directed to background details, all of which I had a moral obligation to share.
Surprisingly, I also noticed aspects of the movie I hadn’t considered before. Han ends up in a block of carbonite because of Jabba’s death mark on him, a seed planted in his encounter with Greedo in the cantina. From a writing perspective, you could totally imagine how George Lucas could have ignored that little encounter and gone in a completely different direction.
A similar but even longer-lasting tidbit was Luke asking Obi-Wan, “You fought in the Clone Wars?” It might have been a random bit of world-building when Lucas wrote it the first time. With the growth of the franchise and story, however, Lucas needed to write the concept of clones into the entire prequel backstory.
Speaking of the prequels, I get more of the criticism now. The writing in Episode 2 is pretty awful. Using Jar-Jar to enable Chancellor Palpatine feels sloppy, Anakin is indeed annoying, and no actor could make the romantic dialogue watchable. Whereas the original trilogy was a fun adventure, the prequel trilogy feels heavy as Lucas tries to get the character and plot development he needs to successfully bridge into the known story. He just got trapped in his own creation and couldn’t make something better of it.
For my entire fandom, I saw the Star Wars movies like historical documentaries of this alternate universe. The people, events, and interactions are just a particular focus of a much larger history and should be accepted as the facts. This time, I watched them with fresh eyes really just as scenes played out by characters to express a story from some writer. These creations are commonly called “movies,” and it’s fascinating to see how a story comes together and is told.