One of the magical things about Star Wars is that there are multiple ways to watch it. There’s release order (IV-VI, I-III), chronological order (I-VI) and a few variations of the “machete order” which either do or do not preserve The Phantom Menace (but since I do not put any of my babies in a corner, I’ll say IV-V, I-III, VI). I grew up on Star Wars as the Adventures of Luke Skywalker and Then His Dad, so when I came back to it last year and fell in love with it, I saw it in release order. It was incredibly fun and funny and amazing. But something funny happened: when I show my friends these movies for the first time, I get a whole different emotional experience depending on how I show it.
One friend was so naïve that while she knew the “I am your father” line, she didn’t know Anakin Skywalker was Darth Vader, so I showed it to her chronologically. Her emotional journey when the hero she followed since he was a kid went evil, was burned to a crisp, tortured his daughter and cut his son’s hand off was… phenomenal. The tension when Darth Vader meets Obi-Wan again was intense. When Vader fights Luke in Empire Strikes Back we were uncomfortable for other reasons. Will Vader tell him and how will Luke react? Will this series ever have any good in it or will it be incredibly sad throughout with no hope that light will prevail?
The thing about Star Wars is that it’s not like any other movie franchise. It can be held up and studied, squinted at, looked at upside down and right side up and the audience can see something different each time. Watch it in release order and you get all the surprise twists that happen to Luke. Watch it in chronological and you are met with an insane tragedy and the weight of all the mistakes Anakin Skywalker makes. Watch it in machete order and you get a little of both worlds. It will be fascinating to see what the sequels do with it.