When people talk about Star Wars, they are invariably talking about the Original Trilogy. Beginning with what became Episode IV: A New Hope in 1977, continuing thru Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 and ending with Episode VI: Return of the Jedi in 1983, the Original Trilogy tells one of the best stories in film, and is listed as one of the best trilogies of all time.
Watching the Original Trilogy was one of the highlights of my youth. Sitting down as a family on a single Saturday afternoon and watching all three movies for the very first time will be a memory that always stays with me.
However, the same will not always be the same for future generations, and that is because of the Prequel Trilogy. The PT takes away most of the shock value that is inherent in both Empire and Jedi. We already know that Luke and Leia are brother and sister after watching the PT, and we know that their father, Anakin Skywalker, has become Darth Vader. One of the single greatest lines in all of film loses all of its surprise if you have watched the PT before watching the OT.
But story wise, should you not watch Episodes I thru III first? I say no, and on the recommendation of a friend of mine, that is what I didn’t do this week. I watched the films in such a way as the shock and surprise of the OT is still viable.
By starting with A New Hope, you still get to experience Star Wars the way it was first intended (of course, this is not taking into account new footage added thru the years, but such is what we have today), meeting Darth Vader for the first time, the story of Luke Skywalker, out to avenge the death of his father at the hands of said Darth Vader, the full “love triangle” of Luke-Leia-Han, and the full beauty of a badass Vader as well.
Following this up with The Empire Strikes Back, we still get the unsuredness of meeting Yoda, who doesn’t admit to being Yoda at first. We also get our first passing view of the Emperor, and the seeming control he has over Vader. We also get the full benefit of one of the best lines to ever appear in a film when Vader lets Luke know what became of his father.
Is Vader really Luke’s father? Is he really Anakin Skywalker? This is where two of the three parts of the PT come into play. For the greater good of the story, we can completely eliminate A Phantom Menace from this and just go right to Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Here we get to see a younger Obi-Wan Kenobi training Anakin Skywalker to become a Jedi. In this movie we get to see Anakin fall in love with Padme, we see the introduction of the Clone Wars, which is mentioned in A New Hope, and we actually get to see that Yoda is one helluva badass Jedi.
From here, we go to Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. In this movie, we see the unveiling of Chancellor Palpatine as the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, the mastermind behind the Separatist Movement that causes the Clone Wars. We see the fall of Anakin to the Dark Side of the Force, and his eventual fall to becoming Darth Vader. We get to see the birth of Luke and Leia and the confirmation that Vader is in fact the father of Luke and the realization that Luke and Leia are brother and sister (Dude, you kissed your sister). We see the rise of the Galactic Empire, the destruction of the Jedi, and the exile of Yoda and Obi-Wan. We also get to see the wonder that was the briefly alluded to lightsaber duel between Vader and Obi-Wan.
Finally, Return of the Jedi, the culmination of this watch list. We see the “passing of the torch” from Yoda to Luke, we see Luke struggling with the lure of the Dark Side. We also get to see Luke and Leia’s reactions to finding out they are brother and sister. We also get to see the Emperor in action in back-to-back films this way, and we finally get the pay-off of Luke winning his father back over when Vader, or maybe even Anakin, throwing off the Dark Side and throwing the Emperor down a shaft to save Luke.
By watching the five films in this order, you get two films about Luke growing to become a Jedi. At the end of this arc, we get the shock of Vader saying he is Luke’s father. We then watch two films about Anakin and his fall to become a Sith, and we get to see that he is the father of not only Luke, but Leia as well. And then we get the final film, which ties everything all together and pays off all the story lines.
George Lucas likes to say that all six films chart the fall of Anakin and his retribution at the end, but by watching only five films and passing on Episode I, we get parallel stories about a son and his father and how they save a Galaxy from Evil together. And in all honesty, that sounds pretty damn awesome.
For this and more, follow me on Twitter @kymayer. Today brings Expendables 2, so check in later for a quick review. Cheers.