I was born a Star Wars fan. It wasn’t my choice. My father still has unopened Han Solo action figures from his childhood displayed on shelves, placed right next to the Boba Fet you know was unwrapped and played with and loved, because it’s lost its head (ironic, right?) There are a few series we enjoy watching as a family, over and over again, ones that never get old. Star Wars is at the top of that list, rivaled only by Lord of the Rings.
As Star Wars fans, there’s the routine debate as to which order to watch the movies in. The order in which they were originally released, or the one that follows chronological order? I don’t know why we bother debating, because my father always wins. Perhaps it’s become a kind of tradition. We argue, we debate, we make bold and extravagant hand gestures, we watch them chronologically: 1, 2, 3…4, 5, 6. Begin with the Phantom Menace, end with Return of the Jedi. As the widely quoted phrase (at least in my house) goes, “You have to let George Lucas disappoint you in the order in which he intended” (Sheldon, Big Bang Theory).
Well, recently, it became a bit more complicated.
Mason High School gets a lot of students from out of the country coming to study in the U.S. A girl in her junior year, Gel, just began riding my bus this year. In fact, she moved into my neighborhood, twelve houses or so down the street. During one of the half-awake mornings we’re waiting for the bus, sometime last week, I began rambling about the franchise. I’d just re-watched the new trailer for Rogue One, the one where you can see Darth Vader in the last millisecond clip. Gel said some comment along the lines of “Oh, yeah, isn’t he the famous father of someone? There’s that one famous line, right?”
I don’t know that I could describe to you the expression that came across my face as the realization rapidly hit me: there was an actual, real-life, uncorrupted, unspoiled, unaware teenager standing in front of me.
Our family discussion that night was all but eccentric. It’s one thing to decide what order to watch the movies in. But what order to introduce the movies? We weren’t so sure we knew the definite answer. If she doesn’t know who Darth Vader is, is it right to deprive her of the big reveal in Empire Strikes Back? Is it right to shove Lucas’s prequel movies aside, skip right over them and dive into 4? You wouldn’t expect this decision to be so stressful, but it’s a big deal. I’ll show my kids the same way my father showed me, but I’m not sure there’ll be too many other chances to show someone who you can see comprehend what each reveal means.
My suggestion was frowned upon at first, the rest of my family members tossing the recommendation aside, but I found their lack of faith disturbing. I suggested we watch 1 & 2, then 4 & 5, and finally 3 & 6. Hear me out. This way, you get to see who Anakin is, see him grow from a boy into a Jedi, making the reveal in the 5th movie that much more impactful. Then, after the reveal, you can go back and see how on earth Anakin went from lovable teenager to ruthless tyrant, and because you know what’s going to happen, it adds to the suspense. Finally, not knowing which way Anakin is going to lean, light or dark, you watch the finale, where the chosen one finally completes the prophecy and brings balance to the force by killing the Emperor. The single most epic way to show someone the incredible galaxy for the first time.
We’re taking that gamble. We’re jumping from trilogy to trilogy to merge the best with the best, and put the story together in the best way we can manage. Gel will only see these movies for the first time once. It’s important to make them count. I’m not sure she’s as excited as we are to invite her over for dinner a few nights and hold our marathon, but you have to remember, she doesn’t know how spectacular the galaxy far, far away really is.