What might have been in a galaxy far, far away
This week’s column is chock full of lightsabers and hyperspace. So. You’ve been warned.
My wife and I just finished re-watching the entire “Star Wars” — hexalogy? sextet? — whatever the kids are calling six films in a series. We watched the movies in a slightly different order, based on something I read on the Internet. According to the blogosphere, it’s called the “Ernst Rister Order.” It’s an ingenious way to look at all six films. You start with the original Star Wars theatrical release (Episode IV) then move on to episodes V, I, II, III and VI.
From a storytelling standpoint, this order makes a great deal more sense than watching the movies in chronological or even theatrical release order. You essentially start in the middle of the story, getting to know Luke, Leia and Han and the battles they face (Vader, the Empire, et al.); then you flash back to see the events that created the world these characters live in — and really the genesis of the characters themselves. It works quite well. The whole experience is like watching a very long movie with an extended flashback taking up the middle half of the story.
Unfortunately, this viewing order also throws into stark relief the metric ton of problems the Star Wars franchise has, mostly, I think, thanks to George Lucas’ decades-long obsession with telling this specific story.
I was lucky enough to get a hold of a copy of the original trilogy including DVDs of the original theatrical releases. The transfers weren’t great, but at least we didn’t have to put up with the extra CGI additions that ruin nearly every frame of the so-called “special editions.” I was happy about this because I knew I was going to be watching parts I, II and III and there would be enough to upset me without having to endure Lucas’ meddling with the original series.
The first three (chronologically, not by release date) installments are riddled with problems — too many to go into here. But let me just get off my chest that the Jedi Council must be the WORST JEDIS EVER if they can’t detect a Dark Lord of the Sith when they’re standing in the same room with him. I mean, in “Return of the Jedi” Luke and Vader are sensing each other’s presences in spaceships that are parsecs away from each other.
When you watch the films back to back, it also becomes clear these plots have more holes than a spaghetti strainer.
But you know what? I still love the story. And watching it in this order does create a pretty spectacular emotional impact. The weight of the story carries it deep into viewers hearts despite the storytelling problems. Anakin Skywalker’s fall and redemption (belated though it is) is a compelling story — a tragedy of human emotion, empathy run amok. I can only imagine how this story might have impacted me if it had been told more capably.
I imagine re-watching the entire saga every few years will be a tradition in my household. And I’ll doubtless enjoy it every time I watch; but there will always be a twinge in my heart as I think about how great these movies might have been.
Contact Timothy Hankins at (firstname.lastname@example.org)