Thursday, January 17, 2013

Star Wars: Machete Order Review (Part 3)

I don't know if anyone remembers that I was doing a review of a special way to watch the Star Wars series, but I was! I took a break for a couple reasons, though mostly I'm lazy and tend to chafe at time restrictions or feeling forced to do something (even watch Star Wars). Also, I found out I was getting the Blu Rays for X-mas, so that probably helped too.

In case you don't know what I'm talking about, check out the previous posts in this series:

See Part 1 - In which I refer to the Machete Order article and watch Episode IV.
See Part 2 - In which I watch Episode V, my personal favorite.

Now, as a refresher for part 3, I've watched IV and V again (in Blu Ray!). I won't go over them in regards to Machete Order again, though I will say I like some of the digital touch ups they've done in this edition but HATE how they've changes some things (notably, the original voice of Boba Fett was replaced to be congruent with the prequels). A positive was that the cantina shooting scene looks smoother than ever before, even if Han still isn't shooting first.

Ok, now on to Part 3, the most difficult transition proposed in Machete Order. I've skipped Episode I and am moving directly from Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back to Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

The beginning is... well, a bit difficult. Unfortunately, there are a some things that don't transition well. We meet the major players fairly early on, but they quickly make references to things that occur in Episode I. This leaves you feeling that, overall, introductions could be better. I still uphold that Episode I doesn't do a good job of it either, so it's not so much a loss as it is more jarring -- characters like R2-D2 are taken for granted where a new viewer would probably want to know why he's travelling with this strange senator-lady.

From there, however, it's mostly just a test of memory -- as long as the viewer remembers that Obi-Wan was Anakin's master and Anakin turns into Darth Vader, this movie is especially poignant  We see them laughing together, having a strong relationship that isn't supported by anything from Episode I, and we even go so far as to hear Obi-Wan joking that Anakin "will be the death of him." Ouch!

Anakin's character in this film is better related to Darth Vader than Episode I Anakin is. In fact, there are a couple of pit falls avoided here:
-The age gap between Padme and Anakin isn't so blatantly apparent (and creepy).
-Anakin is never shown as a purely innocent boy, so less blame is placed on Obi for training/raising him poorly.

I should probably put a caveat here. I have issues with each prequel film. As much as I love Star Wars, I think the directing in this film in particular was deplorable, the acting was sub-par by most actors, the script is surprisingly poor, and certain story elements really could have been done better (or avoided completely). So, when I say something is going well in these posts, I'm specifically referring to watching the films in Machete Order, especially for a new viewer. Nothing will make the quality of an individual film better. I won't harp on them any more or explain in detail why I dislike them -- the internet is full of enough posts. They've got the Star Wars stamp so I am at least somewhat fond of them, and we'll leave it at that.

Once we're past the slightly rocky opening, things stay on par. This episode is the beginning of the flashback that is directly answering the question everyone asked at the end of Empire: how did Luke's father become Darth Vader? Also, we're seeing things mentioned previously quicker:
-The Clone Wars, mentioned in A New Hope, start here.
-At the height of the Jedi Order, we're seeing what Luke may be able to do in the future, after he completes his training.  Note: the lightsaber fight at the end DOES make the fights in the originals looks very, very outdated. That's unfortunate, but they are some of my favorite parts in the New Trilogy that I won't complain (that much).
-We see a young Boba Fett and his father. This has the additional benefit of flushing out Boba's character better through seeing his father in action in ways we never see Boba. Note: I DO feel that this ruins some of Boba Fett's best characteristics from the originals, but that is something unavoidable if you're watching the prequels. At least it appears as if there is a reason for Boba being mostly silent -- he's had a rough life.

Slightly unexpected bonus: a connection is never made between Palpatine and Darth Sidious, though we should recognize Sidious as the (as of yet unnamed) Emperor. That means that there will be another revelation delivered in Episode III.

Unfortunately, we don't get to take Qui-Gon completely out of the series. I was hoping skipping Episode I would remove the confusion from when Obi explains to Luke that Yoda trained him, but Obi, in this film, has a conversation with Count Dooku and mentions Qui-Gon. Shucks. I guess this will make the ending of Episode III make a touch more sense, at least.

I do say, however, that this was mostly a success in regards to Machete Order. Once we past the slightly jarring opening, this is a much better follow up and allows us to skip Episode I, which I honestly don't feel adds anything worthwhile to the series.

For Part 4, I will be watching Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. This should be another strong transition, and not only because it's directly following Episode II. Some thinks to keep in mind going forward:
-We still don't know Luke and Leia are related.
-As of yet, no connection between Sidious and Palpatine have been made.
-Darth Vader is a bad, bad man with, as of now, no redeeming qualities.
-Boba Fett's father's head got chopped off.

The transition between Episode III and Episode VI is the last big jump Machete Order has to make, and I'm more than confidant that it will be the strongest one yet.

Any important facts that I missed in the transition between Episode V and II? Want to make an argument to include Episode I in the rotation? Let me know in the comment section below!

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