Read part 4 here!
The final gap in Machete Order has been crossed and I've finished watching the series in this new order.
Before I announce whether or not I support the changes, let's delve into how well Return of the Jedi connects with Revenge of the Sith.
First, the title, "Return of the Jedi" is perfect for following the film in which we see how the Jedi Order was decimated. An unanticipated bonus. The opening scene of Jedi features Vader landing in a shuttle on the New Death Star (another bonus, it's been three films since we've seen a functional Death Star instead of just one film between sightings) and exiting the shuttle. It's a nice intro to Darth Vader, who we saw newly minted at the end of last film. Also, some mention of the Emperor, which means we'll see Palpy soon!
BAM! We're in Tatooine, watching the rescue efforts. When we see Luke, he looks MUCH more mature than in Empire --one year has passed since then and, thanks to the prequel "flashback", it actually feels like a good amount of time has passed.
Boba still goes out like a chump.
The movie progresses without issue. We finally see Palpy, who looks like walking death (hard to imagine him in the fight scene with Yoda from Revenge of the Sith, but I guess it has been over two decades...). Some contention between Vader and his master, which is fitting -- Vader should probably be more bitter than he is about walking around in a mobile coffin.
Yoda mentions there's another Skywalker with his last breath -- Luke is one step closer to realizing Leia's his sister, which fans can now anticipate (instead of thinking Yoda's a crazy old coot).
Another moment of solid foundation for Machete Order comes when ghost Obi-Wan explains to Luke how he trained Anakin, thinking he could do as good as Yoda. Without Episode I in the rotation, we have no direct contradiction that Yoda wasn't involved in Obi's training, and we don't know that it was actually Qui-Gon that wanted to train Anakin. This being a pet peeve of mine, I'm glad it's no longer an issue.
Of course, we do get set back a bit when Leia tells Luke that she remembers her real mother... Wait, what? Didn't we just see her "lose the will to live" after popping Leia out? Fans can argue that it's a Force thing or maybe she's recalling a foster mother that died, I'm more on the side that Lucas made yet another error.
Then again, that's not really a Machete Order thing, because that's still a glaring oversight no matter WHICH order you watch the movies. So I guess we can call it a wash.
The final scene between Palpy, Luke, and Vader is a nice scene to compare with Anakin's fall in Revenge -- before, Anakin chose to save the Emperor from Mace Windu. Now, he saves Luke from Palpatine. Either Vader had a change of heart and has finally made the right decision, or he's really, really fond of the underdog. Either way, Palpy is destroyed by the same man that helped secure his position of power in the first place.
Note: in the Blu Ray version, the "Nooooooo" dialogue from the end of Revenge is inserted when Vader picked up the Emperor and chucks him down the reactor shaft. Upon hearing about it, I was initially upset. After seeing it in action... it's actually not all that bad. MUCH better than the scene in Revenge, anyway.
And there we have it. This movie does lose it's one big reveal (that Luke and Leia are siblings), but it's handled so poorly in this film, it's not really an issue. We get a nice wrap up to the series and there are more than enough direct references to the events that occur in the prequel "flashback" to justify the interruption of the original trilogy. Well, at least as far as I'm concerned.
Do I support cutting Episode I completely from the series? YES! Watch it when you feel like watching the Ewok films as well, they're probably all pretty great for kids. Most people love Darth Maul (I'm not most people) and some people love podracing (the video game was pretty cool) -- throw it in and watch those scenes if you must, but otherwise we can do without Qui-Gon, child molester bait Anakin (I'm looking at you, Padme!), a child flying a spaceship and winning the battle when he can't see over the steering wheel, Jar Jar, etc...
I'm almost tempted to make an argument for cutting Attack of the Clones out -- it'd make the flashback shorter, it'd remove most of the horrible petulant Anakin moments, and, well, there'd be EVEN LESS Jar Jar! But, for now, I'm comfortable keeping it in the rotation.
Machete Order gets a 9/10 from me. It's almost perfect, with the transition between Empire and Clones being the weakest link. Other than that, I think it's a great idea and fully plan to expose my children to the films in this order. Well, if the Wife will let me.
Now, I've got some extra Blu Ray content to get to...