Day Two of the Flick Nation “12 Days of Star Wars” continues with a big question: what order do you show the Star Wars films to a newcomer to the franchise?
As a father, a major rite of passage for my child was always going to be watching the Star Wars films. 8 years ago I was lucky enough to enter the realm of fatherhood when my amazing, awesome and beautiful daughter was born. While obviously there are many highlights to being a dad, in the back of my mind I was always scheming how I would introduce her to Star Wars. In addition to her many incredible qualities, my kid is also pretty sensitive when it comes to movies and she also skews towards the “girly” side of things. I’m not being a patriarchal jerk when I say that either, I’m merely pointing out she is really into LalaLoopsy, My Little Pony and all the awful Disney Jr. shows aimed at young girls. Thus getting her into Star Wars was no small feat because aside from Princess Leia and her mom Queen Amidala, there’s literally no female characters for young girls to identify with. Thus, I had to bide my time.
The announcement and recent excitement for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has become so palpable that a few weeks back my daughter started to hint she’d be down for giving Star Wars a shot where as previously, it was a firm line in the sand of “NO.” I think the turnaround was partially due to me never shutting up about the new trailers but also because she watched and was o.k. with Guardians of the Galaxy (thank you Gamora!). I also mentioned that if she caught up on her Star Wars, I’d take her to see the new one. So, my kid was interested but I found myself at a pretty heavy crossroad: what order do you introduce a kid to the Star Wars films.
Say what you will about Star Wars: Episode One The Phantom Menace (and I’m sure most of you could say a lot) but the biggest thing people seemed to miss was, it’s a film for kids, not for adults who wish they were still kids. Aside from some clunky writing, I think what bugged people about that film was that they missed the point in that weren’t really the intended audience. The adults going to see it were already money in the bank and George Lucas knew he needed to rope in a new generation of paying customers. Whether or not he succeeded remains to be seen. But that being said, clearly this film seems like an obvious choice to kick off viewing with my daughter. It’s geared towards kids, it’s the “first” movie and it’s kinda fun. Sure, Darth Maul is kind of scary but he’s barely in it and there’s butt-kicking Yoda to soften that blow. So, I was going to start with Phantom Menace because it seemed like the obvious choice. But then…
…I started thinking about the power of the Star Wars story. What makes it great (besides the classic heroes journey narrative and great characters, music and effects) are the twists. **FORTHCOMING SPOILER ALERT** I started remembering how shocking it was in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope when Obi-Wan is struck down by Darth Vader and better, how in Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back we discover who Luke’s father is which, for the uninformed, is truly shocking. Especially when he cuts Luke’s frigging hand off! Thanks, dad!
Even the reveal that Luke and Leia are brother and sister is a neat and exciting moment and all these things make the gradual turnaround for Darth Vader incredibly powerful and moving. If I showed my kid Phantom Menace first I’d then have to follow that with the natural order of the franchise (not the natural order of release dates) and all of the power and excitement would be removed from the viewing.
My other big issue (and I swear, I’ll never go into a rant about how “bad” the prequels are as that’s well covered territory and we should all move on) is that Star Wars: Episode 2 Attack of the Clones is incredibly boring. It’s like the veggies that have to be eaten in order to understand the world creation and why these factions started but holy hell is it dull. I don’t want to lose my kid after one movie due to a talky, ill-constructed snooze of a movie when there’s still 4 more to go. Add to that the aforementioned fact my kid is sensitive. Star Wars: Episode Three Revenge of the Sith is a seriously heavy movie. Anakin mows down a pack of young Jedi, Amidala dies during childbirth and then we watch Anakin half burn to death in hot lava. I’m not about to tell anyone how to raise their kid but I know my kid would not be down for that, at least not three deep into a series where there’s now 3 more films to get through. So, taking all of this into account (and I really did go over and over this…for weeks) I decided the best way to introduce my daughter to the Star Wars films was go in the original order.
The original order of release has more power to it. Plus, Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope is light and fun. It introduces all the characters every kid has heard of and then it leads right into Empire Strikes Back which features the introduction of the beloved Yoda. While Empire does get a bit heavy, it’s then backed up by Star Wars: Episode VI The Return of the Jedi which, as Dante from Clerks notes, is just a bunch of Muppets. Kids love Muppets and the story closes out nicely. But now we can go back in time to see how the events of the original Star Wars unfolded which again, starts with a kids movie about a kid. While yes, Attack of the Clones is a bore, my kid will be o.k. with that because, “look honey! Only one more movie left!” Never mind the nightmares that will comes from screaming, burning Anakin, that’s a problem for another time.
In my existential cinematic dilemma about how to get my daughter up to speed on the Star Wars universe, I did do research on the internet. However at the end of the day I had to go with my gut and go with what I found exciting about the franchise. Time will tell if I made the right choice and this winter break is going to be one helluva Star Wars marathon so we can see The Force Awakens in a theater.