No - I Haven't Seen It
From the relatively high concentration of Star Wars-related posts on this blog, you might think I would have seen, and opined on, Episode III by now. But I haven't. Every day I die a little more, knowing that I've yet to see the new Star Wars film, and knowing that I've still got over a week to go. You see, I wanted to see it last Friday, the day after it opened, but my friends, my buddies, the two guys I will be seeing it with, insisted on waiting, not wanting to see it in a packed, mobbed theater. Sure, I technically could have gone to see it myself, but in truth I'm not quite hurting that badly. So we'll be going the Friday after Memorial Day.
In the interim I have been thinking quite a bit about what any good Star Wars-obsessed father is thinking about--in what order will I introduce the films to my kids? I have some time to ponder the question, given that my twin girls are 14 months old, and not quite ready for Star Wars goodness. Still, I'm leaning heavily already, even without having seen Revenge of the Sith, towards showing them in numerical order--Episodes I-VI.
A large part of this thinking is pure curiosity. I know what it's like to experience the story backwards; it's the experience all of us Star Wars fans have had. But I am very curious to see what kind of an impact the story has, what kind of a story it feels like, if watched in chronological order. Will it work? Or will it fall apart?
My strong suspicion is that it will work wonderfully. The most common argument I've heard for showing the films to a new generation in the original order is that it maintains that delicious shock of learning at the end of Empire that Vader is Luke's father. Fair enough. However I think there could be a new payoff, one that we original fans didn't get, that could be just as juicy. It seems to me that the finale of the series, with Vader being redeemed, pretty much at the last possible minute, would be that more powerful if you had seen the earlier series first--if you had seen him as Anakin and not just as Vader.
Why? Think about the impact of the first series if you don't know the whole story, think about the surprise, the real shock you would have felt, if, as a twelve-year old watching Episode III, you saw all the Jedi suddenly wiped out. I can imagine it being a truly amazing experience to see these first three films cold, all throughout the third expecting the Jedi to, at the last minute, triumph and defeat Sidious and the Sith, and save the galaxy. And then to see them fail, to be completely destroyed, and to see who you thought was going to be the hero, the Jedi whom you thought would finally embrace his destiny and save the galaxy, instead turn to destroying it.
Now imagine seeing him finally, after six films, calim the promise you learned about way back in the first film, by killing the Emperor and saving the galaxy. Vader killing the Emperor has always been for me one ofthe films' most powerful moments. But I have to think it would be more powerful if I had seen the films in story-order.
I really do think that this prequel trilogy, if divorced from the originals, has the potential to be much more powerful than I think it's typically given credit for. And I, for one, am fascinated to see how it will work on children who know absolutely nothing about Star Wars.
(Yes; this basically means that I only had children in order to use them as guinea pigs in experiments like this. Deal with it.)