Perfect Star Wars Viewing Strategy

17Apr12

A few things have come to mind recently, and they both concern and don’t concern our baby boy.There has been considerable outcry among my family and family-friends that I don’t write enough about Henry and don’t post enough pictures about Henry. Without getting too psychologically deep into it, I think the reason for the lack of Henry-based blogging from me is that a.) after spending the entire day with him on my mind every second, I enjoy the chance to talk or type about nearly anything else, and b.) there’s not a lot to tell. He recently got some severe diaper rash so we have to monitor his butt very closely which has earned me the nickname “Captain Butthole.” Hey, (some of) you asked for it.
So here’s a new one that will meld these two worlds together in a way kind of I guess maybe I don’t know for sure probably.

I remember when Rachel was about 5 months pregnant when I couldn’t sleep, and was tired of writing down potential names, so I went to our movie collection and just started rummaging through. I wondered when the best time would be to show him the things that we loved. “Best time” as in “he’ll enjoy it the most at this age” and “he’ll actually understand it enough to like it at this age.” I made a short list of some of the “Must See’s” and then took a stab at when I would introduce them (this is gonna make for a lot of weird birthday traditions). Movies like “Rear Window” can show up in the late teens I think, because I’d want him to be old enough to not just pass on it based on the limited cinematic flair. By 2017, everything will be 3-D anyway, so stuff like this requires maturity by the viewer to not be deemed simply “quaint.”

Naturally this led me to my introduction of “Star Wars” in the boy’s life, and it’s a topic I’ve grappled with for a long while, going back before we even talked about having children. The question isn’t “When?” in this case (around age five, I guess, or younger), but “How?” When I was younger, this decision seemed pretty straight forward. There were only three movies and that’s that. Now there are a total of six and the newer ones bring in questionable content. I’m afraid of exposing my baby to the prequel trilogy.

If I keep the prequels from him, and he ends up liking the Original Trilogy, then surely somewhere down the road he will discover the prequels and resent my hiding them from him. If I show him the prequels, then a.) will he like the whole series as a result? and b.) how should the movies be presented.

Dumbass Lucas thinks the series should be shown 1-6, which is why he’s a dumbass. And since I can’t be the only parent grappling with this difficult issue of “HOW TO PRESENT THE ‘STAR WARS’ SAGA TO MY CHILD,” I offer the following solution.
THE PERFECT ORDER:

STEP 1.) Start with “Star Wars,” the 1977 cut if possible. It makes the most sense to start here since it’s one of the best of the series, and it plays like an introduction. You can’t start off a 12-hour-long movie series with “Phantom Menace” and then get to Episode IV to hear a lecture about what the Force is and who’s who. “Star Wars” was written as an introduction, so let it be just that.

STEP 2.) Follow with “The Empire Strikes Back.” This makes sense because you’re getting to the heart of the real story of the entire series at this stage. By sticking with the Episode IV to Episode V strategy, you also preserve some reveals and surprises. If you did the whole 1-6 chart like Lucas recommends, then wouldn’t kids be confused by “Empire?” “Daddy, why doesn’t Luke know that’s Yoda?” Also, the big shock of learning that Darth Vader is Luke’s father isn’t ruined by not only 6 previous hours of prequel movie, but 6 BADLY ACTED hours of prequel movie.

STEP 3.) Play the trailers for “The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones” instead of the full movies. Play all of the trailers if you want. You get all the stuff you’d want from that movie and none of the mess. You even get some Darth Maul action — and 50% of his dialog! The reasoning behind this route is that now that we’ve got all our cards on the table about who’s who (except for Leia), we’re ready for what can essentially be a flashback. After the kid reels from learning that Darth Vader is Luke’s dad, he’ll be more interested in that character. And since you’ll probably want to show him as little of Teen-Anakin in “Clones” as possible, this is the best solution. If you or your child insists on watching the full movie, that’s your load to bare, and you’d still watch them in this slot. I for one am going to try my best to exercise tough love.

STEP 4.) Play Cartoon Network’s “Clone Wars” DVD’s. I still can’t believe how in the first minute of the first episode of this series of 3-minute cartoons, Genndy Tartakovsky and his team managed to give “Star Wars” fans more of what they wanted than 4 hours of prior prequel action. The first scene is all essentials: Yoda, Anakin, Obi-Wan and Palpatine. The shorts are also super fun and action packed. The downside may be that it results in rising interest in such prequel characters as Kit Fisto and Mace Windu, but you can probably just distract your child with something shiny rather than subject him to the disappointing knowledge that there’s nothing more to tell. I’d even argue that by jumping right into the action-packed-ness of this series might add a layer of mystery to the back story that the prequels managed to thoroughly stamp out.

Another alternative is to let the boy play the first couple legs of “Lego Star Wars,” a game so well made that it almost fools you into believing that Count Dooku and Jango Fett are interesting, necessary characters.

STEP 5.) Play “Revenge of the Sith.” The “best” of the prequels manages to squeak in a full play in our running order if only because it contains (in Lucas’ words) 80% of the prequel story.*This helps. You don’t have to suffer through meandering adventures in robot factories or long detours on boring planets (can there be a more boring planet than Naboo? It’s just Italy. Italy on Earth is awesome. Italy as an entire planet though?… guh). You just get right to it, sort of like the prior cartoons. You’re still not spoiling any of the story either, unless you count the Leia-is-Luke’s twin thing, and in that case the reveal of that name (cried out in dying childbirth, no less) might serve as enough of a “Wow!” moment to distract your child from the fact that Padme is dying “from a broken heart.” But the best part about playing “Sith” now is that it doesn’t wreck our final chapter…

STEP 6.) Play “Return of the Jedi.” I said the original “Star Wars” was built as an intro, and this one was built as a finale. And it works great coming out of our brief prequel interlude. We just saw Yoda at his strongest, and now at his weakest. We saw the Emperor doing all kinds of nasty, but Luke doesn’t know just how powerful that nasty is. What’s most important is that we end spending time with characters we actually like and don’t want to punch in the nuts. It also ends on a positive note with the Empire being defeated and Luke sort of saving his father, but our new viewer has now spent just enough time with Anakin that he can like him, but not so much time with him that he thinks that you can slaughter a tribe of Sand People and still get Natalie Portman to love you.

*If “ROT Sith” is 80% of the prequel story, then I think that means 15% is for “Phantom Menace,” leaving 5% for “Attack of the Clones,” which explains why “Clones” is practically worthless.

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