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The force never wanes: Binge watching Star Wars offers insights on series

Frank Ready
Frank Ready

On Friday, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” will open in theaters across the country, giving fans just less than a week to reacquaint themselves with the previous adventures of Skywalker and company.

It’s easy enough. There’s Blu-ray, DVDs, digital downloads — maybe even that VCR you’ve been saving for just such an occasion.

If we’re being serious here (and we are absolutely not) the real question posed by a “Star Wars” marathon is in what order should George Lucas’ six original films be viewed. Is it best to watch them in order of theatrical release or according to chronology?

Rod Hilton says neither.

Hilton is a software programmer and blogger from Colorado. He wrote a lengthy post on his blog, “Absolutely No Machete Juggling,” detailing his layout for a radical approach to “Star Wars” marathon viewing.

Are you ready?

Machete Order goes: Episode IV, Episode V, Episode II, Episode III and, finally, Episode VI.

His theory is that by eliminating the segregation between prequel and sequel, the viewer can maintain the surprises and emotional wallop of the saga’s overall narrative. Hilton recommends skipping Episode I altogether (I watched “The Phantom Menace” for the first time in years on Friday and can confirm that it does, in fact, lift right out).

The Machete Order has caught on with the likes of actor/comedian Patton Oswalt, who endorsed Hilton’s approach earlier this year during an appearance on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”

Does it work? Is marathon viewing even a good idea? There was only one way to find out.

The following is log of my responses from throughout the day:

6:06 a.m., Saturday, December 12:

Using the Jaws of Life, I have deftly removed myself from bed, and I’m ready to begin today’s marathon experiment.

I’m feeling good — a little groggy, sure, but I’m anticipating an adrenaline rush the moment the first few bars of John Williams’ iconic score echo across my living room. That or I’ll be out like a light.

There’s oatmeal on the stove (I’m carbo-loading) and I’ve prepared a couple of hard-boiled eggs for protein.

I’ve been reading up on successful marathon runners and I really think that the key to all of this is pacing myself. That’s part of the appeal of the machete order. I’m starting off strong, slowing down a bit and then finishing at a solid clip.

If everything goes according to plan, I should be crossing the finish line early this evening. I’ll have people waiting with towels and a couple of bottles of Gatorade.

OK, here it goes.

“Star Wars: A New Hope” begins … now.

8:31 a.m.:

I’ve reached the first checkpoint of the course.

“Star Wars: A New Hope” was the perfect warm-up. I’ve settled into a steady stride and I think that by the time I start approaching heavier terrain with the “The Empire Strikes Back,” I’ll have really hit my groove.

My mindset is optimistic. I realize that I still have over eight hours of road ahead of me but at this point I like my odds.

I’m not trying to be a hero — no, that title is reserved for the brave young men and women who will be watching all seven movies in crowded theaters later this week sans the earthly comforts of pillows and footrests.

I’m not that strong.

But if I can make it through this experience with my love of “Star Wars” intact, it will be a victory.

I’m taking a brief bathroom break and rehydrating. After that, it’s back to the couch. The worst thing that I could do right now is break my momentum.

Onwards and upwards to “The Empire Strikes Back.”

10:58 a.m.:

Wow. What a rush.

I just finished “The Empire Strikes Back,” and my endorphins are doing somersaults. Morale is at an all-time high, although I do wish that I had a downstairs bathroom.

I’m fidgeting a little bit more than I was during “A New Hope,” but I’m going to attribute that more to my failure to stretch pre-marathon than boredom.

On the plus side, I haven’t broken a sweat yet. Years of conditioning spent binging on Saturday morning cartoons and Netflix original series are finally paying off.

If I sound a little cocky it’s because pride goeth before the fall and I figure that if I’m going to do anything in chronological order today, it might as well be that.

At this point I’m fully invested in the story of Luke Skywalker and would love to skip straight to “Return of the Jedi,” but machete order dictates that my course take a slight detour through some bumpy terrain.

“Attack of the Clones” is next.

It’s an uphill climb from here on out.

2:18 p.m.:

I’ve hit a motivational dead zone.

“Attack of the Clones” was probably the most difficult leg of the marathon — mostly because it feels a lot like running in circles.

Also there’s a really gnarly smell that’s starting to follow me around my living room and I’m starting to suspect that Old Spice deodorant doesn’t have the staying power that I was counting on.

I need to rally ASAP.

My strategy is two-fold. I’m going to ditch my comfy sweatshirt and pajama bottoms in favor of something from my Nike collection. We’re talking the latest in Dri-FIT technology here, friends. This is fabric that breathes while still allowing for a full range of motion and comfort.

After that I’m making a run for provisions. I need something to keep my energy level and spirits high.

I’m going to try and be back here within 30 minutes. I still have two films to go and I’m already losing daylight.

“Revenge of the Sith” is up next.

6:05 p.m.:

So. Very. Close.

I just wrapped up “Revenge of the Sith,” and I have to say that this Machete Order is really working for me.

I’m restless. My eyes hurt. I am emitting an odor that I shall henceforth be referring to as sweat-sock jamboree — but I have to say that this is shaping up to be a perfectly legitimate way to experience the “Star Wars” saga.

The more immediate juxtaposition of the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker keeps all of the emotion and narrative tension from leaking out of the balloon too early.

I’m running on fumes, but I can see the finish line from here.

Bring on “Return of the Jedi.”

8:31 p.m.:

As silly as it sounds, I’d like to think that those little Ewoks were dancing for me at the end.

“Return of the Jedi” is done and with it, so is my “Star Wars” marathon.

For day that involved little to no physical activity I’m actually kind of tired. My eyes are killing me and there’s a voice in the back of my head that I suspect is on loan from my mother telling me that I wasted a perfectly nice day outside sitting in front of the TV.

On the other hand, they pay me to sit inside and watch TV so I must be doing something right in life.

Do I still love “Star Wars”? Sure.

Am I still excited to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on Thursday? Absolutely.

Do I feel the need to do anything like this again? I’d be willing to do a half-marathon in the event of a fifth Indiana Jones movie.

Now, I do believe the time has come for me to take a shower, put on some clean clothes and resume life among the living.

I am longing to have an interaction with someone whose dialogue wasn’t written by George Lucas.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

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