Tis the Season for “Star Wars”

First, I’m sorry for not posting more in the past few months, this semester has been crazy with exams and teaching.  I’m still hopeful for posting few more entries here in the waning days of 2010, starting with my review of Alexandre Desplat’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I score.  But for the time being I would like to veer slightly off the “film music” course again, though considering the level of much of the music in the films to be discussed below, I think I’m on safe ground for blogging. 

Dear reader, it’s almost Thanksgiving, so that can only mean one thing: Star Wars.  “What,” you ask?  You see, fearless reader, it was at this time of year that the darkest day in Star Wars history came to pass: November 17, 1978.  On that day, lo those many years ago, the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special aired on CBS stations nationwide.  And it is for this reason that every Thanksgiving-tide, it is the duty of all Star Wars fans to remember the day with a celebration of all that is good with the saga…in the hope that one day the black stain of the Special shall be removed – though, in all honesty, if you watch the Special with RiffTrax commentary, it is almost bearable…almost.  

To this end, I have been working over the past year to assemble the ULTIMATE Star Wars marathon.  Beginning with the question of what material is available on DVD that a fan can watch to completely immerse one’s self in Lucas-verse, I have scoured the internet and Amazon.com to cull all relevant materials together into one uber-listing.  Obviously, one can select to watch various materials as they wish, and one can even mess with the ordering itself.  One interesting variant I’ve read about is to watch Episodes IV and V and then hop back to watch I through III, in this way the big reveal of Vader as Luke’s father is not foreshadowed, and the events leading to Anakin’s fall is played as a flashback of sorts.

But if you are a purist and want to view everything in chronological order based on events in the films themselves, then I have assembled a list achieving just that.  Included, for your amusement/enjoyment/torture are: all six main theatrical films, all materials related to the Clone Wars (two animated series and one film), the DVD releases of material from the Droids and Ewoks animated series from the 1980s, the two live-action Ewok films (Caravan of Courage and The Battle for Endor) also from the 1980s, and in the name of being complete…the infamous Holiday Special.  I have also indicated future material where it has been speculated, just leave room for future growth.  So without further adieu, the ULTIMATE Star Wars Marathon (with my own “chapter” titles):  

A Saga Begins:
            Episode I: The Phantom Menace
            Episode II: Attack of the Clones
The Clone Wars:
            Clone Wars (2003) – Volume 1
            Clone Wars (2003) – Volume 2, Chapter 21
            The Clone Wars (2008) – Film and Television Series (see below)
            Clone Wars (2003) – Volume 2, Chapters 22-25
A Faustian Bargain is Struck and a Hero Falls:
            Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
A New Empire and Rebellion Begins:
            Droids animated series films (see PDF below)
            The Untitled Live Action Series, hopefully to begin in 2012
The Rebellion:
            Episode IV: A New Hope
            Star Wars Holiday Special
            Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Ewok Adventures:
           Ewoks animated series films (see PDF below)
           Caravan of Courage
           The Battle for Endor
An Empire Overthrown and a Hero Redeemed
            Episode VI: Return of the Jedi 

It’s a lot of material, I know.  At last count, with the continuing Clone Wars series, it is pushing over 40 hours.  Let that sink in…over Forty Hours.  And once both The Clone Wars and the untitled live-action series are done with, there will be well over 100 additional hours of material to watch (that’s if the live action series ever materializes).  

The hardest part about this marathon, though, is navigating the Clone Wars materials.  There are two different Cartoon Network series to work through, and the current series likes to jump around in time so that new episodes sometimes take place before prior episodes and one has to remember earlier material to put them in the proper context.  And while the Clone Wars film that was released in 2008 is basically taken as the zero point for the series, there have been two episodes that take place just prior to it.  To assist in any chronological viewing of the Clone Wars materials, I have assembled rough chronological listing of the episodes, one that adheres to the airing order as closely as possible, but also putting later episodes in order should they come before earlier ones.  But I will freely admit, I am guessing at some of the ordering, but it should at least demonstrate some logical coherence.  Though if anyone can help refine parts by pointing out little details, I gladly welcome it.

In the PDF linked below, I have divided the episodes into story arcs (the names are my own), and you’ll notice there are a few single episodes that are part of a larger grouping (the Pantora and Senate Intrigue arcs).  I have also grouped together two second season episodes that are homages to films by Akira Kurosawa, a major influence on George Lucas.  These are mainly stand alone episodes that are part of a larger trend in season two towards episodes that reference genre films and styles (noir, western, monster movie, and submarine films).  This is also why I titled the final arc of season two as “Once Upon a Time in Space.”  The story is of young Boba Fett’s quest for revenge against Mace Windu, and the score has a theme that is a call out to Harmonica’s theme from Once Upon a Time in the West

Finally, if you need a break from heavy drama or lame 80s cartoons, you can watch one of a number of Star Wars related media.  There is the Empire of Dreams documentary (available in the first box set release of the original trilogy in 2004) or the recently released film Fanboys, which makes one nostalgic for the optimism surrounding Episode I prior to its release.  There are also the numerous episodes of either Family Guy or Robot Chicken that spoof/parody the Saga.  Think of these as a way of stepping back from the abyss and gaining perspective during what is undoubtedly a major undertaking. 

Below you’ll find links to PDF files listing all that films and TV episodes that I’ve talked about.  Note: The Clone Wars episodes are current up through November 19, 2010, though I’ve speculated on how the latest and the following episode are to fit in based on information found on StarWars.com. 

Good luck, and may the Force be with…always.

Ultimate Star Wars Marathon

Clone Wars Ordering

P.S. – For those curious, the two Kurosawa homages, “Lightsaber Lost” is taken from Stray Dog and “Bounty Hunters” from Seven Samurai.

N.B. – The episode numbers in the PDF film are in the standard 3 digit number format where the first number is the season and the second two and the episode number in the season sequence.

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