Which Viewing Order Should I Choose?

OK, it’s been heavy around here lately, so here’s one that hopefully spurs some conversation that isn’t centered around anything but one of my favorite film series.

The question always comes up about the best “viewing order” for any franchise series, whether it’s the tiresome Machete Order which inexplicably ignores the criminally-underrated Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, or some other mix that is as tiring to debate as anything else.

Darth Funk has a cool costume | kesseljunkie
But does he get good Bluetooth reception in there?

Not What You Think

Oh, but I’m not talking about the Star Wars films. I’m talking about the movie franchise that out-Marvel®™©s Marvel©®™, the Fast & Furious franchise. Sure, the ride at Universal Orlando® is…not great…but I enjoy the movies. I enjoy some of them more than others, and love it as a whole. It’s a vibrant testament to entertainment at all costs.

As I was looking over the collection, though, I realized I’m not sure of the best viewing order! This is an important question with the ninth installment in the saga coming out in 2021. (It was supposed to be 2020, but ugh.)

Fast & Furious, which soft-reboots the series in a way that Lucasfilm should have studied for the sequel trilogy, is a prequel. Though the fourth movie, it takes place before the third.

Fast Five and Furious 6 (since retitled, but forget that noise) are prequels to The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift as well. This creates a small bit of a quandary with some technology questions, but honestly no one cares. It’s about the art!

Of course, when you have prequels, the question of story order and emotional impact gets difficult. I’m going to set aside the Star Wars films again in favor of another example.

You can argue that the emotional weight of any prequel is at least partly informed by the original film(s). I’m speaking in generalities, of course. I’m sure there are people ready to jump all over a statement like that to try to disprove it.

But I think it’s a fair point. While it’s fun and interesting to screw around with story order, would you love Indiana Jones as much in Temple of Doom if you hadn’t gotten to know him first when he was a more-likable and better person in Raiders of the Lost Ark?

Hobbs and Dom in Fast Five screenshot | kesseljunkie
How I greet all my friends now. We hate sleeves in warm climates.

Back to the Question

So I’m left with the essential question of what I should do. If I were to rearrange the order, and put the fourth, fifth, and sixth before the third, what happens to the first two?

The trick is that Fast & Furious does such a good job of soft-rebooting the franchise that the setup of the original film isn’t quite so necessary. So I’d have to find somewhere to place it as a flashback/prequel treatment in viewing order on its own.

Or perhaps the optimal viewing order is 1-4-5-6-3-7-8? In the spirit of the aforementioned Machete Order for Star Wars, I dropped 2 since apparently you’re allowed to do that for some reason.

This doesn’t even bring Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw, either. It can drop in after 8 for viewing, but that’s in hopes that something divulged in it ties in to F9.

Curious what others might say, especially after I make it clear right now that I think this series is, indeed, more entertaining and satisfying than the Marvel©®™ movies.

I said good day!

…One More Thing

Of course, none of this addresses the fact that Better Luck Tomorrow is technically part of this series and could be watched instead of 2 Fast 2 Furious without missing a beat. I could also watch BLT first overall. That would be interesting.

Positively Fan Street

For anyone not picking up on the gag, the title of this blog is a play on Bob Dylan’s classic song, Positively 4th Street. The song is relevant to a lot of situations, but I chose to make it relevant to this one.

This isn’t going to be a long diatribe about the state of a fandom. This isn’t going to be some lengthy dissertation about the need for positivity. It’s far from my first time addressing this in a public forum (such as a podcast or this blog). It’s just one of those topics that bubbles up on occasion, and so I feel the need to revisit it.

It’s a plea for people to stop characterizing a certain “bad sort of fan” as responsible for “wrecking fandom.” Not because they don’t exist, but because it’s a feature, not a bug.

I don’t think it will ever be solved. Unlike some others, I don’t think that it’s a cause for concern. It’s just a thing that’s true.

Some Perspective

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. If they want to loudly and publicly decry the current incarnation of their favorite franchise as garbage, that’s fine. If that conclusion is their starting point, there’s no way to talk them back from that ledge.

Trust me, as someone who has loved the Star Wars prequels from the moment of their release, you can’t. I’ve been personally insulted for the opinion. Every time someone learns I’m a “Star Wars fan,” I’m rolling the dice on it becoming some variant of “the prequels suck” discussion.

I don’t even need to ask for the opinion. It’s just volunteered.

And it’s fine. It doesn’t bother me. Sometimes I engage in a discussion about why I disagree. That discussion carries with it the pitfalls of being called a “fanboy,” having the clarity of my perspective challenged, my honesty about the opinion dismissed and, on occasion, having my intelligence questioned. (That last one happens far less frequently than it did at one time.)

The hysterically funny thing is that it works both ways! When the discussion turns to the Sequel Trilogy (Episodes VII, VIII & IX), I run the risk of having those same critiques thrown at me for not liking it “enough.” In some special circumstances, I have my opinion on the prequels used as some sort of debate point in an attempt to discredit my opinion on the sequels.

It’s fine, and I don’t care. No one else should either.

Because it won’t change. Fan discussions always run the risk of devolving into petty contests of will.

If you doubt me, it’s possible you’re too young to recall when David Lee Roth left Van Halen. Maybe you’re young enough that you just didn’t have a reason to care. It’s possible you simply didn’t have enough of an emotional investment in the band to care either way.

There are a lot of valid reasons for things, I’m not judging.

But the only way I will ever watch Die Hard 2: Die Harder again is if someone deepfakes the infamous “Craigula” into it.

Decades Later…

As of this writing, it’s been about thirty-five years since David Lee Roth left Van Halen. Thirty-five years is a long time.

And yet, some grown-ass adults still can’t get past it. They still harp on how the band was “ruined” by Sammy Hagar. They refer to the band by the supposedly-derogatory nickname “Van Hagar.” They dismiss the idea that there are plenty of people who loved Van Halen with both singers, or there are those who prefer Sammy.

The reason I point to this example is to help anyone who’s worried about “the state of fandom” put it in perspective. The only difference between the venom you might see in discussions about Star Wars or Star Trek is that those are your focus and…there was no easily-accessible Internet connectivity back then. There was no social media.

There were just friends and acquaintances who would occasionally be stupid about these sorts of things. I did it, too. We all did.

The funny thing is that, before social media, if a stranger on the street came up and said the same sort of caustic thing that starts Internet fights, you’d have laughed about it.

Sure, if you were particularly dysfunctional, you’d have started a fight. That was more the exception than the rule anyway. Most people walking down the street don’t care about your opinions on movies, books, music, or television.

Imagine this with plastic lightsabers and far less athelticism.
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In Conclusion

The point is, caustic fandom is never going to be “resolved.” You can ignore it, you can engage it, you can lock your accounts, or you can do some combination of all of it. But it won’t change.

Because if people can hold a self-imposed grudge about a band changing singers for nearly four decades, I can promise you they’re not going to stop being jerks about…anything.

Patton Oswalt doing a routine about how he’d kill George Lucas with a shovel before he had a chance to make the prequels was a bit. At least, I hope it was. This this type of bit had an effect, though.

Patton Oswalt’s onstage persona is exactly the type of comedy that pushed outrageous “fan” reactions into the realm of violent hyperbole. It functions in the same way that Howard Stern’s show shaped people’s attitudes about a lot of things.

It’s a bit, and it’s meant to be outrageous. But people key off of it and it influences their own outrageous declarations. All the world’s a stage, as one guy once wrote.

If anything, I pity the people who rage about franchises the same way I pity the Van Halen grudge holders. If they take their entertainment that seriously, it’s more a plea for help than anything else.

Exploring Force Lightning, Part III: Questions of Lethality

The next step in our exploration of the power known as Force Lightning, a lightning storm summoned by Dark Side users and directed through their fingertips is to examine how demonstrably lethal it is. If this is your first stop on this grand journey, I invite you to read the first two posts in this series before reading further.

Beyond the Extension Cord

Since this series was born out of thoughts while handling an outdoor extension cord, and how its shielding was a flexible barrier between me and death, it’s only logical to explore the specific lethality of Force Lightning.

As we’ve established that Force Lightning is some form of mystical electrical energy, we can still tell clearly that it isn’t immediately deadly; Mace Windu gets jolted for quite some time before being blown out the window, Luke is in agony but recuperates fairly quickly, and Snoke (ugh) zaps Kylo Ren from a distance like anyone who figures out dragging their footy pajamas on shag carpet lets you shock someone.

Expanding to the animated stories (as anyone with sense should), Tyranus (Count Dooku) straight up tortures Savage Opress with Force Lightning, as does Sidious torture Maul on Mandalore.

The stunning thing that all these examples highlight is that we don’t really see Force Lightning kill anyone.

Say what?

And *I* call it motivation.

Maybe It Doesn’t Kill

Given the fact that we don’t see it actually kill someone onscreen, maybe there’s an argument that it doesn’t. Maybe Force Lightning is simply a tool by which to torture someone into submission.

After all, if we see all of these examples of its use but never a conclusive evidence of it being deadly, maybe it’s simply meant to break someone effectively enough to make them unable to resist the coup de grâce. Torturing someone until they’re unable to fight back certainly seems like a thing that Dark Side users would do.

If we go with story chronology, the first use of Force Lightning we see is Dooku’s simple blast of Anakin at the opening of the duel on Geonosis. That left Anakin weak enough that, if Obi-Wan hadn’t been there, Dooku would have been able to kill him. Anakin was in no shape to fight back. And that blast only lasted a moment.

If we go with release chronology, though, the first time we see Force Lightning used we also encounter an interesting line of dialogue that may speak to Force Lightning actually being deadly. When Luke is laying helpless before the Emperor, Sidious smiles and says, “Now, young Skywalker…you will die.”

A Certain Point of View

The line, as it stands, indicates that the Emperor was about to kill Luke outright with the power of Force Lightning. He smiles, the music starts its crescendo, and Luke wails as Sidious pours his malice into purple-white bolts of manic energy.

If not for Vader’s intervention, Luke presumably would have been fried like chicken.

But this is Star Wars. There is a lot of room for interpretation. Since we don’t see Luke die at that moment, we could even presume that Sidious was just torturing Luke to the point of senselessness, after which he could just push him over the edge and watch him fall to his death.

Heck, we could imagine even that the Emperor would impale Luke with his hidden lightsaber after enjoying the torture. He might even summon Luke’s own saber and kill him with it just for the poetic flair.

After all, this boy – this child who should never have been – caused great grief for Sidious. After destroying the first Death Star, then helping the Rebellion survive Hoth, then proving that Vader was an even bigger disappointment than he thought, this boy had the gall not to turn to the Dark Side when offered the power of the galaxy.

I could absolutely see him torturing Luke until he could move in for an easy kill. The Force Lightning was the fun, the kill was the business.

I. Am. Not. Happy!

In Conclusion

Some might say I’m just stretching at this stage to hold onto the idea that Force Lightning itself doesn’t kill. And I concede that possibly, for someone with a weaker connection to the Force or already injured, Force Lightning could be a killer.

While you may argue that it killed Vader, he was already beaten down pretty hard by Luke. It’s possible that Force Lightning was just the final push like the flu for someone whose heart was already on the verge of failure. (In fact, there’s a pretty interesting argument about this that, as I write this, just inspired another blog. I’ll leave it at that for now.)

Given the examples onscreen, it seems like I’ve got a pretty solid case that Force Lightning is not deadly in and of itself.

So now that we’ve covered Surge Protection, Personal Insulation, and Questions of Lethality, I think we’re done with this for now. Tomorrow will lead to a new topic, and since I know some people don’t want to read just Star Wars related stuff (what?) I’ll choose something that’s not in that galaxy far, far away.

Also, if you like what you’re reading, maybe give me a break and leave a comment or send me a cup of coffee. Usually sites charge you for entertainment like this.

Exploring Force Lightning, Part II: Personal Insulation

In continuing our exploration of the cool Star Wars power known as Force Lightning, through which a Dark Side conjures a lightning storm and directs it through their fingertips, we come to the true spark for this series of questions. If, by some chance, you missed the initial post exploring its potential effects on electrical systems, feel free to read Exploring Force Lightning, Part I: Surge Protection.

Revisiting the Extension Cord

To recap, this series was born out of a musing while I was running an extension cord outdoors. The shielding of the wire prevented the current from coming into contact with me.

Force Lightning is some form of mystical electrical energy, as demonstrated by its effect on Anakin Skywalker, Mace Windu, and Luke Skywalker, among others like Maul and Savage Opress. If that’s the case, what are the implications for the users like Dooku and Palpatine, and that one guy who wound up being a non-entity?

This would be a killer cosplay outfit, to be honest.

Body of Evidence

A strong argument for Force Lightning being electrical in nature is Darth Vader’s failure to use it while in the iconic black suit. It’s an accepted truth among fans that Vader channeling Force Lightning would have resulted in his own immediate demise as it fried his implanted survival systems. He was, after all, more machine than man.

This is supported by the image of him, dying, after throwing the Emperor to his death. (And it still counts as a death, even though the sequel trilogy brought him back to life after they let themselves get painted into a story corner.)

There are numerous counter-arguments about this, not the least of which is Vader summoning lightning in the not-officially-accepted-in-story-continuity Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. Technically, in release order, Vader unleashed a form of Force Lightning years before we saw it onscreen.

Of course, a lot of that book has been invalidated by later films and stories, but it’s proof at least that lightning wasn’t necessarily unavailable to someone in a mechanical suit.

Force Lightning also has a question of lethality attached to it. This is complicated by the fact that we see both death and survival when it is used onscreen. We’re going to table that consideration until next time, then.

Taking into account the previous argument for a power surge frying circuitry, it still seems like summoning Force Lightning could have been a very bad idea for Darth Vader unless he found a way to ground himself very effectively.

The Argument for Insulation

So the question at hand is what’s necessary to protect the person wielding Force Lightning from some sort of shock harming them in return. Having seen it used by several people, we never saw direct evidence they wore certain materials to ensure they wouldn’t be harmed, but we never saw anything to the contrary, either. In Star Wars that can be a lot of wiggle room.

To the point, did Darth Sidious wear rubber underpants?

If we want to accept that yes, he did have to wear specific protective clothing, then we have to entertain another question. Is it possible that someone wearing the right types of material could mitigate the effects of being hit with Force Lightning?

It seems that would have been a great tip for Obi-Wan’s ghost, or Yoda, to give to Luke. However, given the past failings on honesty there it may be that I’m expecting too much.

“Those leather boots seem comfy, Luke, but they could leave you vulnerable to evil lightning.”

The Argument Against Insulation

When the Force Lightning is thrown, it doesn’t seem to come into contact with the hands per se, but initiate from the space around them. It seems that while they are a valuable focusing tool, the hands aren’t essential to the conjuring.

Also, I think Snoke summons it from some distance away? I’m pretty sure I’m right about that. I’m not watching The Last Jedi again to check, so please feel free to confirm this on your own.

There’s evidence as well of the intended target being able to stop, absorb, and redirect Force Lightning. (Minch) Yoda does this against both Darth Tyranus (Count Dooku) and Darth Sidious. In those instances you can see that the Force Lightning never comes into direct contact with him, but redirects or absorbs before direct contact. This supports the idea that the summoner is not actually summoning the power through their physical body.

Additionally, while the insulation note argues against Vader calling it, we have some evidence that the circuitry wouldn’t overload. Luke takes a whole heapin’ helpin’ o’ lightning and his robotic hand worked perfectly well.

That robotic hand was attached in a funding-strapped rebel field hospital, not an Imperial facility, and if it worked after Force Lightning then Vader could theoretically have handled it, too. (That touches off a whole separate argument about the quality of state-run medical care in the Empire, but maybe some other day I’ll hit that one.)

This dovetails into the next topic for Force Lightning, though: Questions of Lethality.

Tune in Next Time!

Exploring Force Lightning, Part I: Surge Protection

One of the coolest powers revealed in Star Wars, at least for a time, was what’s been dubbed Force Lightning. Summoning power from the darkest depths of the Force, a Dark Side user could conjure a literal lightning storm of fury and direct it through their fingertips.

As this series progresses I’m going to look at several questions left unanswered by its onscreen use. I’ll also share some thoughts on its continued appearance in the series.

Let’s face it, you didn’t come here for the latest social media debate to score cheap endorphins from people with whom you agree.

Above please see your complete list of options during online debate.
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The Extension Cord of Pondering

I was running an extension cord outdoors to do some yard work one day, and I pondered on the implications of electrical contact. Here I was, handling a conduit for certain death while shielded by a certain thickness of rubber insulation designed to be marvelously flexible yet strong enough to save my life.

If there was a flaw in the insulation it would undoubtedly be bad for me, but it would also blow a circuit. It could potentially render inoperable something not shielded properly that was on the same line. This happens with lightning ground strikes; a home’s electrical systems can be damaged by the surge of a close hit, or a strike on the home itself.

Being me, this naturally led to pondering about Force Lightning. If it is, in fact, some form of mystical electrical energy, what are the implications on electrical systems around it when it is unleashed?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is c45fe-e0e8122503a4444c2bfe0fc677b7446147637f2f_hq.jpg
These guys could be in a lot of trouble.

Wielding the Unwieldy

Most times we’ve seen Force Lightning unleashed, it’s been incredibly focused. But there is also demonstrable “bleed” wherein it hits additional spots other than its intended target. The very first time we saw it onscreen in Return of the Jedi (1983), the lightning hit more than just the writhing Luke.

This isn’t much of a concern to Darth Tyranus (Count Dooku) on Geonosis, who is able to deliver focused blasts within the confines of a lair carved from rock. Rock isn’t the greatest conductor, and energy searches for the easiest path, so I can see why it isn’t the greatest concern, especially as he never directs a blast toward his solar sailer.

(As a side note, Dooku’s solar sailer remains one of the coolest ship designs in all of Star Wars. Thus have I proclaimed.)

However, the question at hand is insulation and protection. We’ve seen Force Lightning unleashed within the confines of an artificial environment built from metal, wiring, and complex circuitry. Is there any reason to believe that surge protection and insulation were a concern for those systems?

Please accept this example of how evil clouds are.
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When Darth Sidious (Sheev Palpatine) unleashes Force Lightning in the Chancellor’s Office in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (the best Star Wars film to date, and a true work of art), and subsequently in the Senate Chambers as he fights Minch Yoda (look it up), we don’t observe any specific effects.

We’d have reason to believe that surge protection and insulation would be part and parcel of these areas’ construction. However, you can argue that it’s inconclusive what effect it has.

The Chancellor’s office has systems and power working after his attack on Mace Windu, and the Senate is essentially running on low power. To be argumentative I can can construct that some systems were damaged, but the ones still operational only suffered incidental contact that wasn’t enough to cause an issue.

I could argue that the Senate had to undergo some renovations before it was opened fully again. While there are functional systems after the fight with (Minch) Yoda &emdash; Sidious is in a pod, and the shock troopers are also using at least one &emdash; I could say that thanks to volume of pods those were the ones left functional while others were damaged. If they each had closed systems, the damage would have been limited.

He had an excuse to keep the Senate chambers shut down anyway as they cleaned up the pods destroyed by Sidious’ wanton attempts to crush Yoda.

That feels more like being argumentative for the sake of it, however. It leads me into the second topic for the series, though, and the one truly spurred by the extension cord.

What insulation does an individual require in order to wield Force Lightning in the first place?

That’s next time!