I’m hoping to put a new twist on a 35 year old debate. Which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek? I’m actually going to push this debate, but I’m only limiting it to the 3 new Star Wars movies and the 2 new Star Trek movies because frankly, nobody cares what happened 35 years ago. So here goes.
Last Friday I went to see the third of the movies that I am planning to see in ten consecutive weeks. It was Star Trek: Into Darkness. In short, the movie was a solid 8 out of 10. Benedict Cumberbatch (John Harrison) stole the show but Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) were right there with some stellar banter and quality action scenes. If you’re a fan of the original Star Trek, then you’ll appreciate the contributions of Simon Pegg as Scotty and Karl Urban as Bones. They provided the comedic breaks within the action filled movie. I would even consider seeing it again at the movies which is rather rare. The story was terrific, but I do think the viewer needed to be exposed to the previous movie or at least the original series to have some context of the jokes.
So the question is, how did this movie and the previous Star Trek, compare to the most recent Star Wars movies? Well, it’s a close call for me. Both sets of movies are prequels. Both were cinematically appealing, much more so than the original series. Both included technologies that were far more advanced than what was available in the earlier movies making for some inconsistency when strung together in the appropriate order, but that was to be expected. However, there is one thing that sets one apart from the other…Jar Jar Binks.
Back in 1999 when Star Wars Episode I came out, I was thrilled that they were relaunching the franchise because it had been 16 years since Return of the Jedi came out and I was only 9 at the time. So this was a chance to re-engage my childhood memories of the characters we had all played with as action figures. Luke, Han and Darth with their kung fu grips and light sabers and laser guns. R2D2 with wheels and the Millenium Falcon. Ahh…good times.
This time around however, the technology in the film industry had been so far advanced that there was no need for mini scale models of the death star or the stop motion technology of the At-At Walkers (giant robot camels). CGI technology was going to take the franchise in a whole new direction. But for some godforsaken reason, they decided to use a puppet once again for Yoda and they wasted the technology on a mind numbing character like Jar Jar Binks. Inexplicable. Aside from Jake Lloyd, who played young Anakin, being a terrible actor and some of the character flaws within the movie, I loved the idea that we would get the backstory to the biggest mystery from the original three movies, Darth Vader. Sure we all knew Darth was Luke’s father, but why did he turn to the dark side and how did he become a robot? (Incidentally, the line “Luke, I am your father” was never uttered in that fashion in Return of the Jedi. That was only the line in Tommy Boy when Chris Farley was speaking into the fan.)
I like the development of Anakin’s character over the 3 movies and the answers to many of the questions we had as to why there was so much animosity between him and Obi Wan Kenobe. I was happy to see that in Episodes II and III they went with a CGI of Yoda and finally phased out Jar Jar. But the big moment that made me really like the new series and gave it some credence was the final fight scene between Obi Wan and Anakin on Mustafar. It was epic. Every time that movie plays, I have to watch it through that scene. Their hatred for each other overshadowed the fact that they were battling on a crumbling station at the bottom of a lava pit.
Star Trek’s relaunch opened up the franchise to a whole new generation of fans. However, I don’t think the original series may have been as popular with the targeted demographics as compared to Star Wars. But I think they did a great job in making the new movies stand on their own and telling a story that new Trekkies could appreciate without having been exposed to any of the original 6 movies. Did anybody even know that there were 6 previous Star Trek movies that were released between 1979 and 1991? The younger characters of James Kirk and Spock were more appealing and charismatic than the original Shatner and Nimoy versions. I don’t recall seeing most of the original 6 movies and I could never really get into the TV series. This time however, I thought the story lines were compelling and the action scenes and intricate characters, though few, were better understood than those of the Star Wars counterparts.
So which is better in my opinion? I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but the new Star Trek takes the cake. Partly because of what it is and partly because of what Star Wars shouldn’t have been. In terms of cinematography and graphics, Star Trek wins out mostly because they are newer and the technology to make these movies is always getting better, including 3D and IMAX 3D. The story lines were both compelling, but Star Wars was much more diverse and focused on multiple characters at a shallow level where as Star Trek focuses on 2 main characters but at a deeper level. Sure we know Anakin needs to save Padme and that’s where all his angst comes from. Obi Wan wants to do what’s best for the Jedi Council and is a loyal Soldier. However, Kirk is trying to find his place as a leader in the Starfleet and Spock is trying to adapt to new surroundings in Kirk’s world of emotions and gut instinct which is counter intuitive to Spock’s nature. This is where the separation lies between the two franchises and the character that tips the scale one way is the annoying, intrusive and inconspicuous use of a character like Jar Jar Binks.
Jar Jar’s role in the films was simply to provide a conduit from one encounter to the next at the level of a 5 year old. The way he speaks, acts and the role he plays in the success of the Rebels in fighting the evil Empire is absurd. He takes all credibility out of the importance of the Jedi and their battles with the Sith utilizing the ways of the force. The movies build up the characters on both sides to be superhuman with abilities to control thoughts, move objects and choke someone simply by waving a hand. With that supreme power at their disposal, along with thousands of droids, here is Jar Jar turning the tides simply by falling and stumbling his way through a battlefield destroying powerful combat technology along the way giving the Rebels the advantage they need. It is truly absurd.
So until Star Wars Episodes VII, VIII and IX are released beginning in 2015, my preference lies in the Star Trek franchise for sheer entertainment value. Rumor has it that they are already planning another Star Trek. Here’s to hoping they go somewhere even bolder.
She said: (through the eyes of my 14-year-old co-blogger.)
I went to see Star Trek this past weekend with a friend of mine. We’d already known about Benedict Cumberbatch being in the film because we’d seen his previous works and thought we should go see this too. But it wasn’t just about that, I am a major nerd about special effects and I was very keen on seeing it anyway. The acting in this one was particularly great. I loved Chris Pine’s interpretation of Kirk, Zachary Quinto’s Spock and I fell in love with Simon Pegg’s Scotty. After seeing this film I went home and had to see the 2009 film again. I am also planning on going to see Star Trek again with another friend of mine. I would definitely recommend going to see it because it was freaking awesome!
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