A few months back William Shatner and Carrie Fisher’s Star Trek vs Star Wars debate was big genre news. Of course it was all tongue-in-cheek between the two of them. On Sept 15, 2011, William Shatner said, "Star Wars is derivative” and Carrie fired back on Nov 10, 2011 with a three minute video making fun of Star Trek and William Shatner. Then Shatner fired back on Nov 28, 2011 with a funny video responding to Carrie Fisher’s video.
All of the Star Trek vs Star Wars stuff from Shatner and Fisher were really funny and aren’t unlike the debates that genre fans have had for years. I have the feeling that most of us sci-fi nerds love both franchises.
As a kid, I saw Star Wars with my Grandma – I was 4 years old and fell in love with the characters and the story. The rest the movies, including the prequels, I saw with my dad – it was our tradition. My dad and I also had another tradition – seeing the Star Trek movies together.
While I loved Star Wars from the beginning, I didn’t immediately take to Star Trek. As a kid, I thought the original series was creepy, full of aliens who were always holding Kirk captive or fighting him to the death. And I fell asleep during the first Star Trek film both times my dad took me to see it. Then came Wrath of Khan and I never looked back.
I loved the first three Star Wars films and disliked the three prequels. And of the six Star Trek films that featured the original cast, I only loved the even numbered movies (2, 4, and 6) and disliked the other films. This means that of the two franchises, I liked half the films and disliked the other half.
When it was announced that Lucas was re-releasing the movies, in order, in 3D, I thought it would be a great time to re-explore my love of the franchise. I haven’t seen any of the Star Wars films or the original six Star Trek movies in about 10 years. I only saw the Star Wars prequels one time when they were on the big screen so I don’t remember a whole lot about them.
So I decided to have my own version of Star Trek vs Star Wars. I am going to re-watch each of the movies in order and compare them, starting with Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.
I’m excited to see how I still feel about these films all these years later. Will I still only like half the films of each franchise or will I appreciate them more seeing them again? I only saw the Star Wars Prequels once – did I give them a fair chance or hate them because of my own unrealistic expectations of the franchise?
So, without further ado, here is Star Trek The Motion Picture vs Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace:
ROUND ONE: Star Trek The Motion Picture vs Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Star Trek The Motion Picture
Ten years after the five-year voyage was canceled, the original crew reunited to the delight of old fans and the new fans who were introduced to the series via reruns. When I was little, my Dad took me to see this film twice and I fell asleep both times. I think I saw this film again when it came out on VHS but it’s been at least 20 years since I sat down and watched this film.
Overall, I can see why I fell asleep in the theatre as a kid. The movie crawls along at a snails pace with a lot of pointless dialogue and endless shots of the ship leaving space dock and slowly exploring V’ger.
There are some nice moments between the crew members but there wasn’t enough warmth in the initial meeting between Kirk and his crew when he first appears on the bridge like there was with Scotty on the shuttle ride over. I also found McCoy’s oddly stuffed into the crew as the guy who is drafted by Kirk to face certain doom (“Bones, I need you.” For what? There’s already a doctor on board and the mission is going to be less than a week long.). Then there’s the super-cold entrance of Spock and the strange way everyone stares at him like the way he’s acting is weird – they know him and his behavior shouldn’t be shocking.
Except for Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, the rest of the characters are ignored while the trio reconnects awkwardly. I like the other members of the crew and was disappointed that they didn’t get more of a chance to do anything.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
When Jedi and his Padawan are dispatched to deal with a Federation blockade of the planet Naboo they uncover an invasion plot, a little boy strong in the force, and a Sith. New characters are introduced while old friends like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, R2-D2, and C-3P0 are along for the ride.
Unlike the original trilogy, all of the aliens speak with accents you can find on Earth. The Gungans, and most of the aliens in the movie, remind me of Disney characters and it’s hard to take the Gungans seriously with their silly dialogue and demeanor. Jar Jar Binks is unwatchable as a clumsy goof who doesn’t supply laughs. Anakin is ‘born of the force’ as he is immaculately conceived. And we’re introduced to midichlorians which serves to demystify the Force.
When asked what midichlorians are, Qui-Gon explains, “Midi-chlorians are a microscopic life form that resides within all living cells.” In Empire Strikes back, Yoda tells Luke about the Force, “Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us.”
There’s even a scene where Anakin accidentally destroys a droid control ship, rescuing an army of defeated Gungans.
The story is really weak and some of it serves to destroy things that Star Wars fans hold dear (like demystifying the Force).
Oh, and then there’s the little matter of taking Anakin, an untrained kid, into a war zone where they instruct him to find a place to hide instead of leaving him on Coruscant where his safety was guaranteed. Apparently there isn’t any Child Protective Services on Coruscant or Naboo. NOTE TO PARENTS: Don’t let the Jedi babysit…ever.
ROUND ONE GOES TO STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE
While Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace still makes me cringe, sitting through Star Trek The Motion Picture was excruciatingly boring. The Phantom Menace had great special effects, big battle scenes, and a great lightsaber duel. And I liked how Queen Amidala had decoys which allowed her to get into the thick of things, disguised as a handmaiden called Padme.
Still, when Qui-Gon could only get Anakin free of slavery but not his mother, I thought Captain Kirk would have freed both, ended slavery on Tatooine, and nailed the mother before the credits rolled.
I can’t imagine loving The Phantom Menace but I can’t imagine falling asleep during it either, so The Phantom Menace wins this round.