Back in my February 18th post I explained how I wanted to compare the first six Star Wars and Star Trek movies to see how I felt about them after all these years of not seeing them. You can see the first two rounds here: Round One and Round Two.
ROUND THREE: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock vs Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Still aching with the wounds and losses of their battle with Khan, the Enterprise and her crew return home. A visit from Sarek, Spock’s father, reveals that Dr. McCoy has Spock’s katra (his essence/living spirit) and the only way to restore both men is to retrieve Spock’s body and bring them both to Vulcan. The problem is that Starfleet is retiring the Enterprise and the crew is forbidden to return to Genesis.
So Kirk and company steal the Enterprise.
The third movie is actually the middle chapter since I consider 2-4 to be a fantastic trilogy. This film introduced a new layer to Vulcan mythology and upped the ante (commit treason or let Dr. McCoy go mad).
Unfortunately, after the Enterprise is stolen and goes to warp outside Starbase, the story drags until Spock walks down the stairs, fully restored (with the exception of watching the Enterprise self-destruct). Even when Kirk’s son, David, is murdered and Kirk falls to the ground in stunned grief I can’t help but think he’s only known his son a few months maybe and he’s only had a total of about a half hour of screen time. David spent most of the previous movie at odds with Kirk and only spoke briefly to him in this movie. I don’t know how fandom in general looks at his death but as a character, he was expendable and his death made me yawn. It was the way that Kirk reacted to the death that made any impact.
Still, that first half hour of the crew decompressing before deciding to steal the ship was so unexpected and well-written. The moment when Kirk’s preparing to go to warp and the captain of the Excelsior says, “Kirk, if you do this you’ll never sit in the captain’s chair again” and the look on Kirk’s face of sadness mixed with resolve still gives me goose bumps.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Senator Palpatine consolidates enough political power to form the Empire, orders the clone troops to kill all the Jedi, turns Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader, and begins construction on the Death Star. Oh, and Luke and Leia are born.
This is the most intense, exciting chapter of the prequels and the action moves fast and leaves behind the largest body count of any other Star Wars movie (I know Alderaan was destroyed in a New Hope but I didn’t know anyone on the surface, so I wasn’t affected by its destruction.). It also serves as a reminder that a scared people who demand protection usually wind up giving too much of their own power to someone who uses that power to oppress them.
The last 15 minutes patches up all of the holes I saw in the original trilogy. The Emperor tells Darth Vader that he killed Padme and R2-D2 & C-3P0’s memories are wiped. This explains why C-3P0 didn’t blab to Luke that he was built by another Skywalker and why Darth Vader didn’t look for Luke or Leia.
AND ROUND THREE GOES TO STAR WARS III: REVENGE OF THE SITH
When it comes down to it, both movies were good with solid storytelling (even if it didn’t always resonate with me) and special effects. But when I really pare it down, I think of the first half-hour of Star Trek 3 and the last half-hour of Star Wars 3.
The first half of Star Trek 3 is the best example of what Star Trek is: loyalty over duty. But the last half hour of Star Wars 3 has Yoda hanging out with Chewbacca, the birth of Luke and Leia, and the creation of one of sci-fi’s most feared villains, Darth Vader. And it ended on that iconic image of Owen and Beru on that familiar sand dune looking at the suns. It’s the same position we met Luke Skywalker in almost thirty years before.
For showing us what happened right before the events of A New Hope, Star Wars 3 wins this round. I know all the stuff at the end was meant to trigger goosebumps and nostalgia and does nothing to sooth all of the irritation of the first two movies, but the last half hour is my first glimpse of characters I fell in love with as a kid (except for Darth Vader who starred in a few of my nightmares…Hey, I was 4 when I saw that first film.
Star Trek: 1
Star Wars: 2