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 four rounds here: Round One, Round Two, Round Three, and Round Four.
ROUND FIVE: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier vs Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Captain Kirk’s shore leave is interrupted by a hostage situation in the Neutral Zone. So Kirk and his crew take a half-functioning Enterprise with less than a skeleton crew and have to contend with a Klingon trying to make a name for himself and Spock's half brother who hijacks the Enterprise to search for God.
This film has one of the best first acts in an Star Trek movie. We finally get to see Kirk, Spock, and McCoy on leave. They’re enjoying camping in Yosemite National Park and it’s some of the funniest dialogue in the entire Trek series. There’s a lot of great stuff with all of the crew.
After the crew gets moving to the Neutral Zone the story gets painfully slow and pretty ridiculous. Sybok takes control of the Enterprise and ‘frees’ the crew of their pain turning most of them into his acolytes. Then they pass (easily pass) a supposedly impenetrable barrier at the center of the universe where they discover a planet. On the planet, the being from Sybok’s vision (who claims to be God) tortures Kirk while demanding he bring the Enterprise closer to the planet (all because Kirk had to ask, “What does God need with a starship?”).
Sybok seems to struggle with the being yet a photon torpedo isn’t enough to kill it. Then the energy cloud thingy chases Kirk around shooting lightning at him until a Klingon Bird of Prey lasers it into oblivion (a photon torpedo can’t kill it but a Klingon laser can?). So, no clue what the energy thing was that shot lighting at Kirk was. And given that Klingons prize battle over all, is it realistic that even a Klingon General could talk a junior office out of killing Klingon enemy number one and becoming the most respected warrior in the Empire in the process?
Still, there’s a nice moment at the end of the film that helps cement the relationship between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.
Here’s a bit of dialogue from the beginning of the movie (this is from imdb.com):
Dr McCoy: All that time in space, getting on each other's nerves. And what do we do when shore leave comes along? We spend it together. Other people have families.
Kirk: Other people, Bones. Not us.
Here’s that dialogue being addressed at the end of the film (this is also from imdb.com):
Spock: I've lost a brother.
Kirk: I lost a brother once. But I got him back.
McCoy: I thought you said men like us don't have families.
Kirk: I was wrong.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
They’ve destroyed the Empire’s ultimate weapon but they’re still outnumbered, outgunned and hiding on Hoth. When the inevitable happens and the Empire comes calling, Luke splits off from the Rebel fleet and heads to Dagobah to meet up with Yoda and learn the ways of the force. Meanwhile, Han, Leia, and Chewie get cut off from the fleet when they can’t jump into hyperspace and wind up playing hide and seek with the Empire, dodging bounty hunters, getting reacquainted with old friends, and Han gets turned into an icicle.
Now, putting aside Leia kissing Luke on the lips twice in this film (while simultaneously having Yoda foreshadow Leia being Luke’s sister) which is uber-creepy, this is a fantastic story. I’m going to ignore the fact that midichlorians give a Jedi their power – I like what Yoda said about it better. I’m going to let go of the fact the Emperor tells Vader that the boy who destroyed the Death Star is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker but in Revenge of the Sith, he tells Vader that Padme and the kids are dead (Vader does ask how that could be possible so it could be reference to Revenge of the Jedi but I’m ignoring it anyway). Also forget the fact that Luke has only had maybe a month of training while Vader had decades of training and another few decades as a master (which you only realize when you’ve seen the prequels – until then I figured Vader had as much training as Luke but had more time to practice). I put all that prequel damage aside to see the amazing movie I saw as a kid.
AND ROUND FIVE GOES TO STAR WARS V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
The Empire Strikes Back gave us Boba Fett, AT-AT’s (the second coolest ride in the Star Wars galaxy next to the Millenium Falcon), and Lando Calrissian. It also gave us the coolest spaceship/asteroid sequence in science fiction history. The way the Millennium Falcon twists and rolls and maneuvers, beautifully avoiding asteroids by a few feet, is still an absolute pleasure.
The Empire Strikes Back was part two of the greatest romance in sci-fi history: Han & Leia. And when Princess Leia finally tells Han how she feels (“I love you.”) it gave us the best line of the entire trilogy: “I know.”
The Empire Strikes Back gave us a journey complete with new ideas, new adventures, new characters, love, loss, and enough twists and turns to make it a thrill ride. The Final Frontier had a few funny moments, almost no action, and an ending even the most hardcore fan can’t explain.
Star Trek: 2
Star Wars: 3