Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Star Trek vs Star Wars: Round Six

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 five rounds here: Round One, Round Two, Round Three, Round Four, and Round Five.

ROUND SIX: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country vs Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
On the eve of retirement, Captain Kirk is asked to escort a Klingon Chancellor through Federation space to a peace conference. But when the Enterprise fires on the Chancellor's ship and two crew members beam aboard and assassinate him, Kirk and Bones end up on a Klingon prison world while Spock leads an investigation into what really happened. What the crew of the Enterprise will uncover is a wide-reaching conspiracy that intends to kill the president of the Federation to stop the peace talks.

This movie, fantastic when I was younger, uses one plot device that has become a pet peeve: the character who keeps explaining things that people with more experience are supposed to know. Lt. Valeris was that person. Played by Kim Cattrall, during the investigation aboard the Enterprise she keeps pointing out things to Chekov that, as someone with decades of experience, he should know. Okay, for all the diehards, that only technically happened maybe twice but it was annoying.

It was great to see Sulu captain his own ship and plot-wise, that came in handy (but didn't seem set up to pay off that way). There is some nice stuff here with Kirk and Spock discussing the possible death of the Klingon Empire - Spock hoping for peace and Kirk content to let them die. With the Berlin Wall falling and the social upheaval happening around that time, it's no surprise that the movie (which told a lot of stories reflecting the times it was made in). But with it's idea of peace vs clinging to old prejudices, this film holds up in light of things like the recent Wisconsin shooting in a Sikh Temple. Some people can't let go of their prejudices and that anger becomes monstrous actions just like it does in this film. Some people, like Kirk did, come to accept that the way they've always thought doesn't necessarily reflect their current reality.

This is one of the best films in the Trek cannon behind The Voyage Home, and The Wrath of Khan. I love the ending of the film where one of the last shots is the main cast alone on the bridge together. And to top that off with the credits beginning with the signature of each of the main cast was very nice.

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
The rebellion has discovered that the Empire is constructing another Death Star but it is incomplete. Better than that - Darth Vader and the Emperor are on it. The rebellion sees a chance to destroy the incomplete Death Star along with the architects of the Empire in one fell swoop. But first, Luke and company have to free Han Solo and escape galactic gangster, Jabba the Hutt.

As this film reintroduces the main cast practically one-by-one as they infiltrate Jabba's Palace and the plan to get Han out quietly fails, the question becomes: "How are they going to get out of this one?" Then Luke shows up with his black outfit and cloak full of confidence and you know that this Luke is profoundly different from the one who fought Vader in the last movie. He doesn't ask questions, he tells Jabba what he's going to do in order to live to see tomorrow. Jabba doesn't listen and pays the price just as Luke said he would and in the melee, we're introduced to the awesome green lightsaber. Oh...and Leia in a slave bikini...that's also awesome.

The third film unfolds like it was the Lucas' intention to end it this way all along. The mythology deepens and the conflicts all come to an end as loose ends are tied up neatly. By the end, Luke has turned his father from the dark side and Han and Leia are together. But better than that - all the characters, from the main ones to background characters like Wedge, survive and celebrate together at the end.

And Boba Fett - a character popular for looking cool but not actually doing anything - gets a fitting death.

By the third act, Han's team on the ground was set up and taken prisoner, Lando's assault was thwarted by the Death Star shield being active with Star Destroyers keeping them from running, and Luke was trapped fighting his father while the Emperor encouraged him to give into his hate. The stakes had never been that high or the consequences for failure more clear - it was either the end of the Empire or the end of the Rebellion.

Return of the Jedi was the completion of not just the original trilogy but the prequel trilogy as well. The digital insertion of Hayden Christenson as a spirit was a nice touch. As far as a heroes journey goes, Luke, Han, and Leia are greatly changed from their first meeting to their reunion on Endor. It's an extremely satisfying ending to the original trilogy.

The Undiscovered Country's story was fantastic and doesn't seem dated or out of step with what's going on in society right now. The Enterprise crew ends an amazing run intact and wildly loyal to one another. I don't know if the cast of the new JJ Abrams films can knock out six movies but the originals did so in style. Kirk and company are the 'James Bond' of science fiction movies. They boldly went, discovered new civilizations (or at least they discovered V'ger), lived long, and prospered. Okay, that's enough Trek puns even for me.

While Undiscovered Country was one of the best films, Return of the Jedi edges it out because you didn't know how things were going to end or if anyone was going to die. You were never absolutely sure that things were going to work out for the cast until the very end. Would someone make the ultimate sacrifice? Sure, Return of the Jedi had Ewoks, but Undiscovered Country had Lt. Valeris and Ewoks are cuddly (or look it anyway). 

 Final Tally:
Star Trek: 2
Star Wars: 4

So there it is. I'm a bigger Star Wars fan. I still prefer to think of myself as a big fan of each franchise. If the new Star Trek films go to #6 with the same actors, maybe it'll be a different story.

Just out of curiosity, how would I have scored this if I had compared them by the order of release?

Star Trek The Motion Picture vs Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope
Winner: Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope
No contest. Star Trek the Motion Picture was almost unwatchable.

Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan vs Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back
Winner: Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan
While Empire ended strong and had a great love story in there, The Wrath of Khan had you on the edge of your seat almost all the way through.

Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock vs Star Wars Episode 6: Return of the Jedi
Winner: Star Wars Episode 6: Return of the Jedi
While the third Trek film was great up until they stole the Enterprise, Return of the Jedi had Luke as a Jedi Knight and Leia in a slave bikini - 'nuff said.

Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home vs  Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
Winner: Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home
Episode 1 is almost unwatchable while Trek 4 remains my favorite of the Trek films.

Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier vs Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones
Winner: Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones
The Final Frontier might have had 'God' and great male bonding but Attack of the Clones had a battle with an army of Jedi and Yoda in action!

Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country vs Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
Winner: Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
The Undiscovered Country had a socially relevant story that was well told but Revenge of the Sith was the origin of Darth Vader and the birth (literally) of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa.

So if I do the math, again the final tally is
Star Trek: 2
Star Wars: 4

So either way - Star Wars wins.

I have to go now and arrange my 20 Stormtrooper figures so it looks like they're celebrating. Don't judge me.

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