Monday, August 13, 2012

Star Trek vs. Star Wars


   A fetching lass asked me to blog about which is better, Star Trek or Star Wars.  To be honest, I was surprised.  Space Command nerds such as myself as well as computer geeks have argued the point since 1977 onwards with quips such as, "Okay, you have the Enterprise versus an Imperial Star Destroyter..." or.. "Darth Vader confronts Spock and.."  Classic mixing of supposition of two entirely different universes.  Non-nerds will wave it off, but such debates spark imagination and creativity, and honestly, this stuff is what makes new technologies, eventually.  Those that don't consider such possibilities usually have an empty stare in their souls, shaking their heads at such fluff and flight of fancy to focus on more practical things, like their bills, kids, and their tan Camery base-model.  Empty folk having empty kids.  It'd be nice if they could all be eliminated as they're boring and what I deem, "unworthy of life" but, hey, we need a slave-race of dummy-automatons to make up for the tax deficit.  Weep for those with no soul, my friends.  For them, we give football and MMA (aka non-mixed martial arts aka teen-Judo + white-belt-level kick-boxing).
  So, enough of these jeers, on to the debate!  I spent a few days considering it, and it's a matter completely of preference.  Ultimately, I came down to whether one enjoys military-strategy or action-fable genre.  Sometimes the two overlap, for instance, there's sometimes some good action in Star Trek, and sometimes there's some good strategy in Star Wars.  On the rare occasion the genre has an equal level of both, it's explosively good, such as Star Trek's Wrath of Khan or Star Wars' Empire Strikes Back.  The 1980's was a very good decade for movies!

  The Star Wars universe focuses on classic fable-telling.  Indeed, the original trilogy plays on good versus evil, nicely clear-cut.  There's some WW-II elements, and some growing-up right-of-passage goings on, as well as some son out-grows the father eventually, with just a tiny hint of religious mysticism to keep you engaged.   Some ancient stories are based on the original Star Wars movie of 1977 and it grips the audience with just the right amount of tension.  I saw it in the theaters about a dozen times when it came out, as did most people at that time.  Mobs would jam the theaters, often people would get hurt trying to get a ticket for the first year.  There was no orderly entry, it was that amazing.  Music created "Disco Star Wars" offshoots, and John Williams' score was topping the charts on mainstream Billboard Top 200.  It was overwhelming.  Kenner Toy Company was making millions.  Nothing of this magnitude had ever been seen or accomplished, and nor never since to this day.  It played on all of our dreams of epic adventure where the good guy gets the princess and saves the day from the evil empire with Eryl Flynn elements of storytelling such as Robin Hood or America versus Hitler, overwhelmed and out-matched, yet still the rag-tag fugitives save the day, and the universe from tyranny!  Amazing!  The film kept playing continuously for 3 years, slowing ending up the final year in matinee cheaper theaters that played second-run films until its sequel, Empire Strikes Back came out, and then Star Wars was back in the main theaters again for another 2 years along with Empire.  Eventually by 1982 it stopped playing until 1983 when the final movie in the trilogy, Return of the Jedi (I remember getting the poster for Revenge of the Jedi and some similar playing-cards, its original working title).  All three movies came back into the main theaters again.

  The Star Wars saga was not that bad, a bit corny at times, and scientific physics were sometimes ignored which caused some scrutiny amongst educators.  The concept of a light saber aside from a plasma torch is still not even possible to this day.  It was good fun, and at my age of 7 to 14 it was pretty freakin' awesome a time to have those 3 movies and right up my alley.  The trilogy taught appearances are deceiving by way of Yoda and later the inhabitants of the forest moon of Endor that the Emperor's pride ignored as he felt his empire was far too powerful for such a pathetic bunch of losers to threaten.  It taught that good can triumph over evil with perseverance despite the odds, as most '80s movies did, and well.  Ah, it was a good time.
 Honestly, for 7 years, it was pretty much the trilogy that set the standard for all other sci-fi movies, and a heck of a lot of B-Movies were conceptualized from it.  All except one genre...

Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan (Saavik being chastized for failing the Kobayashi Maru test)

  Star Trek started way back in 1966 and was on-par with the highest quality sci-fi movies of its time.  Special effects were on-par with movies from 8 years earlier in the case of Forbidden Planet (1957) from which, in my opinion, was where it was based on.  Forbidden Planet is a very good movie for its time and considered in the top 100 and sometimes the top 10 best conceived science fiction movies of all time.  I liked it.  I put it in the top 30 for sure. 

Forbidden Planet special effects wizardry 1957
   Star Trek as a series of movies and TV series is very encompassing.  It has a very very large fan-base, more-so than Star Wars, arguably, with more die-hard fans than you'd expect.  There are clubs by the thousands across the country that are officialized.  Some consider it a religion much more than Star Wars' "The Force" concept of ether-psycho-kinetic-powers (later turning out to be Mitichlorians or STDs passed down from generation to generation, you pick).  Star Trek is a lot more slow and pondering like a chess game where Star Wars is a lot more like checkers.  Sure, checkers is fun, but there's minute strategy in it.  Star Trek is almost pure strategy.  Re-watching the original series, the military internal conflicts amongst the officers is just like when I go to work every day and for the last 20 years.  Sometimes, officers "pull rank" when subordinates won't budge as a last-ditch desperate effort to get their way.  Decisions are made very carefully.  Lives are lost and lamented over.  Political maneuverings affect players.  I'd say Star Trek is a thinking man's military sci-fi.  If you admire the maneuverings of battles of the US Civil War or Patton's musings during WW-II, then this is your sci-fi. 

World War II bomber cockpit reminiscent of The Millennium Falcon

  I find Star Trek the original series more realistic, and the computer graphic update two years ago give it a fresh, un-kiddy look with no toys on strings ala 1930's Flash Gordon serials.  Modernized it makes sense, and I can see it appealing to military members that have to deal with tough conflict decisions and the emotional and tactical impact those decisions make, often for-life on a permanent basis.  Star Trek makes you think, "What would I do in this situation?"  It's also very boring at times, especially for those without patients with ADHD.  Kids won't get it.  There's no Jar-Jar Binks for the kiddies, or Ewoks for the young ladies.  It's math-strategy of submariners by way of Run Silent Run Deep circa 1958.  For about 20 years or so, it went away, its impact still affecting America and the world, then Star Trek finally got it's turn in 1979 spawned, ironically by Star Wars, the pretentious film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Trying to push the CGI envelope at its time, it was silly, but people arrived in droves.  It got a lackluster review and so a second movie, spawning a trilogy came out, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.  This movie borrowed some Star Wars elements based on earlier foes from the original series and it was a complete success and is considered, like Star Wars to be on-par as one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all-time.  Star Trek II, III, and IV as a trilogy did quite well in the theaters and rivaled the Star Wars trilogy nicely, employing strategic and a few comedic elements as well.  A few more movies came out and we all thought it was done, and a nice finale but then...

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Klingon officer Chang considers espianage)

 The Next Generation started up in the '80s and was wildly popular but a lot slower than before and with a get-along crew that rarely conflicted with each other.  I found it boring but hey, that's me.  Eventually the show picked-up the pace and got from okay to really good, and some fantastic episodes such as The Inner Light and Chain of Command that were just stellar (no pun intended).  This TV show spawned two more series off of it around the same timeline and both did pretty well and got good nerd-cred. 
  The Star Trek franchise had a lot more episodes than the three Star Wars movies.  All combined, to include motion picture releases, is somewhere near 900 episodes altogether to Star Wars' mere 7 at this point, with a mild nod to the several dozen crappy 2-minute Clone Wars cartoons, Droids and Ewoks in the '80s as well, (though Star Trek had a nice animated series by filmation with the same voice-actors of the original series as well).  About a ratio of 10 to one.

Star Wars: Droids circa 1985

  At my age, it's hard for me to take recent releases of Star Wars seriously.  Lines like, "I'm a girl!!!  You got a problem with that?  Hmph!" and Jabba's stinky nephew/son Rotta is just too geared for a 3-year-old ala Shrek.  It's not that it's bad per-se, it's just .. well, I've grown out of it.  I'm not 7 years old anymore and I don't watch baby shows which is what the Star Wars franchise has become.  The second trilogy was a let-down to not just me but most of Planet Earth as a whole, even taking a jab at it in several movies such as Fanboys, "He's dying of cancer and he can finally see The Phantom Menace before he dies as a pre-release because he won't survive the acutal release.. but what if it sucks?"  Subtle point.  At this point, I'd say George Lucas was lucky when he hit the nail on the head with the first three in 1977 but hasn't made anything remotely good since.  Now these movies are not awful, they're just not .. great.  There's dozens of repeated reasons as to why I'm not much of a fan of the new stuff that millions have already mentioned.  You know the reasons.  Everyone does by now.  Sad, really.  Disappointing.  All of it after 1983.  Few can argue it.  Some die-hards try to make take up the defense, "Oh, well you were 13 years old back then.. these new movies are geared for 13 year olds!"  No sir.  No they are not.  No 13 year-old liked the movies either.  It was geared more in 1997 for 3-year-olds.  It went from late-teens getting the girl and the guy with the cool get-a-way car in 1977 to babies.  Sorry.  Don't like it.  It smells of "I need money for toy sales" too much.  Yuck. 

Clone Wars (film) 2008

  NOW.. there ARE some elements of the current Star Wars universe that are pretty okay, and sure, I can be entertained by it.  It's expanded quite a lot as it went downhill from 1981, and there's a bit more intrigue.  There's a huge selection of universe-based stories out there, some George has made canonical, which is neet, and I mean really, who doesn't want a light-saber or an X-Wing fighter?  Heck, I still want one!  You'd be nuts not to!  Cool as shite!
  Star Trek was reboot to fill the teen-Star Wars gap in 2010.  George didn't deliver and Paramount and JJ Abrhams saw the hole and filled it.  Star Trek re-release with its surprising psedo-science and minimal character development with goofy special effects and tactics that just don't make sense really takes care of where the original Star Wars trilogy left-off.  I found the film to be fun but a bit of a goofy flop.  The strategy is that of an 18 year-old buying stocks.  Dump your engine into the gravity-well to make it go away?  Yeah, that's not gonna work, kids.  Take an Astronomy 101 course in college.  Luckily, it was geared for 16-year-olds so it might invoke some interest of the older material.  Few younglings these days have the patients though, but then again, hasn't that always been the case throughout time?  There's still some of us old enough to sit through Twelve Angry Men (1957) for the strategic climax, or Dark Passage film noir circa 1947.  Sadly, Fox Television kills any good shows, like the excellent Firefly series which like Star Trek sprung one triumphant final-episodic film.  Hollywood has to think we're not that dumb.  Why not some future-noir like Blade Runner again?  Why do sci-fi movies have to be so stupid these days?  No more elegance or grace, it's just boom bang kablooey like Pluto Nash.  Sigh.  Sure, the new Star Trek solves the gap for Star Wars and the new Star Wars solves the gap for Mister Rogers Neighborhood but what fills that needed gap of the original Star Trek? 

Ewoks cartoon talking about the joys of friendship circa 1986

  So.. overall, both universes are good in their own ways.  Some elements of each are better than others, and some, such as Jar-Jar, are just deplorable (sorry Ahmed Best, nice try, I loved you in The Electric Company though).  Personally, overall, I'd say Star Trek wins for complex story, realism, gripping concepts and scandalous subject-matter (try watching Let That Be Your Last Battlefield).  Good clean fun can be had out of Star Wars but unlike the masses, I go to the movies not to be entertained and to not think, but to THINK and therefore BE ENTERTAINED!!!


Over and out.

1 comment:

  1. PATIENCE = restrained waiting = attention span

    PATIENTS = people in a hospital or doctor's clients