Yesterday I was engrossed in a fabulous conversation with one of my officers and we were talking about the new Star Trek. He said that it was the first Star Trek movie that was absolutely BETTER than any of the Star Wars movies.
Now, you can agree or disagree with that as you see fit, but I think there are three major things you have to consider when comparing the two.
1. Time lapse– The first Star Wars movie came out May 25th, 1977 – tomorrow will be its 32nd birthday. Thirty years is a long time in the world of sci-fi/fantasy. Since 1977 we’ve gotten great movies like Predator, Back to the future, Blade Runner, Fifth Element, Gattaca, Contact, the Matrix… granted, not all high grossing movies but through these examples you can certainly see the technological advances made and that’s part of this point. There is a significant time lapse as far as technology is concerned between Star Wars and this particular Star Trek and that has to be taken into consideration.
2. Maturity level & age – Star Wars was intended to be a family-friendly movie for everyone to enjoy. It didn’t have a lot of “adult” jokes that went over the kid’s heads so the adults could get a laugh… it was genuine entertainment suitable for all ages. It was somewhat aimed at kids but not so shallow that adults couldn’t enjoy it. Some of the people that loved Star Wars the most when it came out were those kids the movie was aimed at, most of which are now adults with children or grandchildren of their own. One of the joys of parenthood (as I understand it) is exposing your children to wonderful things, such as your favorite movies. So those people that watched and loved Star Wars before are now introducing their children and grandchildren to Star Wars as soon as they’re old enough to enjoy it.
I fondly recall sitting with my father watching Star Wars for the first time. He was so happy to show it to me that I think he spent more time watching my reactions than he did actually watching the movie.
I was about 8 years old… and it was incredible.
The story, the shiny C-3PO, the adorable R2-D2, the handsome Luke, the story, the action and… I could go on. I had a bit of love affair with Star Wars as a child. I still make references to the force being strong in people.
Now I’m an adult. My reasoning and observation skills are completely different than they were 16 years ago. And that works out perfectly because the new Star Trek is not necessarily intended to be a kid movie. The first few moments of the movie are incredibly emotional and powerful. There are plenty of laughs, but not necessarily laughs involving cute or adorable machines. I’m not saying that kids wouldn’t enjoy it, but it’s an adult movie aimed at adults. Each movie had different (but similar) target audiences, and you can’t expect them to compete on the same level as each other in that respect.
3. 1977 vs. 2009– If we’re going to compare Star Wars to anything, we should compare it to other movies that came out in the 70s. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Saturday Night Fever, Freaky Friday, Logan’s Run, Taxi Driver. Reasonably good movies. But Star Wars really pushed the envelope then and produced something that went far and above anything else that was coming out at the time. George Lucas was seen as revolutionary. Star Wars wasn’t just a great movie, it was (arguably) the best film to come out in 1977 and unarguably the film that had the most staying power as far as influence is concerned. Consider this: it’s 32 years later and I’m blogging about it!
Now, consider the new Star Trek. Yes, it’s fantastic. But how does it compare to other movies that have come out in the past year? We have had movies like Wolverine, Watchmen, Dark Knight, Iron Man, Wall-E and Quantum of Solace. It compares well, but does it go far and above and beyond what all those other movies are? Does it push the envelope like Star Wars did? I don’t think so. How will we view it in 32 years?
There is no way I can legitimately (at this point) compare the two movies and determine the better one. I can’t view Star Wars for the first time ever again as an adult. Likewise, I can’t watch Star Trek through the eyes of my 8 year old self.
Unlike Star Wars, most of the die-hard or even casual fans of Star Trek grew up on tv shows like Enterprise, DS9, and cheese-ball movies. They have years and years of Star Trek history to compare this movie to. And since it’s the same story – idealized by Gene Roddenberry – we canmake comparisons to those tv shows and movies in regards to this new movie. And in that respect, the new Star Trek is absolutely amazing. It has real emotion and power along with amazing fight scenes and a realistic future to dream about. It sucks you in and steals you away for a few hours of your life… which is EXACTLY what Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas wanted to do with their unique stories.
No, I don’t think you can compare the two movies without taking all this (and more) into consideration. IF I were to try, I would simply say that watching Star Wars as a child helped me appreciate Star Trek more as an adult. They can happily coexist in my world as excellent movies in their own right, and that’s good enough for me.