Star Wars vs. Star Trek: Beyond the Force Awakens (A Double Review)
When it comes to dramatic science fiction, no two names evoke as much passion as Star Wars and Star Trek. These two storied franchises have been pitted against each other for decades now. (Even if the two properties are apples and oranges). Conveniently, the newest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens was released only a few months before the latest Star Trek film, Beyond. That means I can do a double review and pit these two films against each other. Which one is the better film?
First, a disclaimer. I am a bigger fan of Star Trek than I am Star Wars. I have seen pretty much every episode of Star Trek (though I have only completed Deep Space Nine). I have also seen every film. My familiarity with Star Wars rests solely with the seven films. I have zero interest in the Expanded Universe or whatever the new version of it is.
All of that said, I am not going to tear either movie down for the benefit of the other. I enjoyed both The Force Awakens and Beyond immensely. I do give the edge to Beyond because there are elements in The Force Awakens which annoys me to no end.
The Force Awakens
On the whole The Force Awakens is a return to excellence for a franchise that suffered through a not well received prequel trilogy. The film is beautiful and finely acted. The narrative is pretty good save when nostalgia trumps originality.
The film looks amazing. From Jakku to the Starkiller Base everything is gorgeous. Even when the set is meant to look menacing. The CGI is excellent and seamlessly merges with the real sets.
The acting is very well done. The principal leads (Isaac, Ridley, and Boyega) are amazing. Fisher and Ford are great in the brief time they are on screen. Carrie Fisher is especially compelling as General Organa (pity she isn’t more prominent in the film). Gleeson and Driver a pretty good as the villains Hux and Ren. I am not fond of Kylo Ren. I think he is the new Jar Jar. But Adam Driver wonderfully captures that manchild.
I love the main narrative of the film: the search for Luke Skywalker. It allows the new characters a chance to develop outside of the parameters set by Luke, Leia, and Han.
I am annoyed, at best, by everything related to Starkiller Base. Narrative sacrificed to nostalgia of the original trilogy does not make for a good secondary arc. I would not be so annoyed if plot beats did not repeat from the first films. Is there not a ring system or asteroid field around the Resistance Base? Why not use some of them in mass drivers to assault Starkiller once the shield is down? Or come up with some original battle plan?
Overall, though, I did really like The Force Awakens. I especially like the new trio of Rey, Finn, and Poe.
I cannot say that I have liked the Kelvin/ reboot Star Trek films. While successful, I do not believe that Abrams’s vision of Star Trek is anything other than turning a great science fiction franchise (flaws and all) into nothing more than a blockbuster without much soul. Of the three films, Beyond is the best. While not what I want in my Star Trek, Star Trek Beyond is an enjoyable and fun film.
The film is beautiful. I especially love the Yorktown. That is an amazing scene. And the battles are awesome.
The acting is good. I especially like Sofia Boutella as Jaylah and Zoe Saldana as Uhura. I do think that Idris Elba and Shohreh Aghdashloo are underutilized in the film, though.
The story is good and fun if a little repetitive (the plots of all three Star Trek reboot films are very similar). I like the fact that the crew is split up and engaging in their own character arcs that further develop them all (rather than just Kirk, McCoy, and Spock).
My lone problem with the film, besides the lack of material for Elba and Aghdashloo, is the final battle. In a battle to save thousands if not millions of lives, is it not corny to rock out?
Despite that one grievance, I really like this film.
So, which film is better? Again,I give a slight edge to Star Trek Beyond. I cannot get over my annoyance with Starkiller Base. Or my hate for Kylo Ren.
The futures of Star Wars and Star Trek are bright. If you haven’t seen both these films, what are you waiting for? Go watch it now!