By Mario Ricciardi
In lieu of the holiday season, we approach the special day of the year when families grow closer, friendships become stronger and we receive a gift from an elusive someone. In a few weeks Kathleen Kennedy will be sending out Lucasfilm’s annual “Star Wars” movie to theaters around the world.
Not to dampen the mood, but with any far-reaching fandom, there’s bound to be a Scrooge. One who bah-humbugs his way through all the celebration. I haughtily reveal to you, I am that person. I have analyzed closely, and refuse to hop on the “Star Wars” hype train after the last two installments and … with the latest “Star Trek” movies to watch instead.
A quick prelude (or prequel) to my position needs to note I feel the “Star Wars” films are a wonderful vehicle for the imagination, has true lasting power in its story of good versus evil and is a technological achievement in filmmaking. That being said, “Star Wars” is kind of a drag.
Starting with the pacing of the films. For everything the “Star Wars” universe has to show, the first nine films spend an egregious amount of time standing around talking. With the exception of “The Empire Strikes Back,” there’s little revolutionary about the story. Sure, “Star Wars” can be engaging thanks to its ever-developing backstory, but is it really good enough to be on lists with “Taxi Driver” and “Apocalypse Now”?
The dialogue is relatively weak, and the character development frequently gets swapped out for empty drama. There are also a lot of blatantly bad decisions which made their ways into the finished films (Jar Jar Binks, Ewoks, the first two hours of “Episode I”).
“The Force Awakens” and “Rogue One” had a chance to change the game, but instead, chose to play it safe. Writing female characters in lead roles was new, but the effort was quickly undermined. “The Force Awakens” can easily be described as a reimagining of “A New Hope,” and “Rogue One” made the same mistake as “Phantom Menace” with a forgettable opening two hours.
If I’m going to watch a space epic meant to excite, that is both socially and ethically conscious, and takes fresh risks, I’ll happily take the rebooted “Star Trek” films. Those movies know how to keep up the pace, explore deeper questions about society, and push filmmaking as a whole, not just the special effects. Dare I use the words “boldly go? “
The new Trek films leave little room for mediocrity. From the huge special effects pieces to the minute camera movements, little to no effort is wasted without putting something thoughtful and exciting onto film. The casting is spot on with actors who emulate the original characters, but also bring with them a modern spunk. Not to mention the design work in the new “Star Trek” films inspire the same kind of creativity the original “Star Wars” films inspired.
Our modern “Star Trek” has ingenuity and heart – two things the new “Star Wars” films have not been able to conjure up much of due to what I suspect is studio micromanagement. I think it is worth noting that J.J. Abrams directed both “Star Trek,” “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” and “The Force Awakens” and there is still a creative gap.
Even with not having watched the originals series, I thoroughly enjoy the new “Star Trek” movies and rightfully so. I understand the mass appeal of “Star Wars.” I would never want to take that from anyone, but from an objective standpoint, I don’t think it deserves the trigger praise it gets.
That’s just me. For everyone else, have a Merry Dec. 15!