Everyone loves a good debate; whether its discussing Yankees vs Red Sox, Trump vs Clinton, Roe vs Wade, debates stir up all sorts of intellectual curiosity that increases our awareness of people that do not share our world view. We come out of these arguments stronger and healthier as a people and as a nation………………………………………………………………..
Hmmm… Yeah I didn’t even believe that myself. Ok, let’s start over.
No one likes a good debate these days, and for good reason. However, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have one from time to time. A debate we should be having on a daily basis is whether Star Wars is really the best sci-fi movie franchise out there. Heck, is it really even a sci-fi franchise? (We won’t quite go there today)
Star Wars is so popular it has its own holiday, as we know. But, there is another sci-fi movie franchise that is arguably better than Star Wars and is more worthy of national and global holidays. The franchise, of course, is Star Trek. Sure, Star Trek is not exactly the plucky underdog in the Star Trek Vs Star Wars debate; there are still star trek conventions occurring to this day, and 5 separate live action series and going on 13 movies made. But, in my opinion, it is criminally underserved compared to the hype Star Wars gets on a daily basis.
So here I am to prove, once and for all, that Star Trek is a better movie franchise than Star Wars.
Some provisos before we get started:
1) To keep this as apples to apples as possible, I will be focusing only on the Star Trek movies with the original cast and the reboot starring Chris Pine/Zach Quinto. My omission of the Star Trek Next Generation movies is not intended as a slight.
2) I love Star Wars and Star Trek. This breakdown pitting them against each other is for fun only.
3) The criteria I use to evaluate Star Wars Vs Star Trek is mine, and mine alone, and quite obviously subjective. There is no science to it (ironically enough).
4) Credit to the format of this debate goes to The Sports Guy Bill Simmons. I could not imagine writing this any other way after reading his famous Pacino vs Deniro debate
Without further ado, let’s Make it So!!!
(sorry, I know I promised no TV and no Next Generation, but it’s hard sometimes)
Best Lead Male Character
Luke Skywalker vs Captain James T. Kirk
So you can make a pretty good argument that Obi-Wan Kenobi is the true lead male character of Star Wars: he has been in just as many movies as Skywalker in a prominent, leading role. However, since Star Wars is really about the soap opera of the Skywalker clan, and since Luke (I am guessing) features prominently in Episodes VIII/IX, I’m going with Luke here.
And let’s discuss Luke. He’s incredibly naïve, gives up constantly , ignores his future as it is being directly told to him, and, unbelievably, can’t even put up a fight vs the emperor by himself (sure sure, he defeats him by selling his dad on family and thus getting his dad to turn on the emperor, but he was going to be defeated by the emperor unless a 1-30 chance happened!!)
Isn’t it really important that our hero vanquishes the bad guy???
Meanwhile, we have James T. Kirk, who, by all accounts, hates to lose, cheats death constantly, not by midichlorians, but by his cunning and strategic attacks on his opponent’s weaknesses. He rejects temptation to the dark side with much more moral clarity than even Luke Skywalker.
You tell me who you want in the foxhole with you, Kirk, or Luke? If you want to get out alive, there is no question.
Edge: Star Trek
Best Leading Female Character
Princess Leia vs Lt. Uhura
Well, let’s see. We have a princess who isn’t afraid to shoot a gun and takes down Joba the Hut all by herself by choking him to death.
We have Lt. Uhura, who never in the entire movie franchise (or the tv series) assumed the captain’s chair for even a second, despite some very questionable red-shirts assuming command temporarily during that time. And when you get right down to it, Lt Uhura’s biggest contribution to accomplishing the missions in the movies was to do this.
BIG EDGE: Star Wars
Best Supporting Character
Mr. Spock vs Han Solo
One is a brash gunslinger who now doesn’t even want to acknowledge ever shooting first in a bar scuffle.
One is a logic focused half earthling/half Vulcan who is brilliant, incredibly strong, and maintains an ethos of non-violence. However, he isn’t afraid to shoot first either when situations warrant.
So naturally, the edge goes to Mr. Spock. However, Han Solo will always have this going for him as far as drop the mic moments (the best ever)
Darth Vader vs Khan
Darth Vader frequently tops most people’s “best movie villains of all time” list, and his performance in A New Hope and Empire Strikes back certainly merits such an appraisal.
However…can a villain really be a villain if he ends up becoming a hero??? Can he??
Meanwhile, on the other side, we have a villain who not only revels in burying his opponents alive, but, in his opportunity to turn good and save innocent lives, decides to push the nuke button anyways.
(I mean, is this really a debate?)
Big Edge: Star Trek
Star Wars’s best dressups come in the prequel, with fairly inventive, albeit ridiculous, outfits.
Meanwhile, Star Trek costumes look like something from an adult YMCA sleepover
HUGE EDGE: Star Wars
Best Prequel Movie
Phantom Menace Vs Star Trek (Chris Pine version)
As Rifftrax once said about the Phantom Menace (paraphrasing), “You know what I want from my sci-fi movies??? Talking. Lots and lots of talking about what happened”
As far as Star Trek prequel goes well first, there is………………I don’t need to cite anything!! It’s being compared against the Phantom Menace!!
(So you say Revenge of the Sith is the best prequel? Really? You sure??)
HUGE GIGANTIC EDGE: Star Trek
Attack of the Clones Vs Star Trek: The Motion Picture
So Star Trek: The Motion Picture is so bad I punished OnStage movie critic Ken Jones to watch it as a result of losing a bet. And he ended up agreeing with me after being forced to write a review on it. Basically, I found watching certain paints dry more pulse pounding than that movie.
But of course, we’re comparing it to The Attack of the Clones, which, speaking of watching paint dry, features prominently scenes like this.
Sorry, no contest
(And Final Frontier is so bad its good. Sorry, it is. Star Trek The Motion Picture is just painstakingly boring bad)
Edge: Star Trek
Empire Strikes Back Vs Wrath of Khan
Empire might be, still, the best action sequel ever made.
Wrath of Khan is still underrated for the non-star trek fans. It features some legitimately tense set pieces for the uninitiated, and features some commentary on the dangers of following a vendetta blindly and without thinking through the consequences.
All that said, Empire wins fairly handily
Edge: Star Wars
“I am Your Father” vs Spock’s Death
“I am Your Father” is iconic, a trend-setter, and a game changer for the franchise. HOWEVER, the part that has always bothered me is Luke’s reaction to it. Watch it here. It’s basically the 7 stages of grief compressed into 10 seconds. It’s an impressive bit of acting to accomplish it, but is it a little too scenery chewing? Doesn’t the denial phase take more than 5 seconds? Does he accept it that quickly?
Spock’s death scene, on the other hand, is Shatner and Nimoy’s finest acting accomplishment, by far. You watch it, in context, and think its two brothers saying good bye for the final time. Its haunting, and it takes an entire (unfortunately crappy) sequel to deal with those feelings.
“I Am Your Father” is understandably more in the cultural lexicon, and it gets points for that. It’s hard to take a line from a somber death scene and parody it. But, for my money, I can’t choose between one or the other. But I have to give the edge to what society chose
Slightest of slight edges: Star Wars
Star Trek features an Asian and African-American cast members, along with a Half Alien/Half-Earthling who serves as an allegory for racial discrimination amongst its starring cast. Oh yeah, and Star Trek featured the first ever inter-racial kiss on screen. (I know, I’m not supposed to talk about TV!)
Meanwhile, Star Wars has this to say about racial diversity
HUGE EDGE: Star Trek
Morals of their Stories
Star Trek has the following things to say from their movies
“Sound decisions are never made while wearing pajamas at work” (Motion Picture)
“The needs of the many always outweigh the needs of the few” (Wrath of Khan).
Don’t mess with the earth or its animals, or environmental catastrophe will follow (The Voyage Home)
Learning how to use your pain to make you a stronger person (Final Frontier, and yes, there was a lesson to be learned from that movie besides “Stop making odd numbered movies Star Trek!”).
Revenge is never a good thing to base foreign policy around. (Undiscovered Country)
All of these morals seem relevant today, no?
And here’s the two lessons from Star Wars:
1) Only evil people speak in absolutes (don’t recall the great leaders of our time speaking in “both sides have a point” generalities, but never mind)
2) Good conquers Evil…………………………………….which as we know from the 2016 US election is poppycock.
HUGE GINORMOUS EDGE: STAR TREK
So there you have it, by a final score of 6-4-1, I give you indisputable evidence that Star Trek is a better movie franchise than Star Wars.
Now, may the force live long and prosper with you, always.
Greg Ehrhardt is an unabashed Star Trek fan and an occasional contributor to OnStage and OnScreen.