By: Ariel Ryann
Every geek knows you can’t compare Star War to Star Trek.
Aside from a word, they’re nothing alike. But chances are you’ve been asked to choose between the two before, and I’d bet all my Quatloos that you probably picked Star Wars. Maybe you’ve seen only one of the films, maybe you’ve seen them all, maybe you’re just a lying nerfherder who hasn’t seen any but can feel your way through the fandom simply based off the ubiquitous merchandise you’ve seen consistently sold over the past four decades. Whatever your rationale, you’d probably say you love Star Wars, and we all do. It’s easy to love Star Wars.
The biggest selling point behind the Star Wars franchise is that it’s a crowd pleaser, an inspiring classic tale of good versus evil, archetypes and all. Another episode of Luke and the original gang crossing lightsabers with the Dark Side could have easily whetted the appetite of fans worldwide, but that’d be too easy. People will line up around the block to see another Star Wars film and appreciate its addition to the series whether it’s a quality production or not.
I was afraid that The Force Awakens would just be a play to milk the Star Wars fandom while it’s peaking in the mainstream, and while it absolutely does that, its setup and quality prove that it was produced with more genuine intentions than I imagined. TFA is the beginning of a new era of the Star Wars series, spearheaded by a fresh cast with a refreshingly modern magnetism.
The new characters are what make The Force Awakens a Millennial-aged masterpiece. All the new faces come with relatable personalities and undeniable charm. They’re young, they’re clever, and most importantly, they’re realistically flawed. That’s what the trend is today. With office space sitcoms and hashtags abound, it’s evident that people love the kindred feeling they get by exposing and accepting the human condition. TFA embraces that theme exceptionally by exemplifying the oxymoronic concept of the realistic fantasy character.
It’s difficult to make fictional characters with high-stake roles more relatable and human, yet TFA did that perfectly. Finn isn’t an archetypal underdog or unexpected hero like we would expect from an action film. He’s a panicky guy of 20-odd years that doesn’t know what he wants in life aside from getting out of the friendzone and finding a better job than his last one scrubbing toilets and conforming to dress codes under a steely supervisor and hot-headed CEO. At some point in our lives, we’ve all been Finn.
There’s just so much to be said about the newbies. I’m stoked to have Rey as our long-deserved Jedi heroine, though as the lone leading lady of the film, the franchise’s feminism could go even further. BB-8 is the new tension-diffusing droid we’ve been looking for, and don’t even get me started on the loveable smartassery of Poe “Hot Damn” Dameron, who quickly became everyone’s
crush within the first ten minutes of the film. I still can’t really believe our new Sith Lord is a Hot Topic manager, but I’ll be honest, I adore it. I adore them all. In fact, I might even enjoy them too much.
Remember the bridge scene when Ren pulled out his lightsaber and offered it to Solo after tearfully imploring him to help end his pain? When I first watched that, I was afraid that Ren was asking for some sort of assisted seppuku as retribution for all his Sith-guilt. So when the saber was instead rammed into the legendary Han Solo, I sighed in relief knowing that my new favourite bad boy would live on. I was actually glad that Han Solo died instead of his homicidal emo kid of a son. I should be ashamed of myself for that. But how can I be? We all should’ve known that someone would need to die to accommodate room for all the new kids on the block, and seriously, just look at that hair. It’s luxurious. I’m despicable.
The fresh faces in The Force Awakens are like something fashioned from fanfiction or a thrilling teen drama. They’re like The Breakfast Club. Finn is the non-confrontational nerd, Poe is an X-wing
jock, Ren rocks Bender’s loose waves and anger issues, BB-8’s the basket case, and Rey is the princess that doesn’t need saving. It may sound insulting for me to compare the two movies, but think about it. They’re classics for a reason.
The beauty of Episode VII is that it hasn’t just become a flick people line up to see at Cineplex as a mainstream expectation, like some sort of cultural rite of passage. It’s a completely new narrative that Millennials can especially latch onto and adore so that when we do see it, we aren’t overwhelmed by its politics or underwhelmed by its predictability. We’re easily absorbed into the drama between these new and relatable characters, and because of that, it’s easy to love Star Wars.
So, let’s compare Star Wars to Star Trek.
Star Wars is a science fantasy film series.
Star Trek is a science fiction character drama spanning over six TV series and many bad movies. When the original series of Star Trek was in its heyday, fans couldn’t get enough of Kirk, Spock, and the whole Enterprise gang. When The Next Generation was aired nearly 20 years later, a whole new cast of space explorers had Trekkies vexed and conflicted. “How can you have Star Trek without Kirk? How can you have a bald captain? Why is there a black Klingon on the bridge?” Some fans were so miffed they protested and picketed the network studio, utterly offended that they would dare call the show Star Trek . As a die-hard Trekkie myself, I’ll be the first to tell you that TNG is nothing like the original series. In my opinion, it’s even better. And now, not only is TNG regarded as one of the most beloved Trek series of all time, it begat three more of them with even more diverse casts and plotlines. Kirk’s crew didn’t really shepherd the Star Trek chronicles; Picard’s did.
So how can you have Star Wars without Han Solo? How can you have a female Jedi? Why is there a black Stormtrooper on the Falcon? All great series eventually need to change their narrative to suit the times, and that’s why Star Wars is being redoubled and revitalized to continue being the universally beloved series it’s always been. The Force Awaken’s cast of intergalactic rebels and runaways is a 21st-century approach to kickstart the next generation.
This article was originally published on our old website at https://thenewspaper.ca/the-arts/star-wars-the-next-generation/.