A Trekkie’s thoughts on The Force Awakens

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I’m a Trekkie. I have been my whole life (thanks, Dad!) and generally, two things are assumed about me in regards to Star Wars given the fact that I’m a die-hard Star Trek fan: That I must absolutely love Star Wars too or that I fervently hate Star Wars because it’s “competition.” Both of these are, of course, untrue since the similarities between Wars and Trek stop at the fact that they just both happen to take place in space. I don’t love it because of that and I don’t hate it in spite of that. Instead of extreme like or dislike either way, I fall somewhere in between. I’m neutral; the Switzerland of fan when it comes to Star Wars. I appreciate the franchise and I respect its loyal fandom, but I’ve only seen each of the films maybe twice.

I joke about it, but I’ve never truly grasped the competitive factor laid between the two sci-fi franchises since, as I mentioned before, they are actually inherently different from one another. Star Wars is a space opera; a science fiction fantasy story about the fight between good and evil. Star Trek is, as creator Gene Roddenberry described it, a “wagon train to the stars;” a science fiction (someday) reality about the human experience.

All that being said, I’ve of course seen The Force Awakens. Twice actually, and I thoroughly enjoyed the cinematic experience of it during both viewings, one of which was in 3D. Upon exiting the theatre after my first screening however, I remember thinking what many people have since claimed: The Force Awakens is A New Hope all over again. It is, at the very least, extremely derivative of that storyline and I have very mixed feelings on this, especially given that the director is J.J. Abrams. His last directorial outing for the Star Trek franchise, Into Darkness, was also extremely derivative of a film that had already been done: The Wrath of Khan. Many fans have very strong opinions about this. Some loved it and some outright hated it. I personally felt the film was entertaining, but was really disheartened that they felt it necessary to explore the Khan character again. Again, I fall somewhere in between. While we’re at it, I felt the same way about Jurassic World, which was derivative of the original Jurassic Park.

I’ve grappled with the concept of derivative storytelling. On one hand, I understand why it is so widely used in film making right now. New audiences need to be brought in with a tried-and-true formula and existing fans need to have a feeling of nostalgia to remember why they became a fan in the first place so many years ago. And it usually works. On the other hand, it feels like lazy writing. The use of the same formula instead of coming up with something completely original within that universe feels almost like a copout. When it comes to Star Wars specifically though, I remember the last outing of films. The prequels were original, but they were terrible. I’ve actually gained a little more respect for them lately because, even though they are almost unwatchable, at least they tried something new. The Force Awakens played it safe. But as long as people are paying to see films that rely heavily on nostalgia, studios will continue making them this way. What remains to be seen is if the next two installments of this trilogy go the way of originality, having only used the existing formula and nostalgia to kick it off. I certainly hope that is the case.

But I digress. For those of you Star Wars fans who absolutely loved The Force Awakens, I’m so glad. I’m so glad you have something you enjoyed so much, especially after the last trilogy series. For those of you fans who have serious issues with it, I get it. And it’s okay to be critical of something you love. It absolutely does not mean that you are any less of a fan. And for those of you who fall somewhere in the middle, we’re in the same boat…. Or spaceship?

Live long and prosper. And may the Force be with you.

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