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Face-Off: Star Trek vs. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Good to see you again, cinephiles and all-around adrenaline junkies! This is the Face-Off, and this session we have a particularly stellar bout for you, or should I say interstellar. Last time we pit AVENGERS 2 against GUARDIANS 2, with the space a-holes getting the upper hand against Earth's mightiest heroes. On that note, we figured we'd stay in space and pit two of the more adored sci-fi adventures of this century: STAR TREKand STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

Helmed by franchise viagra J.J. Abrams, both movies acted as a reboot of their respective franchises, with TREK acting as a more traditional reboot, one that reintroduced the characters to a new generation, while FORCE AWAKENS continues after the events of RETURN OF THE JEDI, though also designed to bring in a new generation of audiences who were not tarnished by George Lucas' prequel trilogy. Both movies were tremendous successes, bringing in buckets of cash and loads of praise from critics and audiences, giving both series the revitalization they needed. But who did the revitalizing the best? This is what we are here to find out. Whip out your lightsabers and set your phaser's to kill, because we're about to go deep space nine all up this.

THE ENSEMBLE
Chris Pine as James T. Kirk
Zachary Quinto as Spock
Zoe Saldana as Nyota Uhura
Karl Urban as Leonard "Bones" McCoy
Simon Pegg as Montgomery "Scotty" Scott
John Cho as Hikaru Sulu
Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov
Eric Bana as Nero
Bruce Greenwood as Pike
Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime
Ben Cross as Sarek
with Winona Ryder as Amanda Greyson
and Chris Hemsworth as George Kirk
Daisy Ridley as Rey
John Boyega as Finn
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Lupita Nyong'o as Maz Kanata
Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke
Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
with Bill Hader as the voice of BB-8
and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
NOTABLE BITS & LINES

First Arrival of Nero

George Kirk: "Let's call him Jim."

The Death of George Kirk

Joyriding

Vulcan School

Young Spock: "I assume you have prepared new insults for today."

Vulcan Bully: "Affirmative."


Young Spock Brawls

Spock to Council: "Live long and prosper."

Meet Uhura

Kirk to Starfleet Cadets: "So go and get some more guys and then it will be an even fight."

Kirk Fights the Good/Drunk Fight

Pike's Talk

Meet Leonard "Bones" McCoy

Capturing Spock Prime's Ship

The Kobiashi Maru

Kirk and Spock Meet

Spock "favors" Uhura

Bones "helps" Kirk

Meet Sulu and Chekov

Enterrpise Has Performance Issues

Kirk's Side Effects

Warping Into Starfleet Graveyard

Nero to Pike: "Hi Christopher. I'm Nero."

Captain Spock

Space Jump

Kirk: "What kind of combat training do you have?"

Sulu: "Fencing."


Bye Bye, Red Suit Olsen

Sulu: Fencing Master

Diving For Sulu

Chekov: "I can do zat!"

Spock Beams Down

Death of Amanda

Destruction of Vulcan

Nero's Plot

Planning on the Bridge

Bones to Spock: "Dammit man, I'm a doctor not a physicist!"

Vulcan Nerve Pinch

Kirk Stranded...And Chased by Alien Creatures

Spock Prime

Kirk: "Bullshit."

Spock Shows the Past

Meet Scotty

Spock Prime to Kirk: "Live long and prosper."

Back on the Enterprise

Spock Emotionally Comprimised

Kirk to Crew: "Either we're going down, or they are."

The Plan

Spock and Uhura Kiss

Kirk to Spock: "Is her first name Nyota?"

Spock: "I have no comment on the matter."


Warping onto Nero's Ship

Phaser Fight

Earth Under Attack

Spock Destroys the Drill

Enterprise to the Rescue

3 People Warpped From 2 Locations onto 1 Platform

Nero's Ship and the Black Hole

Scotty to Kirk: "I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain!"

Escaping the Black Hole

Spock and Spock Prime Meet

Captain Kirk

The Crew Assembles

Spock Prime (V.O.): "Space; the final frontier..."

The Opening Scrawl

The New Stormtroopers

Meet Poe Dameron and BB-8

Lor San Tekka: "The General? To me she's royalty."

The First Order arrives

BB-8's Mission

FN-2187: The Marked Trooper

Kylo Ren Arrives and Strikes Down Lor...

...Then Freezes Blaster Ray in Mid-Air

Poe to Ren: "So who talks first? You talk first? I talk first?"

Ren: "The old man gave it to you."

Poe: "It's just hard with all the...apparatus."


Meet Captain Phasma

The Man Behind the Helm

Meet Rey: The Scavanger

Speeding Across Jakku

Rey's Home...Inside an AT-AT

Rey Saves BB-8

Ren Tortures Poe

The Droid's Not for Sale

Finn Breaks Out Poe

Jakku Crash Landing

Finn and Rey Have a Rough Introduction

Rey to Finn: "Stop taking my hand!"

The Return of the Falcon

The Falcon vs. The TIE-Fighters

Ren Has a Temper Tantrum

Thumbs Up

Han and Chewie

Han: "Chewie...we're Home."

The Assorted Gangs

Han: "I got a bad feeling about this."

Let Loose the Rathtars

Supreme Leader Snoke

Snoke to Ren: "There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?"

Chewie is a Bad Patient

The Map

Han: "It's true; the force, the jedi, all of it. It's all true."

The Job Offer

Han to Rey & Finn: "Whatever you do don't stare."

Rey & Finn: "At what?"

Han: "Any of it."


Maz's Watering Hole

Maz Herself

Ren's Confessional ft. Vader's Helm

A Roundtable Discussion

Finn Comes Clean

Rey's Vision

Maz to Rey: "That lightsaber was Luke's, and his father's before him. And now, it calls to you."

Maz to Rey: "Close your eyes. Feel it; the light. It's always been there. It will guide you."

Starkiller Base's Power

The First Order Attacks

Lightsaber Back in Action

Resistance to the Rescue

One Helluva Pilot

Rey and Ren

Leia

Poe Reunites With BB-8 and Finn

Han and Leia's Heart-to-Heart

Off Comes the Mask

Rey Keeps Ren at Bay

Rey Uses Her Powers ft. Daniel Craig

Troopers Avoid Ren's Rage

Hatching a Familiar Plan

One Last Embrace

Leia to Han: "If you see our son, bring him home."

Finn to Han: "What do we do with her [Phasma]?"

Han: "Is there a garbage shoot? Trash compactor?"

Finn: "Yeah there is."


Battle of Starkiller Base Begins

Setting the Explosives

Ren and Han

Ren to Han: "I know what I have to do, but I don't know if I have the strength to do it. Will you help me?"

Ren Kills Han

Ren vs. Finn

The Lightsaber's True Master

Rey vs. Ren

Poe Takes Down the Base

Rey Embraces the Force

Ren Down

Escaping the Base

R2-D2 Awakens; The Map Completed

Leia to Rey: "May the Force be with you."

The Island

Luke
ABRAMS
Abrams didn't have much experience as a filmmaker before STAR TREK, having only done MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3 before this. This was a huge undertaking for him, and the style of filmmaking he demonstrated on M: I 3 transferred over to here as well. That goes for the action, wherein his scenes always pit his hero against forces or obstacles that may seem too great for them to handle, all before they conquer the odds. In TREK, Nero and his massive ship are way too much to take on, so this forces the crew to come with a way to overcome such odds. It makes for riveting action, and like MISSION we see a greater focus on the central characters than previous movies have ever done. Abrams keeps the staging tight so that the characters can really work off each other, making STAR TREK just as much a character drama as it is a sci-fi adventure, which is what I think made it such a rousing success. A terrific, focused second effort.
In between STAR TREK and FORCE AWAKENS Abrams put out SUPER 8 and STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, and those two movies (as well as the first TREK) really allowed him to hone his skills and discover his sensibilities as a filmmaker. Before this he was mostly the "lens flare guy", but with AWAKENS he established himself as a true student of Spielberg; someone who has the skills of a master director but who also embraces the movie fan inside. Here is a man who loves the movie going experience and the ability it has to sweep you away into a world of endless possibility. He wants this movie to sweep you away like the original STAR WARS did years ago. He builds this new STAR WARS world with such confidence and passion for the material, using his skills as a blockbuster filmmaker to deliver an epic sci-fi adventure and his attention to detail to ensure the world is truly wondrous to behold. The characters are not lost amidst this, and Abrams guaranteed our favorite characters had the welcome return they deserved.
STORY
After his father, George Kirk, valiantly gave his life so the rest of the crew of the USS Kelvin could escape, his son, James T. Kirk, must decide if he's going to embrace his father's legacy, or settle for a life of hanging around bars in the middle of Iowa. He joins Starfleet, meeting future crew members Leonard "Bones" McCoy and Uhura along the way. His trademark charm and roguish behavior soon get him accused of cheating, which causes him to clash with Vulcan wunderkind, Spock. Their personalities collide even more when the vengeful, time-traveling baddie Nero arrives, who proceeds to destroy Spock's home planet and puts Earth in his sights next. The two must go on internal quests of self-discovery if they are to win the day, and though the journey is not easy, it will be one of many that will define the Enterprise crew.
Taking place years after RETURN OF THE JEDI, FORCE AWAKENS finds the Empire reborn in the First Order, and the Resistance taking the place of the Rebellion. As the village he's at is being attacked by the Order, one Resistance fighter, Poe Dameron, places a map to Luke SKywalker in a BB unit, and sends him off to avoid capture. This BB unit it later found by Rey, a young girl left on the planet Jakku and who spends her days scavenging for old ship parts. She often looks at the sky, dreaming of adventure, all before adventure falls on her lap once Finn, an escaping Stormtrooper, finds himself running into her and BB-8. Together, the three avoid the clutches of Sith Kylo Ren as they make their way to the Resistance, and along the way realize all the stories about, Luke, Leia Organa and Han Solo were all true. Now it's their turn to be the heroes, with Rey discovering powers she had no idea she had. Think A NEW HOPE, but shinier.
MUSICAL MASTERY
Michael Giacchino certainly draws inspiration from his competitor in more than some of his work, and that shows more than ever in his work for STAR TREK. He favors sweeping, massive orchestrations to match the interstellar action, delivering a score and theme benefitting of such a grand space adventure. As well, he hits the emotional beats hard, like when George Kirk heads to his doom at the beginning. Giacchino doesn't always work on the best movies (TOMORROWLAND, THE BOOK OF HENRY), but STAR TREK ranks among his best work. He's no Williams yet, but he's getting there.
John Williams has countless classic soundtracks to his name, but at the end of the day, his work on STAR WARS will be what he's remembered for the most. The same magical sounds and masterful compositions are equally as wondrous in FORCE AWAKENS as they were in the other STAR WARS films, reminding us all that the music is a big reason why we all fell in love with the series. Combining whimsy, uplifting excitement and the occasional sprinkle of danger, William's pieces are layered, rousing and keep the spirit of STAR WARS alive.
VFX
The opening of the film, the fight between the Kelvin and Nero's ship, is visually stupendous, and from there Abrams films the Enterprise and space itself with a majestic scope and artistry. The Enterprise and Nero's ship look marvelous when seen looming in space with planets and stars painting the background. There are also some thrilling set pieces, like the drilling sequence before Vulcan is destroyed. Other than that (and some great production design) Abrams favoring character work over big sci-fi set pieces, saving the larger set pieces and vibrant locales for latter films. This sometimes works in the movie's favor, having the feel of an independent vehicle that just so happened to cost $150 million.
THE FORCE AWAKENS had Disney money behind it, and not a penny went to waste. The film is an absolute masterclass in combining state-of-the-art visuals with practical effects, with Abrams stating from the get-go that he wanted audiences to watch the movie and think what they're seeing is real, much like the original films. There's the magnificence of Starkiller base, the power of which devastates several small planets all at once; the Millenium Falcon, brought into the digital age and looks as great as ever and; all the way down to the tiniest of production details, with settings littered with robotic characters, aliens glad in heavy makeup, and unique creatures that are most likely operated by several people underneath pounds of canvas.
THE BIG BADDIE
Eric Bana plays Nero with a relentless rage of unstoppable ferocity. He shows no sympathy or warmth, and will never stop in his quest to rid the world of Starfleet. He's incredibly intimidating, and Bana brings a true malice to the character that brings out something in him we've never seen before. Still, when he unveils his plans we can't help but feel sorry for him, having to watch as his whole planet is annihilated by a supernova. He isn't terribly complex, but he doesn't really need to be, as he simply acts as a tremendous force whose treachery effects both Kirk and Spock, making them come together and see eye-to-eye.
Ren is a bit more complex than Nero, having more interaction with the greater cast and openly struggling with his inner demons, fighting to defeat his more sentimental emotions in favor of the Dark Side. He can come off a bit moody, his long black hair reminiscent of some angsty teen who wants to sulk and only wear black. But he's still relatively young and nieve, so his bursts of anger are understandable. He's not exactly menacing but is undeniably powerful and cool to look at with his saber aglow and mask in place. How he develops in future films is something I can't wait to see. Or he'll just sit in his chambers and listen to The Smiths.
REVITALIZTION OF THE FRANCHISE
Before the new STAR TREK came out the only people aware of the franchise were those who fell in love with it years ago, and those who only knew it as the thing they made fun of the nerdy kid in class for liking. STAR TREK NEMESIS with Patrick Stewart and a young Tom Hardy came and bombed years before, so on the cinematic front, the series was virtually dead. But with this new TREK, Abrams and Co. gave the characters and their world a paint job while enrichening the relationships instead of diminishing them. It made liking STAR TREK cool and mainstream again, and since then there have been two successful sequels with a new show (STAR TREK: DISCOVERY) on the horizon.
STAR WARS is a brand that doesn't really need to be revitalized: It will always be popular simply because it's become part of the zeitgeist in such a huge way. Even though the prequels received a bad response people flocked to them in droves, with merchandise and video games continuing to be big sellers. What FORCE AWAKENS did was bring STAR WARS back into the ongoing discussion: Where are these new characters going? How will it affect the STAR WARS world? Where has Luke been all these years? FORCE AWAKENS simply made the franchise even more popular than it already was, giving Disney reason to put out a new movie every year to keep the train chugging.
CHARACTER DYNAMICS
Abrams' goal with STAR TREK was to avoid throwing modernized versions of classic characters into a random story wherein they save the day and nothing else. This was all about getting to the core of characters fans have loved for decades, deepening their relationships with each other and giving them new dimensions. This is especially so with Kirk and Spock, two completely different personalities who spend most of the movie at odds, despite the fact the enemy has taken family members from them both. How they work through their issues is the best part of the film, with great work coming in from Pine, Quinto, as well as Saldana, Greenwood, Urban and the whole cast. They each add something to the movie, and the roots of the team are firmly planted and solidified.
There are a lot of characters in FORCE AWAKENS with angles ranging to discovering yourself (Rey, Finn and Ren) to trying to fix the past (Han and Leia). They are all well-written and have clear personalities and motivations. But everything here is very preliminary, and we won't see how their relationships truly develop until THE LAST JEDI hits this December. The cast is great, especially Ford as Han Solo and the Ridley as the series' new main hero. Like TREK, the seeds were planted, but unlike that film, I feel with AWAKENS we were only meant to get a small taste.
SCI-FI EXCITEMENT
STAR TREK features tons of exciting action set pieces, and the humor is in good supply thanks to a charismatic Pine, a perfectly blunt Quinto, Bones spouting ridiculous analogies and Pegg acting...very, very Scottish. It's a fun adventure flick that succeeds in large part thanks to the character work, but we won't see the crew adventuring into worlds unknown until later films, INTO DARKNESS and BEYOND, instead using this time to set up the characters.
Some try to look down on THE FORCE AWAKENS for being too close in story structure to A NEW HOPE, but who the hell cares? THE FORCE AWAKENS is an absolute BLAST. The action is tremendous and never repetitive, there are tons of laughs, and the pure sight of seeing Han and Chewie back at it (not to mention seeing some sweet lightsaber battles) is almost too awesome to handle. This movie is never not entertaining and brings the fun and spectacle back to the STAR WARS series after the prequels spent too much time talking about trade federations.
AWARDS, PRAISE & MONEY
Oscars:
    Best Makeup (Won)
    Best Visual Effects (nominated)
    Best Sound Editing (nominated)
    Best Sound Mixing (nominated)
Golden Schmoes:
    Best Trailer (2nd Place)
    Best Blu-ray/DVD (2nd Place)
    Best Sci-Fi Movie (nominated)
    Best Special Effects (nominated)
    Best Movie (nominated)
    Best Director: J.J. Abrams (nominated)
    BIggest Surprise (nominated)
    Breakthrough Performance: Chris Pine (nominated)
    Coolest Character: James T. Kirk (nominated)
Praise Money:
    $257 million domestic ($385 million global)
Oscars:
    Best Editing (nominated)
    Best Visual Effects (nominated)
    Best Score (nominated)
    Best Sound Mixing (nominated)
    Best Sound Editing (nominated)
Golden Schmoes:
    Best Trailer of the Year (Won)
    Best Sci-Fi Movie (Won)
    Best Special Effects (Won)
    Best DVD of the Year (Won)
    Best Trailer (Won)
    Best Poster (Won)
    Most Memorable Scene: Kylo Ren Kills His Dad (Won)
    Best Breakthrough Performance: Daisy Ridley (Won)
    Best Movie (2nd Place)
    Best Line : "Chewie. We're Home." (2nd place)
    Most Overrated Movie (Nominated)
    Best Director: J.J Abrams (Nominated)
    Best Actress: Daisy Ridley (Nominated)
    Best Breakthorugh Performance: John Boyega (Nominated)
    Coolest Character: Han Solo (Nominated)
    Coolest Character: Rey (Nominated)
    Coolest Character: Kylo Ren (Nominated)
    Best Music (Nominated)
    Best Action Scene: Starkiller Base Fight (Nominated)
Praise
    IMDB: 8.1 (Top Rated Movies: #221)
Money:
    $936 million domestic ($2 billion global)
THE FORCE AWAKENS

STAR TREK is an excellent piece of science fiction filmmaking, bringing the series roaring back thanks to terrific character work, gorgeously filmed action, and a modern feel that doesn't forsake the series' roots. However, STAR WARS delivers on much of that as well, on top of doing the impossible of delivering a movie that deserves a place among the ranks of the original three movies. Audiences once again were whisked to a galaxy far, far away, which hasn't felt so real and exciting in decades. Abrams made the film with such love for both the series and the cinematic experience, and you can feel the passion in every frame. Blockbusters are a dime a dozen now, but few are made with such expertise and bewildering majesty as THE FORCE AWAKENS.

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