Star Wars versus Star Trek: The classic debate continues to rage on. But while Star Trek has gained popularity in recent years with Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), Star Trek Beyond (2016) achieving mainstream appeal and box office success, it’s still nothing compared to what The Force Awakens (2015) did both at the box office and when it came to popular culture. In fact, to date the Star Wars series has made $3.7 billion, compared to Star Trek’s $1.4 billion.
So why has Star Wars continued to be such a juggernaut in the cultural landscape compared to its sci-fi foe? Here are six reasons why Star Wars might be winning the long battle with Star Trek.
Let’s face it: Lightsabers are the coolest, most iconic aspect of Star Wars. Lightsabers have not only become synonymous with the series, but at this point they are so steeped into popular culture that you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t know what it is even if they somehow have never seen Star Wars.
Personalized to match the wielder, lightsabers have come in a variety of forms over the years including the classic style used by Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, to the double-sided saber used by Darth Maul, and most recently Kylo Ren’s cross-guard design.
2. The Force
What is it that makes the force so fascinating? Is it the various powers that come with being a force-sensitive individual? The ability to wield a lightsaber? I’d argue our interest in the force is rooted in what Yoda says to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back. “Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter,” he explains. “You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes.”
Derived from eastern religion, the force is something that gives meaning and order to a chaotic universe. It is something that binds us all together and allows those without purpose to find their place in the universe. It’s a beautiful concept and one we can all easily connect with. But yeah — the force powers are really cool too.
3. The lore
George Lucas had some huge missteps in the years leading up to Disney’s purchase of the Star Wars rights, but it’s impossible to deny that his ability to create a universe ripe for expansion is unparalleled (let’s forget about those midichlorians though). Even before countless writers expanded the history of the Star Wars universe with new stories, Lucas was able to convey in the original series that Luke was a tiny cog in a series of events that had gone on for thousands of years.
The clone wars, the dark side, the Empire — the feeling that there’s an entire history unlike anything we’ve ever known is one of the reasons we’re so thrilled to uncover more and more about this universe.
4. Style and genre
While Star Trek is firmly rooted in science fiction where the ideas and technology is extrapolated from our world, Star Wars is strictly sci-fi fantasy. But for all the interesting topics Star Trek has explored over the years, it’s easy to see that the adventure and imagination of Star Wars has made the bigger cultural impact. If Star Trek and Star Wars appeal to the mind and the heart respectively, it would appear that the heart wins out.
If it wasn’t clear that Star Wars’s sense of adventure had seemingly won out over Star Trek, look no further than the recent Star Trek films directed by J.J. Abrams. The director’s Star Trek films had been criticized by Star Trek aficionados as following not the tone of Star Trek, but of Star Wars yet found a more mainstream audience than ever before.
This one can’t possibly be in doubt. John Williams’s Star Wars score includes some of the most iconic, masterful compositions ever committed to film. In fact, Williams’s score for Star Wars: A New Hope landed at No. 1 on the American Film Institute’s Greatest Film Scores of All Time, and his work on Star Wars consistently lands at the very top of similar lists.
At this point, Williams is so synonymous with Star Wars that his name is probably the second one you think of after George Lucas.
6. Top talent
This is something that concerns the new direction of Star Wars — namely, its purchase by Disney and all that comes with it. Whether you love superhero movies or hate them, it’s hard to argue that Disney and Marvel’s treatment of the Marvel universe has included some bold creative choices that have more often than not paid off. And now, we’re continuing to see that pattern with Star Wars for which Disney has consistently made strong creative choices when it comes to the future of the series.
Sure, J.J. Abrams for The Force Awakens wasn’t a huge risk, but their decision to bring in Rian Johnson to write and direct Episode 8 (and also write Episode 9) along with choosing Gareth Edwards to direct Rogue One: A Star Wars Story are both choices that fans appreciated, given that both directors are young and talented.
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