This one scene explains the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek.
Stealing the Enterprise vs. Stealing a TIE fighter.
I admit it: I went into The Force Awakens knowing I wouldn’t like it. I always preferred Star Trek to Star Wars. I have no love for JJ Abrams’ Trek reboots. I was a hard sell on the new movie. I didn’t buy it.
But I’ll say this for The Force Awakens: it’s a perfect illustration of why Star Trek fans don’t like Star Wars: Too much shooting, too little characterization. Too much magic, too little thinking. Most of all: TOO MUCH NOISE! All that shouting and running and jumping and swords and lasers and screeching animals and ENOUGH!
I rolled my eyes particularly hard at the bit in The Force Awakens where Finn and Poe steal a TIE fighter to escape from the evil First Order.
They make their way to the hanger deck and get into an unlocked TIE. Okay. They figure out, after a bit of button pushing and lever pulling, how to make it take off. Fine so far. Then, suddenly, the TIE fighter is snapped back toward the bulkhead by the rope attaching it to the deck.
Why is the TIE fighter, ahem, TIEd up? And how strong is this bit of space-rope that it can hold a high performance fighter in place with its engines roaring?
Then I figure it out. This is a JJ Abrams movie. The logic of each scene is driven by The Abrams Imperative: at all times, something or someone must be shooting a gun, moving very fast, or making a lot of noise.
And so, tethered and bobbing around on the end of the rope, the TIE has a big old laser battle with the stormtroopers who are flooding the hanger deck.
After this has gone on for a bit, Finn and Poe spot the release button, and the freed fighter flies away. Fast. Making a lot of noise.
Consider the same plot beats done by pre-Abrams Trek. In The Search for Spock, Kirk and comrades must steal the Enterprise to save their stricken friend. Stuffy Starfleet brass has forbidden Kirk from going back out into space to look for Spock.
“What’s the word, Admiral?” Sulu asks Kirk, hoping desperately that the higher ups have given the green light.
“The word is no.” Kirk says. “I am therefore going anyway.”
Great line. “There’s our hero!” Director Leonard Nimoy said of the scene.
This leads to the best sequence in the movie: stealing the Enterprise. Watch it here. It’s the same idea as the TIE fighter escape, but the way it’s handled is almost totally opposite.
No one shoots anyone. It’s pretty quiet. But the tension is almost unbearable, because it’s done in a way that makes sense: it’s slow, requires great planning and a lot of subterfuge.
The music in the scene is a reprise of the nautical majesty of James Horner’s Wrath of Khan work, with a new motif thrown in: a static, officious bit of business that’s the theme for the gleaming new starship Excelsior, ordered to stop the Enterprise.
The commander of Excelsior is a finger nail-shaving, baton-wielding, whiny little bureaucrat. “You do this, and you’ll never sit in the Captain’s chair again,” he tells Kirk, who promptly sits in the Captain’s chair, and goes to warp.
The needs of the one, this time, outweigh the needs of the many, the dictates of the bureaucracy, the temporary thrill of the laser battle.
The Force Awakens: I get it. It’s a nostalgia trip. It’s flashy. It’s zippy. It’s not for me. Give me the slow, stately, stealing of the Enterprise over the space-rope nonsense of stealing a TIE fighter. Give me the creaky sets of The Search for Spock, the don’t-watch-in-HD matte paintings of the Genesis planet. That’s my vision of the future.