Edward: After 10 years since the last “Star Wars” movie and 32 years since the last good “Star Wars” movie, fans can finally rejoice, as “The Force Awakens” will be coming to theaters on Dec. 18. There’s a lot to look forward to, since the new movie is being produced by Disney and directed by J.J. Abrams. All the things that made the prequels terrible have been stripped away, leaving only the things that made the original series so good.
With the departure of George Lucas, we can expect strong writing once again, as Abrams has a background in science fiction, having worked on both of the latest “Star Trek” films. We can expect fewer of the infamous “I hate sand” lines that were ubiquitous in the prequel trilogy. Even better, Abrams is taking “Star Wars” back to its roots by filming on location in the deserts of Abu Dhabi and islands in Ireland. I just don’t see how a brand that emerged a scant seven years ago can compete with a franchise that has been around for forty years, now helmed by a great new director full of new ideas.
Ben: After the immense success of Marvel’s “The Avengers,” one might question how Marvel could outdo themselves. Well the mystery has been solved, and the answer to the question is “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Marvel’s latest Avengers film is releasing on May 1, and all signs point to it being even bigger and better than the first. With the project being directed by Joss Whedon, the aptly named “God of the Nerds,” there is a lot to be excited for. Whedon’s history with film and T.V. is immense; he is attached to geek favorites like “Firefly” and “Dollhouse” as well as high profile films like “Toy Story.” His resume is substantial, and he proved his competence with the first film. Now he is getting to combine all of the big events that have occurred in the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the past three years.
Much has happened since the original “Avengers,” and it’s all coming to a head in “Age of Ultron.” Between Thor lifting Tony Stark off the ground by his neck and the Hulk charging into battle with a massive Iron Man armor called the Hulkbuster, this looks to be a gripping thrill ride with action and drama in spades. As for your statements about the brevity of time the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, has existed in comparison to the “franchise” of “Star Wars,” I say this: anyone who considers all the “Star Wars” films great is out of their mind. “Star Wars” is a good trilogy, followed by a series of abysmal movies that people have to pretend don’t exist in order to praise the property as a whole. Meanwhile, in just seven short years, Marvel Studios has pumped out success after success, both critical and commercial, proving that the creative minds behind the MCU are much stronger than those behind “Star Wars.”
Edward: The thing is, the exciting final battle in New York City at the end of the first “Avengers” movie blinds many fans to the fact that the opening 30 minutes are painfully boring, with close to nothing going on. Within the first five minutes of “A New Hope,” the audience gets to witness an awesome space battle, claustrophobic firefight and the introduction of the coolest villain in cinematic history, Darth Vader. Beyond the superficial stuff people often discuss when they rightly criticize the prequel trilogy, Lucas made the mistake of putting as much stuff on-screen as possible, thinking that it would improve his films. I cannot help but look at the swarms of robotic soldiers in the “Age of Ultron” trailers and think back to the painful scenes with hundreds of jedi running into battle, multi-colored lightsabers abound.
Although Marvel’s cinematic success cannot be denied, none of its movies will achieve the level of artistic nirvana that “Star Wars” has reached. When Ben Kenobi sacrifices himself in his duel with Vader, or Yoda says “There is no try,” these are moments that go beyond basic entertainment and speak to something in the character of all moviegoers. The line “Use the force, Luke,” is on a level that Marvel will never achieve, no matter how many sarcastic quips Tony Stark offers. I can’t deny I’m looking forward to “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” but I’m confident that this December, “The Force Awakens” will realign every facet of our culture and set the stage for what may be one of the best eras in cinematic history.
Ben: The biggest problem by far with the original trilogy is that it all happens by coincidence, a trend I can only hope will not carry over to “The Force Awakens.” Had C-3PO and R2-D2 not happened to land on Tatooine, happened to have been captured by Jawas and happened to have been purchased by Owen Lars, Luke Skywalker’s adoptive father, there were would be no “Star Wars.” So yes, while “The Avengers” does not open to incredible fanfare, it builds steadily over the course of the movie and culminates in the awe-inspiring crescendo that is the battle for New York. You complain about the numerous Ultron drones bogging down the movie, but I ask this: how else does one challenge Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? The Avengers need to face overwhelming odds in order to make the movie compelling and Joss Whedon has proved that he actually knows how to manage resources in a movie.
As for the characters, I feel much more connection with most every character in “The Avengers” than I do with the “Star Wars” cast. The Avengers are a team composed of real people with real problems, and the audience gets to travel and grow with them. We see Thor overcome his arrogance and Tony turn from care-free playboy to heroic defender. The characters in “Star Wars” are just walking archetypes rather than organic characters, and that takes a lot away from their relatability. My colleague cites “Star Wars” as the foundation of modern geek culture, but one does not judge a structure based on its foundation, but on what gets built over it; and atop this foundation lies the Avengers Tower.
Contributed by: Ben Wagman