Throughout history, there have been many feuds that have divided people, towns and great nations: the Hatfields versus the McCoys, the 47 Ronin versus the Kira Yoshinaka, Clan Chattan versus Clan Kay (Battle of North Inch) and World Wars I and II, among the most famous. But none seem to be more passionate, more enduring, than the "Star Trek" versus "Star Wars" feud. And, to be honest, I don’t know if it will ever end.
But there’s hope. And it all comes down to J.J. Abrams and the Han Solo factor.
When news broke recently that Abrams will be directing the next "Star Wars" film—the first in the new set of sequels Disney plans to roll out beginning, tentatively, in 2015—I grew giddy thinking about the possibilities he will bring to the fractured franchise.
He’ll do with it what he did with "Star Trek"—make it cool again. He’ll give it back its swagger.
What’s that? You feel a great disturbance in the Force? “Star Wars never stopped being cool,” you say? Like Admiral Kirk in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” you want to yell at the top of your lungs, “Mooosss! Mooosss!”
Hear me out.
Like I’ve mentioned in another column, I think we can all agree that the "Star Wars" prequels almost killed the franchise. Besides complicated storylines, lousy dialogue and a number of other problems, these films lacked any character even remotely as cool as Han Solo. Lucas tried to make whiny Anakin Skywalker that person, but he failed. And then there was Jar Jar Binks (I know, I know, that joke is cliché now). It was missing the Han Solo factor. And, right now, the franchise needs a good scoundrel.
Solo, in the original trilogy, was the bad boy with a soft heart. He shot first and asked questions later. He pretended not to care when he actually did. He was the scruffy-looking nerf herder who brought the coolness factor to a story meant for kids. Watching those films growing up, we all wanted to be the hero, Luke Skywalker. But, in large part, thanks to Harrison Ford’s spin on the character, we wanted to be Solo even more.
When the "Star Trek" series debuted in 1966 on NBC, William Shatner’s James T. Kirk was considered cool, a sort of bad-boy-with-honor type of leading man. He certainly was no gambler and smuggler like Solo. Yet Kirk had his faults, as he was known to go against Starfleet regulations when he felt the need to. He also had a weakness for the opposite sex. And, like Solo, when it came down to it, little was as important as his ship.
Over the years, Harrison Ford was able to separate himself from his character in "Star Wars," taking on roles that were just as cool, such as Indiana Jones and Jack Ryan. For the most part, we associate Ford with coolness.
On the other hand, we associate Shatner with Kirk and with his persona on the Priceline commercials, which is a parody of himself. Oh, and this.
It’s difficult not to do, but we almost always associate actors with the characters they play. And it breaks down like this: In popular culture, James T. Kirk has been reduced to ridicule, while Han Solo has maintained his coolness.
So, thanks to Abrams, "Star Trek" is cool again. And Chris Pine’s rebooted film version of Kirk is the bad boy the franchise needed. He’s the cocky, bar-fighting, womanizing equivalent of Han Solo in a "Star Trek" universe. Now, "Star Wars" needs its Han Solo back. And I fully believe that Abrams will, in one way or another, deliver him.
So, could the man behind “Super 8,” “Lost,” and “Cloverfield” finally bring the two worlds of "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" together? Could the fans of both of these universes finally coexist peacefully, with Abrams bringing the same level of coolness to them both? Could the decades of bickering over which is better, "Star Trek" or "Star Wars," come to an end? I guess we’ll have to wait until 2015 to find out.
Charlie Moss writes about local history and popular culture, including music, movies and comics. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.