Hello and welcome to In Too Deep Harry Potter vs Star Wars, where I finally decide which one of these franchise is better.
Now a year or so ago James Daniel Walsh wrote this infamous statement: â€œStar Wars is the cultural mythos of our generationâ€, to which I argued that while it was true for his generation, my generation’s cultural mythos was Harry Potter. Now, a year of putting it off, I’m finally going to sit down and analyse both of these franchise. So without further ado…
So we’ve looked the past and the present. Now it’s time to look at the future of both these franchises before we wrap this all up. What’s next for these two juggernauts. And what can we say about the strange future that beholds them? Well lets find out.
So lets start with the newer of the two, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. A teaser trailer dropped for it just over a month ago and… Okay there are a few points I need to address when it comes to my reaction to this trailer. And it’s difficult to know exactly where to start. So lets start with the beginning. We have a shot of Tatooine (oh come on, where else would it be?), epic music slowly building, ominous narration… and suddenly a man in a Stormtrooper armour appears accompanying a thud on the soundtrack. And the very first thing that went through my mind is â€œOh, it’s a joke parody trailerâ€. Because in that one moment, having a man pop out from the bottom of the screen like with that sound effect in the music… look, replace the soundtrack with the opening music to â€œMonty Pythonâ€™s Flying Circusâ€ and you have a killing opening to an episode. Not, however, a new film. But as the trailer go on we get to see cool shots of Stormtroopers and X-wings and… I still thought this was a fan film. It feels like something a fan would make. For whatever reason, the effects in this look fake. Really, really fake. But that’s absurd, isn’t it. How can these state of the art effects look fake?
Well if there is one thing I can give the original trilogy credit for, it’s having some of the best damn model work in the business. You really feel like what you’re seeing is really there. You feel that the X-Wing is flying down that shaft in the Death Star. You feel that the Millennium Falcon is dodging those Tie-Fighters. Even though there’s really not that much movement going on in the scene, it feels like there’s a lot going on. The tie-fighters feel like they’re soaring about. But most of all, it feels real. It feels real in the exact same way that the clip of the Millennium Falcon at the end of the teaser doesn’t. Seeing the Millennium Falcon fly and soar around like that feels… wrong. It feels fake. The original Millennium Falcon had no hope of doing anything like that, but we didn’t want to see anything like that. The film works better since it’s left up to our imaginations. We can fill in the fight scene and the movement, since we see how the characters react to it. This… It doesn’t feel like Star Wars. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Because there are three very important things we need to look at.
First, lets address the fan side of things. The fan reaction to the trailer of a new Star Wars film. The Phantom Menace, for example. Go back and watch that original teaser trailer. There were people that brought tickets just for this teaser and walked out of the film afterwards (hell one film, Wing Commander, is perhaps only remembered and made money because the trailer was attached to the start of it [the other film being, ironically enough, A Bug’s Life. Go figure]). Much like the Force Awakens trailer, the Phantom Menace starts with some build-up. More importantly, it builds things up properly. It doesn’t immediately jump into over-the-top music. It builds slowly, powerfully, then BOOM. John Williams, right where you need it. And proceeds to show off a lot of good stuff that can be seen in the film, giving a sense that this is a brand new universe, a brand new story, unlike anything we’ve seen before. Sure you can recognize the musical cues and character names, as well as the stuff like the lightsabers, but most of it feels new. This feels like something entirely new. Whereas the Force Awakens feels… underwhelming. We’re seeing things already perfected in Star Wars redone here in CGI, which cheapens them on the whole. It’s banking too much on recognition, rather than trying to set up its own universe. But that’s attacking a teaser that’s not a trailer. What about a proper teaser then?
Well secondly, lets address the director. J. J. Abrams is… a… director. I don’t see him as being particularly good or bad. Yes the lens flare is a bit annoying, but on the whole his work is solid. Not great, not bad, just solid. But the film of most relevance here is Star Trek, J. J. Abrams bold reinvention of a classic property that takes iconography from the old and places it in a more modern setting. Not to be confused with this work on Star Wars of course, with that just being his bold reinvention of a classic property that takes iconography from the old and places it in a more modern setting. Totally different things, he says with a voice dripping with sarcasm. But lets quickly look at that teaser for the Star Trek reboot of 2009. It’s shots of the Enterprise being built while we have voice-over dealing with the first moon landing and whatnot. It really builds up the iconography of the Enterprise and gets audiences engaged with the idea of seeing this classic design being realised in fantastic glory on the big screen. It even has a narrator reciting the most famous quote from Star Trek and ending with that famous music being re-orchestrated for a new day. Totally unlike the Star Wars trailer, which features a classic design being realised in fantastic glory on the big screen, with a narrator reciting perhaps the most important part of Star Wars and ending with that famous music being re-orchestrated for a new day. Again, totally different of course. Except, they’re not. Star Trek and Star Wars will no doubt be very similar films. Both deal with a new generation of characters while still having the old ones on hand to bridge the gap, so to speak. Both will have classic iconography from the past to appeal to fanboys while telling something new. Both will boldly go where no man has gone before. So will that mean that The Force Awakens will be bad? Far from it. It will be a good film… not a great film, not a bad film, just a good film. It won’t beat the original, it’ll surpass the prequel, it’ll look really, really cool and lack any real depth or substance once examined too closely. This film will be on par with the original Star Wars, at any rate… except the original Star Wars is The B-Movie. And when The B-Movie turns out better than a blockbuster… it’s clear why Star Wars lives on.
But, there is a third side to this. A side that Les has brought up before and no doubt will be brought up again. We need to look at the original Star Wars teaser trailer of 1976. Like The Phantom Menace and The Force Awakens teaser trailer, this one doesn’t do much in the way of plot. It doesn’t give a lot away. It just shows cool images while a narrator speaks over the top. Same as the other two. But… damn if this teaser doesn’t sell the movie as being good. But more than it being good, it sells it as unique. Even nowadays you’d be hard pressed to find any trailer that creates a world as interesting as the original Star Wars trailer. This is partly helped by the fact that there is no CGI to hide anything. It’s entirely real and thus helps build a world nicely. It feels real and yet entirely new. Like nothing that had been seen before. Even a good thirty odd years later it still stands out as being new. Whereas The Force Awakens… Eh. I’ve seen plenty of films use CGI to try and booster up their films for years now. And this doesn’t add to the film, it takes away from it. The film is reportedly going to use a lot of practical effects. Well I don’t see any in this trailer. I see a lot of CGI that a fanboy could no doubt make if he wanted to. So, long story short, when it comes to The Force Awakens… I have a bad feeling about this.
So what about the other side of the coin? What is the Harry Potter universe currently doing? Well there’s a prequel series in the works, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. And okay, fine. If we slag off the Star Wars prequels we should be sceptical about the Harry Potter prequels. Especially since they’re being written by J. K. Rowling, who has had no experience as a screen-writer. This feels very much the same as the Prequel trilogy: A writer with a huge, massively successful hit on their hands goes back to write more of it, set in the past so not to have to worry too much about their characters futures. And since the first film of the trilogy is still over two years away (give or take), there is pretty much nothing to go on. Making more films to a book series that ended over nine years by the time of release (and five when it comes to the films, but the book ending was the bigger event). It’ll be really hard to strike gold twice, especially since there’ll be a new generation of fans hooked on Marvel and Star Wars. But despite the little there is of Harry Potter’s future, does that mean it’s a bad thing?
Well it brings me back to what I said a few blogs ago, about how the Star Wars franchise is a lot flabbier than the Harry Potter franchise. I think it’s more evident here than anything else. The new Harry Potter films are films written by the creator, who has a firm control over their universe. The new Star Wars films are fanfiction at the behest of a company hoping to make money off the franchise. And fanfiction is the best way of describing the new Star Wars films. J. J. Abrams and everyone working on it must be fans, hence why they’re doing it. Now having fans in charge isn’t always a bad thing. Star Trek was pretty good, and Doctor Who is still going pretty strong because of it. But at the same time, the fact that someone is creating their own interpretation of the franchise based on what has come before is both a blessing and a curse. While it’s interesting to see what a new writer can do with the universe… do we really need cross-guards on the lightsabers? The lightsaber is one of those classic designs that makes perfect sense when you see it (i.e. why has no one ever thought of this before?) and works perfectly fine as the weapon given to us. It’s more of a rapier than a broadsword, designed for quicker movement than anything else. You can’t modify the lightsaber beyond extending a beam out the other side, since the lightsaber is designed to be perfect. You can’t improve on perfection. But that’s what we’ve got here. A writer trying to impose their fanfiction idea onto the world by creating a new type of lightsaber. That lightsaber right there sums up my problems with the future of this franchise. It looks cool, but at the same time I’m dubious about its practical use.
So is there anything else worth mentioning when it comes to these franchises? At least in terms of their future? Well Star Wars will continue to get spin-offs and merchandise and all sorts of other stuff, while Harry Potter will gently fade into the night as being some of the most important literature ever written. Future generations probably won’t see why Harry Potter was so big, but they’ll no doubt be reading it the same way we read Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland. It’ll be discussed, it’ll be analysed, it’ll be immortalized. It may even be the subject of future remakes and the like, kicking off a whole new wave. But in thirty odd years time, will I expect the kids of today to appreciate and respect Harry Potter? No, for much the same reason why my generation doesn’t appreciate and respect Star Wars. Kids nowadays will no doubt make the future argument that the Marvel series was far more influential than these two properties, or that some new, yet-to-be-made franchise is the one that really changes the world. The future is unknown, but the argument across generations is timeless.
Though before I go, I do want to add one more bit of speculation. I’ll be incredibly surprised if Disney doesn’t announce some sort of themed land to be put in Hollywood Studios to celebrate all things Star Wars. Hell they’ll be mad not to. But, oddly enough, they chose to go with a Cars Land rather than a Star Wars Land. With the next Star Wars film being released next year they’ve not given themselves much time to go about creating a Star Wars land. They may be waiting to see how the film performs, which is a bit silly considering it will make more than enough money (though they might be fearful of a similar situation where Attack of the Clones vastly underperformed due to the poor reputation of The Phantom Menace). Now whether they stick to their plans of making an Avatar Land (they shouldn’t because, while Avatar is the next Star Wars, it’s nowhere near as universal as Star Wars), or whether they cancel to focus attention on a Star Wars Land, I don’t know. It is bizarre they chose to make a Cars Land over a Star Wars Land though. However, I easily foresee a future where a Star Wars land does exist. Maybe not one that can rival The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but one that exists anyway. I mean they’re pumping out so many films they’re bound to hit on the idea of making a themed land eventually.
So there you have it. My thoughts on the future of both franchises. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.