In 1977, Star Wars was released and changed cinema forever. The story resonated with many and remains a classic film today. For the longest time, I wanted to be a Jedi, but,of course, Jedi do not exist. Now, with the release of Avatar, film has supposedly changed again. It has won over nearly everybody and has won James Cameron the Golden Globe for Best Director and the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture-Drama. The film is soon going to break the record for box office gross, yet I am one of the few who does not love this movie. On a discussion board, someone brought up Star Wars and argued that Star Wars was an not original film to counteract the argument that Avatar is not original either, so I wondered why I love Star Wars and not Avatar. Now, I’m going to assume that everyone has seen these two movies, and, if you haven’t, I would stop reading now because I’m going to spoil some aspects of both films.
It was a tough question. What makes Star Wars so enjoyable that I watch it time and again. Well, there are three things which separate it from Avatar, and they are characterization, plot, and the ending. Star Wars develops characters well, and it didn’t need just one movie to do it which helps. Still, in the first movie, we are introduced to an idealistic young man named Luke Skywalker who wants to join the rebel alliance, but his aunt and uncle are hesitant. He is idealistic and just needs an opportunity to prove himself. Obi-Wan Kenobi soon discovers this young man and offers this opportunity. Ben Kenobi is an old Jedi who takes the boy as a student even though the Jedi have long been disbanded.
Obi-Wan is a protector who holds a secret to Luke’s past, but the story wouldn’t be nearly as good if it were only these characters. Next, we are introduced to Han Solo, a wise-cracking skeptic smuggler, with a price on his head. He balances the entire movie and provides humor as well as an opposing voice. Without him, the film would not be the same (see Episodes I, II, and III). Even R2D2 and C3PO play an important part, they are like the Greek chorus expressing the emotions which most people would feel and also humor again. Yet, the enemy is just as important as the heroes, and the Empire is the epidomy of evil. They are willing to destroy an entire civilized planet just for information about their enemies. Torture and murder are common and perfectly okay. Failure is fatal which is demonstrated by Darth Vader. After these acts, you have no trouble rooting for the Rebel Alliance and the Jedi. In Avatar, we are introduced to Jake Sulley, a paraplegic ex-Marine, who is given a second chance and the ability to walk even if it’s temporary. He is rebellious, at times, but he is loyal to the Na’Vi even as he spies on them and agrees to infiltrate their tribe. Jake cares about the Na’Vi, but he doesn’t warn them or even try negotiating with them which may save their lives. Then, he possesses the ability to lead them into battle after they forgive him. Neytiri, a Na’Vi, forgives Jake and loves him. Grace, a human, is a devoted research scientist who cares about the Na’Vi and is a consistent caring character. However, the rest of the Na’Vi are forgettable which is regrettable. Norm is the other scientist, but he isn’t developed well either. Then, there is Trudy, a pilot, who joins the fight on the side of the Na’Vi. This is another good consistent character. It seems like Jake isn’t, and he’s the most important character. The worst thing is that I don’t buy Jake Sulley as a character. He seems ambiguous. The enemies, on the other hand, are two-dimensional which wouldn’t be a problem except that they don’t do anything wrong until they destroy the Hometree. Character development was lacking in Avatar but not in Star Wars. None of this matters if the plot is terrible.
Star Wars follows a consistent, if predictable, plot, but it works. Once Luke’s aunt and uncle are killed by the Empire over droids, there is nothing to keep him on the planet. They can follow the message and save Leia. On the way, Luke learns about the force and the way of the Jedi. It provides information which is useful and entertaining. The action takes off once they reach the Death Star. They, of couse, save Leia who derides them and takes over the operation. The rescue comes at a cost when Obi-Wan falls to Darth Vader. However, there is another problem. The Death Star is going to destroy the rebel base unless it can be stopped. The movements are not only logical but entertaining. Avatar, actually, has a very similar plot. There is a learning process for Jake, and the destruction of the Hometree is a call to action for him. There is also one final obstacle to overcome. However, Jake is partially responsible for the destruction of the Hometree, but, other than that, it may just be opinion because I thought that learning about the Na’Vi was, well, boring. This was probably because there just wasn’t much humor in the film. Also, there is a huge stretch of time where we never check in with the enemy. It’s a long film. Wasn’t this possible? I think so.
Finally, the ending of Star Wars is plausible even though it is fantastical. One excellent pilot was able to utilize a flaw in the system. A flaw which was allowed to exist thanks to the hubris of the Empire. They thought they were invincible, but the Rebel Alliance proved them wrong. Now, the ending is predictable, but the movie is so good that I don’t care. Avatar’s ending is also predictable, but it’s far from plausible. They have bows and arrows against gunships and mechanical soldiers. There is no way that they stand a chance plus there is a terrible environmental cost which I’m not sure that the Na’Vi would want to endure. Of course, there has to be action in the end, but they would have all died. The losses should have been substantial, or they should have lost, overall. For these reasons, I think that Star Wars is a far superior film. Although, I have to admit that my tastes have changed as I’ve aged to enjoy more complex issues and films as well as darker endings. But, more than anything, I like plausible realism even in fantastic situations, but Avatar doesn’t have it. This is why Star Wars will always be far superior. Sorry, James Cameron.