Leave a Comment
Okay, before I start a flame war, let me just get this out of the way. Yes, I understand the impact and legacy that Star Wars has left upon the cinematic landscape. Yes, I also understand that without Star Wars, there wouldn’t even be a first Avengers movie, let alone a Marvel Cinematic Universe. And yes, of course I understand that Star Wars is not just a film series, but also a way of life for some people, with Jedi even being recognized as an organized religion. Yes, yes, and yes. I know all that and more, and I even like Star Wars. I don’t love it, but I like it. I’ve seen every movie in the Skywalker saga, from George Lucas to Irvin Kershner to Richard Marquand to J.J. Abrams to Rian Johnson. And I've also seen the excellent Rogue One and the mediocre Solo. Hell, I’ve even watched some of the TV shows and played some of the games. In short, I have nothing against Star Wars. Star Wars is pretty damn cool.
That being said, the first Avengers movie is still better than anything Star Wars has ever done, and that’s including everybody’s favorite, The Empire Strikes Back. I have a whole slew of reasons why I feel this way about every Star Wars movie, but for the sake of an argument, I'm mostly going to be focusing on why The Avengers is better than The Empire Strikes Back since that is arguably what most people consider the best movie in the Star Wars series. I'll jump back and forth about why the first Avengers is better than all of the prequels (Duh) and also this most recent trilogy, but again, the main focus will be on Empire. You might agree with me by the end of this article, or you may think I'm an idiot. Either way, I fully believe this and I'm not just trolling. The first Avengers is better than every Star Wars movie, and here's why.
Better Characters With Richer Backstories
No, I'm not on crack. And no, I don't think Captain America is necessarily better than Yoda, or that Loki is a better villain than Darth Vader. (Though I will say that he was definitely better than the one-note Emperor Palpatine.) But I will argue that the characters in the first Avengers movie have richer, more interesting backstories within the movie itself than all the characters in the Star Wars cinematic universe. And it’s mostly because of Marvel Studios President, Kevin Feige, who made sure that we already knew a great deal about Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and the Hulk (and to a lesser extent, Black Widow and Hawkeye) before the events of the first Avengers by giving them their own separate movies prior to the release of the blockbuster film.
This added an element that wasn't present in the early Star Wars films, and was botched entirely in the later Star Wars movies. (Like, I like Ewan McGregor and all, but not as a young Obi-Wan Kenobi.) In that way, we went into the first Avengers movie already knowing which characters would likely butt heads with their ideologies. We anticipated it. And it led to a satisfying kerfuffle that created its own interesting conflicts that were organically interwoven into the narrative. We were able to look back at movies like Captain America: The First Avenger and the first Iron Man and were able to pick our favorites based on which movie we liked the most going into The Avengers. Going into The Empire Strikes Back, we see growth in all of the characters from Episode IV to Episode V, but not to the extent that we get it in the first Avengers movie with our pre-established characters.
And while this might not seem fair, let's talk about the prequels. Every character in the original trilogy that makes some kind of appearance in the prequels was ruined by said prequels, which retroactively made the events in the original trilogy seem a whole lot less interesting.
Like, is Boba Fett really as fascinating when you learn that he was cloned from the much lamer Jango Fett? Does the old Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode IV even make sense when the events of Episode III only took place around 19 years before it? How the hell did he get so old then? And two out of the three recent sequels lean way too heavily into nostalgia, making old characters feel old, and new characters feel a lot less enticing since they're just inferior versions of the older characters. But the first Avengers movie made each character feel fresh and necessary. It also makes the story feel much better paced than all of the Star Wars movies. Speaking of which…
No offense, but Star Wars movies are slow. All of them. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. And I guess they try to quicken the pace with all those wipe transitions they always like to abuse. But by nature, Star Wars movies are slow, and I really have to be in the mood to sit through one of them. But you know what's never slow? The first Avengers movie. It starts off quickly and never really lets up when it comes to pacing. Let's go back to The Empire Strikes Back though, shall we? You really can't beat that opening fight scene on Hoth. Spider-Man even references it in Captain America: Civil War. It's freaking iconic. In fact, there's a lot of iconic moments in Empire. Yoda lifting the X-Wing out of the drink. Lando's betrayal in Cloud City. That final duel between father and son where Luke gets his hand cut off. I mean, wow, wow, wow! Front to back, The Empire Strikes Back is filled with memorable, awesome scenes.
But that's just it. It's filled with memorable scenes. The movie as a whole, though kind of just chugs along slowly to get to those awesome moments. And don't get me started on the prequels. I kind of lied earlier when I said I've watched every Star Wars movie, since I've only seen portions of Episode II: Attack of the Clones. But that's not because I've only caught it here or there on television. I actually went to see it in the theater and I've tried watching it two more times at home. But you know what? I fall asleep every time I watch it and usually wake up at around the same time when Yoda's flipping all over the place fighting Dracula. In the newer trilogy, we get meandering, slow-paced discussions that don't seem to even connect with anything of relevance.
But the first Avengers movie is never boring. Joss Whedon’s script is packed tight with quick dialogue and a simple plot. Granted, many would say that the first Avengers movie is formulaic, and that the massive battle at the end just goes on and on and on, but at least the ending of The Avengers feels earned. Most Star Wars movies take too long to get to anything interesting, and they also rely too heavily on fan service, hoping that you're invested enough to care about where the story has taken you. Oh, and about that.
Better Fan Service
This really pertains more to Episodes 7, 8, and 9, but one thing that interests me about Star Wars is the nostalgia factor. I was born in 1983, the same year that Return of the Jedi came out in theaters. Sure, I knew all about Star Wars growing up, even though I wasn’t alive during its best moments, since I had all the VHS tapes. You know, the ones where Han shot first. But they weren’t my trilogy. So when the prequels came out, I wasn’t all that pumped for them since I never really wanted a continuation of the story (and certainly not one that went to the past). When those ended up sucking. So when Disney announced that they were making a new trilogy that went forward this time, I was again not too enthused. And what we ended up getting was half-steps forward, since they had a lot of the characters from the original trilogy, and new characters that were like Han, Luke, and Leia, but worse. In that way, the series has relied too heavily on its past to create a truly compelling future.
But what's this have to do with the first Avengers? Well, in a way, the first Avengers is like our Star Wars, and by ours, I mean the younger generation born after the original trilogy. And the cool thing is, we didn't have to grow up with the comics in the 80s and 90s to get that feeling of nostalgia. Again, circling back to Kevin Feige, we had all the MCU solo movies leading up to The Avengers to pull from. In that way, none of the callbacks in The Avengers to earlier films felt forced. They felt earned. This is a far cry different from something like Han Solo stepping back in the Millennium Falcon saying, "Chewie, we're home," or like learning what the Clone Wars were that were mentioned in A New Hope. The Avengers is the good kind of nostalgia. It's organic. Star Wars, since the prequels at least, is the bad kind of nostalgia, since it feels manufactured.
And if we’re going back to the original trilogy (the good trilogy), The Avengers also seems even bigger and more important when you think about what it took to actually create such a shared universe of so many characters packed into one movie. If you ask me, It’s an even more audacious feat than the creation of the original Star Wars universe, since A New Hope was a film that nobody imagined would be big. Whereas The Avengers was a film that nobody (besides Kevin Feige) imagined would be possible. But it was, and it created a multi-billion dollar future. Which brings me to my final point.
That Post-Credit Scene
You may laugh, but this is one of the biggest reasons why I think The Avengers is better than any of the Star Wars movies--that post-credit scene with Thanos. Granted, I will admit that no ending will probably be better than The Empire Strikes Back since the bad guys actually won in that movie and audiences must have been on the edge of their seats wondering where the next movie was going (sort of like Avengers: Infinity War). But -- and hate me all you want -- the opportunity was completely blown with the follow-up picture, Return of the Jedi, which I like, sure, but Return of the Jedi is like The Godfather: Part III of Star Wars movies. The Ewoks are Sofia Coppola.
Meanwhile, The Avengers sets up a whole new string of pictures with just one post-credit scene that would eventually lead to the highest grossing movie of all time: Avengers: Endgame. In many ways, The Avengers is better than every Star Wars movie because it spawned so many other diverse movies off of it. Whereas Star Wars movies mostly feel the same, Marvel movies have splintered off into a wide array of territories. And a movie like the space adventure, The Guardians of the Galaxy, or the mystic fantasy, Doctor Strange, have The Avengers to thank for their creation.
The Avengers was like fertile soil, whereas I would argue that only two Star Wars movies (The Empire Strikes Back and the much maligned The Last Jedi) really concluded with anything that made you wonder what would happen in the next movie. I mean, all the Star Wars movies sort of bleed into one another, but not in any sort of satisfying way. The prequels were connected, sure, but they were so bad that you kind of wished they never existed. And the recent sequels were disjointed with no real sense that anybody discussed the ultimate direction of the trilogy. But the first Avengers ended on such a banger that you really have to marvel (pun intended) at how well it all came together so seamlessly.
In the end, I don’t see how any of the Star Wars movies besides The Empire Strikes Back comes even remotely close to being as good as The Avengers, but I know most of you will think I’m crazy. Sound off in the comments why you think I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to this topic. Believe me, you wouldn’t be the first.