By Brandon Anthony: There is a lot to love about the genre of sci-fi and space fiction, particularly on film. Distorted colors and shapes, (literally) out-of-this-world special effects, and incredible feats of technological ingenuity allow viewers to reimagine the universe. And when intergalactic conflicts arise, impressive sparks fly.
Throughout the course of movie history numerous space battles have rocked our world back here on Earth. And though the latest Star Wars certainly continues that fine tradition, it joins a lengthy list of films that have already elevated the art of war to another dimension.
Battle of Klendathu (Starship Troopers)
Not all battles end in a victory for the good guys. The outcome of this battle was inevitable even before the first shots were fired. Poor planning and insufficient reconnoitering led the invading Federation forces to severely underestimate the Bug numbers. This led to a complete rout of a battle, in which foot soldiers were torn limb from limb and impaled during a live broadcast. Hundreds of thousands of Federation troops died. Not only was the infantry decimated, but Sky Marshal Dienes also destroyed his career through his poor leadership during this battle.
Borg Invade Sector 001 (Star Trek: First Contact)
Star Trek‘s continuing conflict between the Borg Collective and the United Federation played out in a spectacular fashion when the Borg attempted to invade Earth yet again. Despite being ordered to stay away, Captain Picard arrived just in time to save the day. Picard’s previous assimilation helped him target the right spot on the Borg cube, and he rallied the troops and saved some Federation lives while making it look easy. The Enterprise even managed to travel through time in order to chase an escape pod. Despite their success, however, the political effects of the battle were felt long afterwards. Fans who want to revel in the details can still catch the series on cable TV (details here).
The Battle of Endor (Star Wars: Return of the Jedi)
This battle is the culmination of the building war between the Rebel Alliance and the Imperials. The Ewoks, along with Princess Leia, Han Solo and several other key characters, fight the Imperial troops in the forests of Endor’s moon. From there the audience is transported to an epic space battle, complete with amazing close range maneuvering, as the Rebel Alliance’s fleet attacks the Death Star and the Star Destroyers. A smaller but no less important one-on-one battle occurs between Luke and his father. In each of these fights, despite being the underdog, the Rebel Alliance comes up victorious. This is the battle that turns the tide of the war, and which eventually leads to the formation of the New Republic.
Another galaxy-shaking Star Wars battle took place on Hoth, though this time the Rebels were the defending force. Nor did the battle end as victoriously as in Endor, though it’s still a beautifully orchestrated battle to watch. Laser blasts fly fast and furious on the surface of the ice planet, and despite being outgunned the Rebel Alliance is able to do some damage even in the midst of retreat. It is also a great moment for Luke and Leia, who both take on positions of leadership. Princess Organa coordinates an orderly retreat while Skywalker leads the defensive troops. There is even a sweet moment between the Princess and Solo, when he lets her know it is time to leave.
Though Firefly only lasted one season, it gave birth to the film Serenity, which in turn gave us this wonderfully entertaining battle. The crew of Serenity manages to lure the Reaver fleet into a completely unplanned battle with the Alliance. While the befuddled Alliance troops scramble to fight the Reavers, Serenity twists and turns, “like a leaf on the wind,” to the surface of the planet to complete their final mission. They succeed on all fronts, though it is not a painless victory.
These battles are all unique. Some are won, some lost. Some take place in space, some on alien planets. What ties them together is amazing aerial choreography, tight special effects, and heroic characters. Whether winning or losing, in all cases the protagonists did themselves proud.