Wednesday, 9 June 2010
Is 'Star Wars' Sci-fi?
I assure you I'm not just arguing semantics when I ask: "is 'Star Wars' a science fiction film?" For years I have argued that it isn't (and I know I'm not alone here, just check on google) and that it is instead primarily a fantasy film.
Science fiction is usually allegorical and always involves some sort of genuine theory on where science may take us. 'Star Wars' does neither thing at all (unless you see it as a bland allegory for "good versus evil"). It doesn't try to make any points, instead it is about some heroic knights rescuing a princess from an evil (dare I say Hidden) fortress. Yes, there are laser guns and spaceships and robots, but I would argue this setting is not necessarily sci-fi. On the other hand, 'Star Trek' is sci-fi. Gene Roddenberry used his 60's TV series to make points about issues of the day, such as racism, as well as taking a look at where humanity may go ('Star Wars' with it's "Galaxy far, far away" disclaimer isn't even proposing that). In 'Star Trek' gadgets are always explained using pseudo-scientific terms, often at great length. 'Star Wars' doesn't care about this kind of thing at all. Sure, since 1977 books have been written that tell you how the Millennium Falcon works etc etc. But the films themselves never concerned themselves with science. In 'Star Wars' it is all about escapism and suspension of disbelief (and for my money this makes 'Star Wars' far better than 'Star Trek' too).
But the reason I get into this discussion is because the genre term of "sci-fi" has become more readily associated with a spacey, futuristic setting than with genuine science fiction. So a film like 'Jurassic Park' (featuring "Mr. DNA", above), which is both about the future of science and a morality tale about the potential perils of man playing god, gets labelled up as something else instead. Maybe that's fine. Maybe this just an acceptable evolution of language and something for etymologists to discuss rather than film critics. But I can't help but feel that the genre is being diluted with the meaning it has appropriated, as sci-fi used to be more complicated then that. Most 1950's science fiction used tales of aliens and spacecraft to talk about the cold war and the spectre of communism, for example.
Anyway, that's my two cents on the matter.