Star Wars is more of a fantasy film than a sci-fi

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Discussions about a film’s genre tend to get bogged down in semantics and miss the point. Genres are more or less loose categories that help streaming services catalog their content. A great movie is a great movie, regardless of genre. But George Lucas’ Star wars and its many prequels, sequels and spinoffs are often included under the sci-fi banner and there are a few crucial elements that prevent Star wars of the sci-fi sci-fi qualification.

While all the space travel and laser combat might scream science fiction, Star wars actually has more in common with another genre: fantasy. Despite its interstellar environment, Star wars has more in common with The Wizard of Oz than 2001.

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As stated by pioneering writers like Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury and Leigh Brackett (who, incidentally, has screenwriter credit on The Empire Strikes Back for his work on a crucial first draft), sci-fi stories traditionally speculate on the future of humanity and the dangers of the rise of technology. Simple science fiction should touch up close by recontextualizing real-world concepts in futuristic settings.

Han, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan and Luke in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon

Instead of looking at yourself in the mirror to expose humanity’s weaknesses, Star wars takes the audience to a galaxy far, far away with its own physical laws. There is a lot of futuristic technology in the groundbreaking production design of the ‘future in use’ film, but it all blends into the background as part of the everyday life of this universe. With Luke, Obi-Wan and Vader all using the Force, Star wars embraces magical realism. This is not a movie about astronauts or hackers; it’s a movie about wizards and monsters.

Star wars‘closest competitor for the most popular franchise title in space, Star Trek, is much closer to hard science fiction than the Lucas saga. Gene Roddenberry designed the series in the 1960s to tackle widespread social issues like racism and McCarthyism using allegories in a cosmic setting. With its use of compelling sci-fi tales to capture contemporary fears, the original Star Trek the series looked a lot like The twilight zone in the space. Star Trek is basically humanity’s quest to trace the universe and boldly go where no one has gone before. He imagines the future of Earth and the ultimate fate of the human race. Star wars imagine entirely new worlds filled with entirely new species – even humans aren’t really humans. Luke Skywalker may look like a human and be called Luke, but he grew up on Tatooine and has the Force. Technically, he doesn’t look like us.

The public is expected to suspend their disbelief when they watch a Star wars movie. The story has been meticulously explained on Wookieepedia, but C-3PO’s programming cannot be separated like that of HAL. In 2001, anything HAL does to gain the upper hand – like lip-reading Dave’s lips – can be done by a real computer, which makes Kubrick’s movie all the more haunting. Yes Star wars fans actually think of C-3PO’s programming, like the fact that he was programmed to feel pain and fear, his whole characterization crumbles. But then it’s later revealed that he was programmed by the kid who grew up to slaughter Sandpeople and young people, so there’s a chance it was just a sadistic joke. Viewers are not supposed to ask these questions; they’re supposed to accept Threepio as he is, like Tin Man. And thanks to the incredible performance of Anthony Daniels, they do.

All the main characters of Star wars are reimagined fairy tale archetypes: Luke is a farm boy (albeit on a wet farm), Leia is a princess who must be saved, Obi-Wan is a wise old wizard who guides the hero in his quest – the list of parallels goes to. While Princess Leia must initially be saved, Star wars cleverly subverts the ‘damsel in distress’ tale as Luke and Han drag her out of the Death Star detention center without an escape plan, so the savior’s dynamic is quickly reversed and suddenly, Leia save them. Lucas’ archetypal storytelling was influenced by Joseph Campbell’s studies in mythology and the “Hero’s Journey” which Star wars employee has been emulated by just about every blockbuster since. Former Disney employee Christopher Vogler even turned it into a how-to guide called The writer’s journey: a mythical structure for writers.

Luke, Leia and Han on the Death Star in Star Wars

For the distinctive tone of Star warsLucas didn’t take much influence from science fiction. In fact, he was inspired by everything except: westerns; The Lord of the Rings; series like Flash Gordon, which included high-tech gadgets and weapons purely for the luscious aesthetic and not to explore the impact of technology on society; and that of Akira Kurosawa The hidden fortress, which similarly revolves around a princess leading a rebellion against oppressive lords and a veteran warrior facing off against his former nemesis. The main difference is that it is told from the point of view of two oppressed peasants while Star wars is told from the perspective of two downtrodden droids.

Despite skewing fantasy more than science fiction, Star wars shares a key trait with science fiction. As District 9recreation of apartheid with aliens and Children of menstudying the ugliest sides of humanity in the context of a dystopian future, Star wars filters social comments through a gender story. George Lucas conceived of the rebels’ struggle against the Empire as an allegory for the Vietnam War, which had ended two years earlier (and was still ongoing when he began writing). Since Star wars released in theaters and inspired a new generation of filmmakers, more socially conscious fantasy films have emerged. At Guillermo del Toro Pan’s Labyrinth features a traditional fairy tale about a little girl discovering magic against the heartbreaking backdrop of Franco’s Spain.

Apart from The Lord of the Rings and Game Of Thrones, the fantasy genre doesn’t get a lot of love. There are a lot of fantastic love romance trilogies YA trying to be the next one dusk Where Hunger games, but this genre is capable of providing much more. As a speculative genre drawn from the magical tropes of fairy tales – some of the earliest stories ever told – fantasy stories have the ability to convey powerful parables in an escape setting. With today’s film technologies, the sky is the limit.

MORE: Star Wars Must Copy Another Sci-Fi Classic


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