This Video Argues That Star Wars Is a Bit More Scientific Than You'd Imagine

Death Star!
Death Star!
Image: Disney/Lucasfilm

Star Wars is definitely not hard sci-fi. It’s, as generally understood, very soft. But according to this video, it’s a bit less soft than you might think.


In a new video, YouTuber EC Henry focuses on the original Star Wars film, A New Hope, to explore the ways in which it’s not as fantastical a science fiction film as you might think, and in fact in several ways it is fairly grounded in terms of the mundanity of space life. Sure, there are the fantasy elements like the Force, but, especially in the original film, those live next to a meticulous attention to things like heat management, the mechanics of space travel, and realistic portrayal of things like depressurization and magnetics. It’s definitely imaginative, but it looks and feels somewhat realistic.

It’s an interesting argument, and one argued well, with examples of how the found future look of the film ties into the real aesthetics of space travel in the 1960s and early ‘70s. A New Hope is definitely not what we think of when we imagine hard science fiction, but it has more going for it in that department than we might think. Even if it isn’t always consistent in how it depicts it.

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Captain Untouchable / UncleWanKenobi

This video has some interesting points, but the premise is really flawed to me.

Star Wars being heavy on fictional science is a surprise to absolutely no one. Just ask a Star Wars fan how they think a lightsaber works. Ask them to explain why the Kessel Run is measured in parsecs, not a unit of time. Look at the sheer excitement of seeing the Gozanti or Aquitens on The Mandalorian the last couple of weeks. We’re all astutely aware that the science fiction is there. But that’s not the point.

Star Wars is like fantasy because of the content of the story, not because of the production design. It’s the knights and wizards and princesses, taking up your father’s sword to complete his quest, all that hero’s journey stuff Star Wars fans love to bang on about. It’s myth, legend, a saga. Legacy, family, the power of love: they’re soft, gloopy, heartwarming themes. You don’t finish a Star Wars movie and say “wow, that really made me think”, because it’s designed as escapism. These are themes and tones that you find throughout fantasy and folklore, and tend not to find in so-called “hard” scifi. There’s no moral quandry, no social commentary, no deep and complicated questions about what it means to be human. It’s not a criticism, it’s just an acknowledgement that tonally, thematically, Star Wars is much closer to King Arthur than to A Space Odyssey.

Yeah, the scifi tech is there, but it doesn’t stop Star Wars being fantasy any more than the presence of accurate blacksmithing techniques turns Lord of the Rings into historical fiction. Neat observations, but he’s arguing a point that doesn’t need to be made.