Mulluane of Dragons, Heroes, and Wizards recently brought to my attention this post by Richard Risch that somewhat irritated me with the ways in which Risch criticized Star Wars for its failures to succeed as a piece of science fiction--he argues that Star Wars is more of a science fantasy than anything else.
Now, to be fair, I have little argument against Risch's points. He is correct in placing Star Wars in the science fantasy category. Lucas's series is not at all a true science fiction story and is a prime example of why the "just because it has spaceships doesn't mean it's science fiction" rule is a good one to follow. What I take issue with are the examples Risch uses and the fallacies in logic that come with them. I suppose the best way to go about this would be to go one piece at a time.
Sadly though and even more important, authentic fighter tactics were lacking, and at times, … purely ignored. This was made quite evident by the attack on the exhaust port via the death trench. Using your fighter to block an enemy fighter (on your six o’clock), is suicidal in real warfare. That is in reality how most fighters get shot-down. A logical tactic would have been to keep a circling flight of fighters above, waiting to engage any bandits making a run for your dive-bombers. But then, that would have not lent well to the story, would it?My initial contention with this part of his argument is his reference to the suicidal tactic of blocking an enemy fighter with your own fighter. If you've seen the movie it's pretty darn obvious that the folks doing the blocking are, in fact, being suicidal. They're there to basically be annoying. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, sure, but I don't think Risch really addresses the reality of the setting. Perhaps this all isn't much of a contention, but from the start I already had issues with the assumption that the rebels in Star Wars were doing anything other than being suicidal decoys...
I think a far more accurate criticism, one which Risch only touches on briefly here, would be to point out the idiocy behind the whole idea of having to travel down a long trench. The film never mentions any rational behind this tactic and really, as Risch says, it's there for the pretty-fying of the story.
Then there's this:
Added to this, was the attack on the exhaust port (which was purportedly ray-shielded) with photon torpedoes (borrowed from Star Trek). Funny thing, a mass of photons is considered ray. (Photon energy is produced by an electron dropping from a higher orbit to a lower orbit as it travels around in an atom.) Therefore, how could photon torpedoes be realistically considered the weapon of choice for this attack?
Well, as was mentioned in the comments of his post, the Star Wars folks used proton torpedoes, not photon torpedoes, meaning that no actual "stealing" was involved (in theory). But regardless of the name, Risch's point is one worth taking up. Why must we assume that the names for all things within a fictional universe have to be related to the things they represent? For example, if I have a fish torpedo, does that mean the torpedo has to be made out of fish? Or shaped like a fish? Does it have to smell like a fish or make a fish sound when it's shot? No, it doesn't. It could be called a fish torpedo for a lot of reasons. Maybe it's called that because when the fighter pilots who shot them saw them moving through deep space they came up with a new slang term in which space became the ocean and torpedoes became fish. Who knows. Just because something is a photon or proton torpedo doesn't mean that the torpedo has to be made out of photons or protons or anything, or even resemble those things, or be made of photons or protons as we know them in our reality. It doesn't really matter what they are called. Star Wars also has ion cannons, by the way, and I imagine there are all sorts of scientifically incorrect things about those too. Let's face it, Star Wars isn't exactly the most realistic universe out there as far as science is concerned. But do any of us expect it to be? No. It's Star Wars. There are lightsabers and people who have magic powers and aliens that drool and evil guys that breathe funny.Then:
All well and to the good except for one minor problem, it took the samurais and ninjas many years to develop their bodies and skills through training, discipline, and actual combat. I ought to know, I trained at and taught Karate for over twenty-five years. For Luke Skywalker to become an accomplished Jedi Knight (under several weeks of Yoda’s tutelage and training) is laughable and cannot possibly happen even with most gifted human beings. Again, you are expected to accept this with blind faith.Let's take this one apart piece by piece.
It's never indicated with any certainty how much time passes between the separation of Luke Skywalker/R2-D2 (traveling to Dagobah) and Han Solo/Chewie/Leia/C-3PO (running from the Empire). The most we can assume is that it didn't take more than a few years lest we might have seen some drastic changes in the physical appearances of the characters (as in someone getting old all of a sudden). It's likely, however, that the second film spanned only a few months. Remember, Han Solo gets tortured during this period. I can think of a lot of real world examples where tortures took place for months and even years. Lucas only establishes that the torture is occurring and doesn't make it clear that it only occurs once in the story.
(For the record: While the movies aren't too specific, Star Wars geeks and Star Wars writers have nailed down the trilogy to having lasted about 4ish years)
True, it can take a lot of training to become anything resembling a Jedi (whether it be a Samurai or martial artist or whatever). But, here's the problem: Risch says Luke becomes an "accomplished Jedi Knight." What? No, he doesn't. Luke never becomes a Jedi Knight in the second film. In fact, he doesn't actually become a true Jedi until the very end of the third film, and only barely there.
And accomplished? If you've seen the Star Wars movies you'll know that Luke Skywalker wasn't exactly the most graceful of fighters. He had a weak understanding of the Force even after several weeks of Yoda's training (and it can be assumed that the years prior to meeting up with Yoda involved personal training, because Luke does learn how to move around objects and the like). Then there's that part where he took on a guy that was mostly machine and got his hand chopped off. Real accomplished. He lost his hand to a walking toaster oven that could barely take out a 70-year-old geezer.
It is blatantly obvious throughout the Star Wars movies (and I'm only talking the originals here) that Luke Skywalker is not an accomplished Jedi. He was severely ill-trained in all aspects of the Force and arrogant. He had anger, fear, and hate, all aspects of a Jedi-in-training.
Luke Skywalker, by the way, was almost exclusively self taught. Yoda and Ben gave him a rudimentary education in the Force and the way of the Jedi. Everything else he did on his own, and it shows. The films don't even try to pretend that Luke Skywalker magically learned how to be a Jedi Knight in a few weeks (this is contrary to a lot of fantasy novels in which the main character magically becomes a great swordsman after two chapters). Even his teachers tried to tell him he wasn't ready when he went to take on Vader...
Also, some of Star Wars characters have problems with concepts found in astronomy and physics. Take Han Solo for example, who boasted that the Millennium Falcon “made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs” or “can make 0.5 past light speed.” Well, a parsec is an astronomic unit of distance, not time. (A parsec is the distance equal to light traveling for 3.26 light years.) As for “making 0.5 past light speed”, any matter traveling at the speed of light would have infinite mass and cannot travel any faster.I'm not going to argue the bit about light speed. Risch is right and so was Einstein. But that's not what I like about this argument. I like the part about the parsec. Okay, so a parsec is a unit of measurement. Great. But the Kessel Run isn't easily fixed, as Risch implies here. It's possible that Lucas was just an idiot and didn't know what a parsec was (thus making what should have been "the Kessel Run in 12 seconds" into "the Kessel run in 12 parsecs"). But what if the Kessel Run is actually referring to a standard time and the parsecs are referring to the distance traveled in that time? Let's say the Kessel Run refers to a race in which ships are given thirty minutes to travel the farthest distance. Well, then wouldn't the "12 parsecs" bit make sense then? Course it would.
And something else:
Light Sabers are mighty fancy weapons, but hardly practical in future warfare. True, they would be nice cut wood or start a fire with for survival purposes, but I would rather stake my life on a simple laser blaster, which could kill at greater speed (light speed) and distance. And as for Darth Vader absorbing the energy of a laser blast (Empire Strikes Back), he wouldn’t need a Light Saber since he apparently possesses the powers of God. (I don’t think so!).Umm, no. True, blasters may have more use in warfare, but Jedi, according to the Star Wars Universe, train extensively to learn the skills needed to be able to deflect laser blasts and the like. So, in theory, if you and a trained Jedi were facing off and all you had was a laser blaster, you would lose badly and the Jedi wouldn't break a sweat.
But then there's that bit about Darth Vader blocking blaster shots. Okay, sounds like a big hole, right? Well, no, actually. If you think about it, if Darth Vader could do that whenever he wanted to, then wouldn't he? He can't. That's the point. The Force, being a source of "magic," has limitations. Darth Vader can't just run around crushing star ships with his mind. He doesn't have that sort of power, nor the energy. He can't block blaster shots all the time either, because that takes a lot of power that even someone as powerful as he doesn't have an unlimited supply of. It's not indicated in the movies for a very good reason: wouldn't it be stupid if Vader nearly passed out and then said, "Goodness, that took a lot out of me. Phew. I'm pooped."? I thought so.
That's basically it. Again, I actually agree with Risch. Star Wars is not science fiction, but he chose some really bad examples. You'd be much better off pointing to the fact that, gasp, there's magic and people shooting lightning out of their hands and crazy crap like that--maybe the fact that everything in Star Wars makes sound in space, even though that's technically not possible. This other stuff is more along the lines of nitpicking. Stick to the good stuff, because that stuff is unquestionable.