John Holbo has a veryy good post up trying to classify the various types of science-fiction films by their approach and attitudes toward science. He lists quite a few – 1) pro-science/pro-rationality 2) anti-science 3) split the difference … and so on and so forth.
It’s a very good piece, but I think Holbo is trying a bit too hard (as is Michael Lind whose Salon piece was the impetus for Holbo’s). I’m glad he does, but I think there are unifying features here that may bely some of the seven categories. Most of these films share a common theme. Typically they are neither pro nor anti-science, and they’re not exactly trying to split the difference. Science fiction, more often than not, presents science as something quite powerful which ought to be respected and used wisely. In the wrong hands it can do a great deal of harm. A lot of science-fiction was written during the nuclear scare, so this is hardly surprising. The movies reflect this theme. It’s a pro-science stance, but it treats science and technology as fire that isn’t to be played with. I think most of the films Holbo lists in his first three categories could fall under this larger umbrella. They just take slightly different approaches. And even a film like Blade Runner touches on the boundaries of man’s experimentation with nature and technology. Clones are just another sort of nuclear weapon in a sense.
Also, I never really thought of Star Wars as science fiction. It’s a space opera (as is The Fifth Element which even has a space opera in it). Space operas are really just fantasy with laser guns – there is nothing particularly scientific or speculative about them at all. So maybe that’s a worthwhile distinction to make.