One gathers that Avatar has aliens, mend-melding (that part – a sort of neural transference – might be barely plausible), a distant extrasolar moon, an attractive and admirable alien race complete with compatible DNA, and of course clunky dialog plus plain-as-day allegoric resonance with human history and our cultural foibles. Therefore this fantasy movie or space opera, which are the right sorts of genre for things like Avatar, seemed ripe for a sci-fi terminology rant. Yet most reviewers don’t call it sci fi, or fantasy for that matter, but merely and in various ways an imaginative movie. Maybe the s.f. term has been outre among reviewers for awhile. At any rate, that’s good. Science is badly enough understood by popular culture as it is without insisting that the average robo-transformer-predat0r-alien-giantsnake-evilgenius-JulesVerne-IsaacAsimov-based-etc. fantasy movie has reason to be called science fiction.Personally, that doesn't make sense to me. If you limit the term "science fiction" to movies and novels where all - or even most - of the science is plausible, you list. Space opera, pseudoscience (especially psi powers), and fantastic aliens have been a big part of the SF genre since the so-called Golden Age of the mid-20th century. Just because some SF has terrible science or an unoriginal plot doesn't make it less a part of the genre.
I guess it's a bit nice to see the flip side of the old "it's good so it's not science fiction" argument, but I think that really "it's bad so it's not science fiction" is just as unreasonable. It looks to me that, if nothing else, Avatar evokes a science ficitonal sensawonda, and it's worth seeing for that - and
as Petit points out "handsome, brave, underdressed aliens."
Image: Illustration from the 1953 edition of H. Beam Piper's "Ullr Uprising", which you can read for free at Project Gutenberg. The novel was based on the 1857 Sepoy Rebellion.
Tags:science fiction, biology