Over the years we have seen an upsurge in the number of Sci-Fi flicks hitting the theatres. In a way, it is a good thing. It is these science-fictional movies that introduce many scientific phenomena to people. Just like how Time travel was introduced through the “Back To The Future” series. Hence, it is crucial for the filmmakers to get the science right as it will be looked upon by a lot of people. Furthermore, bogus science will have an impact on the entire story-line of the film. Despite knowing the significance of science in science-fictional movies, many filmmakers defy the fundamental laws of science to serve their plot. Here are a few examples of such films.
“Gravity” was lauded by NASA astronauts for its compelling and realistic visual presentation of space travel. Even though the movie was accurate for the most part, there was an instance where accurate science would have saved an astronaut. With Sandra Bullock and George Clooney leading the movie, there is a part where Clooney sacrifices himself to save Bullock. Although it is emotional, for a science fiction movie, it is important to consider science as well. Clooney deliberately cuts himself loose after Bullock finds it hard to pull him towards her to save him. However, both of them are in space. There is no gravity. Hence, all she had to do was to give a slight tug to change his momentum and eventually pull him up. This is a classic example of modifying the laws of physics to serve the plot of the movie.
2. Alien: Resurrection
“Alien” was one of the finest sci-fi series, until the movie studios decided to resurrect the dead Ellen Ripley, just for the sake of churning profits. In case you missed it, “Alien 3” concluded with Ripley sacrificing herself to kill the xenomorph inside her chest. However, in “Alien: Resurrection” she is cloned and brought back to life after 200 years since the “Alien 3” incident. The Ripley of “Alien: Resurrection”, Ripley-8, is more powerful. Thanks to the Xenomorph’s DNA that got spliced into hers!
Now, for the grave scientific mistake, in the plot, there’s no explanation as to why Ripley-8 retained her memories. To clarify, DNA doesn’t contain a person’s memories. So the claims of a genetic match are invalid. Moreover, Ripley-8 wouldn’t even know she is cloned unless someone tells her. Regardless of bogus science, the movie was a blockbuster. Also, to my surprise, many preferred this over the iconic 1995 Alien 3.
“X-Men” series introduced many to the world of mutants. Even though the series still remains one of the best, its vision of creating new mutants is ambitious, to say the least. The underlying plot of this series is how a set of “gifted” people are born with a set of superpowers. In reality, evolution doesn’t work like that. The mutation is a slow process, and it will take as much as 1 million years before we could see a Magneto forming a supergroup to kill humans. However, in “X-Men”, random people across the world are “gifted” with such powers. In addition to that, the movie fails to explain the science behind their powers. For instance, the movie doesn’t tell us how Quicksilver is capable of moving and thinking of superhuman speeds. If that’s not all, the movie even shows how a mutant can be created in a laboratory.
4. The Core
End of the world flicks is known to have a lot of bogus science in their plot. “The Core”, is one among them. The plot tells us that the inner-core of the Earth suddenly stops spinning. As a result of which the magnetic field of the planet is expected to dissolve within a year. To restart the rotation they have to detonate a nuclear bomb deep below the inner core. For this, a ship built out of “unobtainium” is used.
There are a lot of mistakes in the movie, especially the excerpts showing people getting out of their ship, deep below the inner core. This would burn them within a fraction of a second. Ok, the filmmakers kind of covered it with a heat-resistant suit. But they went against the second law of thermodynamics to conclude the movie. Towards the end of the movie, their ship outruns a nuclear explosion by converting the heat from it to energy. As per the second law of thermodynamics, it is not possible.
“Waterworld” was a big-budget science-fictional movie wherein Kevin Costner plays a mutated mariner in search of dry land. If you haven’t watched the movie, the story depicts the melting of polar caps. As a result of this sea level has risen 25,000 ft making most of the dry land sink underwater. However, there is not enough water on Earth to make that happen. Melting of polar caps is indeed true. In fact, we are witnessing it right now. But even if it is to meet, the majority of the interior land would still be above the sea level. Unlike what this post-apocalyptic film depicts. The movie was a box office flop with only $88 million collections in North America in return for its $175 million budget.
Similar to “Waterworld”, “2012” also got the entire “flooding of the world” part wrong. But in addition to that, the central part of its story also has a flaw in it. The theory behind doomsday is that the neutrinos from solar flare affect the stability of Earth’s crust. As a result of which, a series of disasters threatens to decimate mankind. Here’s where “2012” goes wrong. Neutrinos aren’t that harmful. In fact, they can pass through matter including ourselves. Meaning, there won’t be any disaster. Concretely, there’s no point in “2012” to be a Sci-Fi movie. It could’ve been classified as Fantasy. Just like the “Spiderman” series.
Being an elite superhero, Superman can defy one or two laws in physics. But going to an extent of reversing the Earth’s rotation to overturn the events is simply unacceptable. In an attempt to resuscitate Lois Lane, angry Superman flies across the Earth to reverse time in the 1978’s “Superman”. Essentially, what he does is to fly at the speed of light to travel back in time. However, if at all he had achieved it, then not only would he fail at resuscitating Lane but would put the lives of humans at risk. A study revealed that this would result in a huge alteration in the atmospheric pressure, hence the wind speed. The end result would be extinction. Furthermore, this abrupt change in the Earth’s atmosphere will also attract nearby space debris and asteroids. In short, bogus science actually saved a million reel lives!
You might have seen this coming if you have already watched the movie. Micheal Bay’s “Armageddon” is regarded as the worst science-fictional movie ever. There is a reason for that. The movie reportedly has 168 mistakes. Before we get to that part, here is a crux of what “Armageddon” has to offer in terms of storyline. A massive asteroid is making its way towards Earth. To stop its collision course, the government hires a team of drillers. Their job is to drill the asteroid and place a nuclear bomb to split it into two halves.
Here’s what Newton tells us: “An object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force”. Concretely, splitting the asteroid in two will only make things worse. Since there would be two asteroids, instead of one, making its way towards Earth. All they had to do was to detonate the bomb in such a way it diverts its collision course.
9. Star Wars
“Star Wars” needs no introduction, so I will cut to the chase and point out an incident where science was misused. I will keep this short. Space is a vacuum, sound requires matter to propagate. Hence, the epic space dogfights and explosions wouldn’t be heard in space. However, in the movie, the audience does hear the sounds of an explosion. In reality, they should’ve muted it so that the audience won’t hear any sound.