Bad Science in Movies


If you’re finding the time to watch a few movies during the holidays, you might want to make your choices based on this “report card” put together by the website io9 a while back. They rated 18 movies based on how many laws of physics they mangled. Star Trek is not included just because there is too much of it (bad science and movies!) to fit all in one graphic.

Hat tip to Nate!

52 Replies to “Bad Science in Movies”

  1. It’s always disappointing to see how many of them use sound in space, although I do accept sound when the camera (and viewer) is passing through some sort of medium, such as the thrusters of some giant ship. It rarely fades in the correct fashion as we exit the medium.

    In regards to “2001: A Space Odyssey”, there has actually been some controversy in the Nerd World as to the scene where Dave is in the vacuum. Some claim that the representation is somewhat accurate, based on a number of factors. Others claim that it’s completely unrealistic.

  2. Well, movies will be movies. (i.e: Escape from reality) 😀

    But i’ve always wondered about the “Nearby Asteroids aren’t drawn close by gravity” in real life situations.
    Would a hypothetical spaceship, say the size and mass of 2 large navy battleships combined, draw an asteroid towards it due to gravity? Is there a threshold of mass to make this happen?

  3. I don´t know if I agree on faster than light travel is being bad science as it isn´t proven to be impossible.

    1. Faster than light travel devices are known to be impossible in the same way that perpetual motion devices are, they would break physics in a bad way (relativity vs thermodynamics) and none has been observed.

      For some arguments, ftl would make:
      – relativity break down, so physics breaks down
      – the light cone of gauge theories (general physics theories) unstable, so physics breaks down
      – time travel possible, so the algorithmic tower of computer science breaks down by way of using time travel of data to solve any problem (which in turn breaks physics)

      1. It should be noted “Physics as we know it”. There are all sorts of ways to get around the current constraints of physics, some of which are part of serious investigations. Star Trek uses what is essentially an extra dimension, aka Sub-space, where traditional physics don’t apply.

      2. It should be noted that FTL only interferes with relativity when it is in normal space. FTL travel using currently unknown ‘levels’ of space (subspace, hyperspace), or folded space technologies are actually NOT defied by current physics… merely improbable.

        Furthermore, physics theories have been changed before, based off new observations… it doesn’t break physics if we have to change them again.
        As for your last comment relating to NP-Complete problems… There is nothing about it that has any credence. It doesn’t have any impact on physics… it merely relates to problem complexity and the time it takes to solve a problem. A computer solving a problem faster doesn’t break physics… it only breaks encryption and redefines cryptanalysis.

    2. Oh, I didn’t see that “proven” at the first read.

      Well, perpetual motion devices are rejected in as much as thermodynamics is accepted by testing at some ludicrous certainty at this time. The same goes for faster than light devices, rejected by having to accept relativity to high certainty.

      You can’t actually prove anything outside of math. Which is a good thing, because math can be consistent but not complete (or vice versa) by way of Gödel’s theorems on axiom systems. But physics must be able to be both on observations, which is accomplished by way of testing.

      [You can’t always test of course, but the assumption is that if you can observe something it is due to physics. This assumption is itself tested daily.]

      The reason for this is that physics doesn’t seem to be axiomatic but algorithmic, which is a way larger and better world. (As an example, I proffer the problems mathematics has to make quantization in field theories axiomatic from various “first principles”.)

      If this is the case, then you have to leave “proofing” and go to testing, to make useful headway on the larger questions.

      1. The Alcubeirre warp drive is a solution to the Einstein field equation. The problem is that the energy E = T^{00} < 0 for the matter-field source of the spacetime. This is shared by related solutions, such as wormholes. The problem is that eigenvalues of the quantum field are not bounded below, which results in a UV catastrophe. A ladder of infinite states decending to -infinity means there exists a gush of infinite energy from this quantum field source. That is clearly a disaster or something we don't want in physics.

        Also warp drives and related spacetimes violate the laws of thermodynamics. These are not considered as a result to be very physically realistic. Quantum gravity will end up as the final arbiter on the matter.


  4. Unfortunately there is bad science in the “bad science” lists. Mostly because they don’t accept suspension of disbelief (SOD) inherent in fiction, but also because they accept suspension of tested science inherent in bad science.

    The movie view with its cuts isn’t what a real person would see for a general example. As for many scifis one could have, and indeed is IIRC told by its canon (aka suggested world view) sounds in space ships when diverse fields and weapons rattle it. The suggestion that a “camera observer” wouldn’t be a “microphone observer” as well (not necessarily in the same position) is a pet peeve of mine. Poor SODs!

    Speaking of world views, I’m confused by the Stargate listing.

    As for the “easy communication with aliens” check, the Stargate world had Earth populated by aliens that transfered their cultures to Earth, language and all! That transfer wasn’t described as easy, in fact it was described as possible merely by the military might of said aliens. Other aliens did have a hard time communicating. A better charge would have been “easy nerve communication with aliens”, as the neural parasites was very much non-biological.

    Instead the above population was made with the very emblematic device of the series, faster than light wormhole travel! (And sometimes time travel.) When did wormholes (and moreover the possibility of connecting outside the light cone) become actual physics?

    1. Wormholes have long been a part of actual physics. Einstein’s theories not only allow them, but actually imply them. This is not to say that stable macro wormholes shown that appear in science fiction are possible… merely that the underlying effect is possible.

  5. Having seen 10 of the films listed here, including Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff, I’d have to agree with the assessment that only Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff adhered to proper science and physics. However, as lookingbeyond said, they are movies, and in some respects, an escape from reality.

  6. Although I’ve seen these films a loooong time ago, I’m a bit surprised about some items for 2001 and Solaris.

    2001: “slow motion in zero-g”
    Was it that much worse than in ISS footage? it seems to me real-life astronauts move rather slowly, out of care for unwanted consequences of inertia.

    Solaris: “all planets have Earth-g” and “one climate planet-wide”
    But there’s only one planet in that movie (aside Earth), and all the action happens inside a floating station: there’s not much climate shown at all and supposedly in one spot only. And there’s nothing wrong with that planet being Earth-similar in many respects, for it to have a global ocean.

    Still, I’m very happy Tarkovsky made it to the list, at all 😉

  7. I have observed problems with many of the listed movies but one my main objections to many movies in genre is not listed. In some movies the spacecraft have “engines” that obviously would provide thrust vectors which are not aligned with or behind the centers of mass of the vehicles. Such a craft would have a tendency spin around when the engines were fired or would need some sort of massive attitude thrusters to correct for the misaligned main engines. I think this spacecraft design comes from trying to make futuristic spacecraft look like 1950’s automobiles.

  8. And no mention of Marooned ?!?!?!
    What kind of space enthusiast’s movie list is this anyway? :(((

  9. Question how is a laser a “faster than light weapon”? Laser is light and therefore lightspeed. Also if the spacecraft is capable of faster than light travel, surely it is capable of dodging a faster than light weapon. (remember in we are talking about Fiction here)

    PS. Where are the StarTrek movies in the list?

    PPS. What is the circumstances used to decide “sound in a Space” Several of the listings where there is “sound in space” the person “hearing” the sound is touching or attached to a solid object. Vibrations throught the solid object cause the air molecules in the healmet/spacesuit to vibrate creating the seaming situation of sound in space. Eg. Space Cowboys. The PAM’s on the old satelite ignite, Tommy Lee Jones is attached to it and we hear the sound of the rockets thanks to the microphone in his helmet.

    PPPS. Is there any definitive evidence of the evects of vacum on humans? Has it ever happend? Has a living creature ever been subjected to hard vacum?

    1. @Tony: Regarding vacuum effects – There have been numerous experiments and incidents relating to vacuum effects and explosive decompression in the literature. During the gearing up for the Apollo missions, an extensive investigation was conducted involving animals. Additionally, several accidents occurred while testing space suits in vacuum chambers with humans.

      Here’s an excellent review of the field:
      Emanuel M. Roth, Rapid (Explosive) Decompression Emergencies in Pressure-Suited Subjects, NASA CR-1223, November 1968.

  10. Are you kidding? Armageddon receives the same bad science rating as Mission to Mars or Deep Impact? This is one of the worst bad science movie lists I’ve seen (the criteria are far from relevant for space related movies)…

  11. “Dodging faster-than-light weapons (e.g., lasers)”

    LOL , lasers aren’t ‘faster than light’, they are light !
    [a little ‘bad science’ in the bad science check list ! lol]

    How about a little ‘bad science’ checklist for Mainstream Astrophysics:
    Black Holes
    Magnetic Reconnection
    Frozen-in Magnetic Fields
    The Big Bang
    an Expanding Universe
    Redshift being caused by recessional velocity alone

    Mainstream Astrophysics – Guilty on all counts of bad science in the above list.

  12. You know.. I was always amazed by all this It is science FICTION, it is suppose to be entertaining escapism. If we wish science FACTs (well theories anyway) then lets all sit in a Physics class and listen. Shakespeare, Homer, and other greats wrote plays and literature that strayed from “facts” Historical drama versus historical facts. Oh, I do seem to remember that NASA was contacted on the effects of vacuum for “2001: A Space Odyssey” so the depiction should be accurate. Where did the info come from that it was not? Finally, where oh where have you ever heard a music sound track following you as you go about your daily business?

    1. you are right on 😉 When lecturing I never heard music in the background, with the exception of someone’s mobile phone going of with some tune, haha. In other words, we cannot just this argument about the scientific realism of movies. Movies are mostly the result of one ore another form of inspiration, either by a real event, or by applying creativity based on experience. God gave us a mind capable of imagination, and ALL imagination has some root in realism.
      There is so much science cannot prove, so many unanswered questions and so much to learn, including the possibility that there is more than one reality.
      God bless you all.
      As AE said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited, Imagination encircles the World.” That is what I always liked about Albert Einstein; he was above rigidity…

  13. Uh, the planets in “Serenity” had very explicitly been terraformed, and this is explained in both the movie and the TV series that inspired it. So, if you’re going to obnoxiously attack the movie for having “bad science,” question the presence/plausibility of terraforming, don’t act like the movie doesn’t have an answer for why other planets have atmospheres and gravity similar to that of Earth. The movies listed might use bad science, but you come across as fairly stupid when you raise objections that the movies clearly address, especially when the particulars of a certain foreign planet’s atmosphere are so clearly explained in “Serenity…”

    1. Terraforming will never increase the gravity of planet (or moon, in the case of Serenity), and it is hard to believe with our current understanding of climate science that terraforming could create one consistent planet-wide climate. On the other hand, Serenity (and Firefly) never gave us much of a view of whole planets. We only ever saw one or two cities on a planet. We don’t know what the poles looked like, for instance. So it’s a little unfair to consider Serenity guilty of this bad science…

      Some other movies that might be fun to dissect for bad science:
      * Sunshine
      * The Fifth Element
      * Supernova
      * Wing Commander
      * Starship Troopers
      * Dune
      * Independence Day

      1. “Terraforming will never increase the gravity of (a) planet or moon.”
        That entirely depends on what you are doing when you are terraforming a planet. If you do not introduce additional matter to the planet, you are right… but there is no reason why you couldn’t introduce additional matter. In fact, one might even say that you have to introduce additional matter.

  14. Lars, why do you consider magnetic reconnection to be bad science? Also, why is recessional velocity redshift bad science?

  15. Few points on Stargate movies, both original and the ones that did follow the tv series.

    The “aliens” in the movies and the tv shows are humans. Both ancient humans (more advanced, evolved on Earth before the current human population in Stargate, long gone when the series and the movies happen). No alien interbreeding (like Star Trek) has taken place in Stargate. In Stargate Atlantis there was a sub-human population that changed over time due to co-evolution process (see the series for more detail).

    Also in Stargate communication with aliens is not always easy. But with the human population it is. I don’t know why that is, ask the writers on that one. But other parts make it clear that communication with aliens is hard.

    The planets that Stargate goes to are like the Earth. This is done by design in the Stargates them self. It is a part of the plot line. This is not necessary bad science as claimed here.

    Even if something looks like a bad science at first sight, it might not be that if you look closer into it.

  16. I have to defend 2001 because it has been victimized by a couple of poor observations by the creators of this graphic. The film deserves a clean bill of accuracy. Dave is exposed to near vacuum for a few seconds, which is probably survivable without significant tissue damage (Experimental Animal Decompression to a Near Vacuum Environment, R.W. Bancroft, J.E. Dunn, eds, Report SAM-TR-65-48 (June 1965), USAF School of Aerospace Medicine, Brooks AFB, Texas). In that scene, Dave bounces around the airlock in what is decidedly not slow motion. Poole also thrashes around rapidly when he is killed by HAL during EVA. At other points in the film, the characters are seen to be moving very slowly in zero-g, but with pre-CGI effects, this preserves the drama and underscores the peculiar nature of moving and operating in an environment without a consistent downward acceleration due to gravity. Clarke was involved in the production of the film and, as a physicist, took care to get things right. In fact, 2001 is the only film I have ever seen to explicitly demonstrate the necessity of a medium for sound transmission. The airlock scene with Dave Bowman begins in total silence; however, as the room becomes pressurized, the sound comes up to match.

  17. I am a little baffled by the inclusion of the Star Wars series. These movies don’t even _pretend_ to be “Science” Fiction.

    The prologue says it all – it is pure fantasy entertainment, total escapism, set “a long time ago in a Galaxy far away”… whatever “a long time ago” means, if you are talking about a very distant Galaxy…

    Other than that: I love Science Fiction for a good well-spun yarn, for the entertainment value. The people who compiled the list, imo, need to lighten up a lot. It’s _Fiction_, right?!

    I also like watching movies presented as science documentaries, and there I _do_ get narky when I see inaccurate, outdated and just plain wrong presentations… which actually happens quite a bit. Can we have a list of dodgy documentaries, please?

    I also enjoy watching Star Wars, but I don’t relate to it as Science Fiction.

  18. If TL OM is right then we are like prisoners in the middle of desert, trapped by the vastness of the universe, the incredibly slow travel speed of some sensible fraction of C and the shortness of our lives. If that is true (and I hope not),.as we see more of the universe we will more and more need to let our imaginations roam free..

    1. Oh…. You forgot Mary Poppins!

      How about the classic Walter Pigeon “Forbidden Planet”, with the ID, the Krell, Robbie the Robot, and, of course, the very leggy Altaira (Ann Francis)? Still love the last line in the movie; “One has to remind man that, in the end, we are not God.” ’bout sums most of the sci-fi genre methinks.

      Others include Planet of the Apes, and the sequels. I.e Conquest of the Planet of the Apes even destroyed the world with a cobalt bomb!

      Others turkeys not mentioned; “Event Horizon”, “Supernova”, and the 1950s films; “Destination Moon”, “This Island Earth” and George Pal’s “Conquest of Space/.

      The worst of course is “The Core”…. I mean unobtainium (even that is in Avatar too! If you want the scientific mumbo-jumbo it kill every sci-fi movie ever made!! I.e.

      Another are all “The Terminator” films (The nude time travel is a killer in winter!)

      Even wee ol’ Scotty knows; “Ye cannot change the laws of physics!”

      Note: The EU/PC find this ‘turn-on’, and they don’t think it as good as the electric cool-aid! (They think its plasma! Just ask dear Muppet, aha! Just visit QuantaUniverse dot com.)

  19. What I’m seeing here is that the Science Fiction movies don’t equate to real science, yet the movies based on real science do. Not hard to figure out why it’s called Science FICTION.


  20. What I want to see is a graph of current science FACT based on Star Trek fiction alone. What I see here is a lot of nitpicking. I know I’d be bored out of my skull watching a space battle with no sound, even though I know it’s in a vacuum. Without some sort of similar language base, there’s not going to be much dialog to advance the storyline. 🙂 These are just a few of my nitpicks of the nitpickers…

    1. Yeah, you are absolutely right… but why can’t we have just a little fun with the nitpicking and look for the holes in movie story-lines?

      Face it movies are mostly about escapism, and frankly if you enter a movie theatre or watch one in front of the television, most of your brain should be switched off anyway.

      As for sci-fi movies at least they are mostly entertaining. hell. It could be worst.
      You could be forced to watch chick-flicks like “Sex and the City”, “Gone With the Wind”, or even, both film versions of the dreaded movie on humankind — &#%@ing Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Woman”! (American’s true WMD!!!)

      I already know which film genre I’d be “bored out of my skull” with!

      1. A realistic depiction of a space battle would be very different from the Star Wars sort of thing. For one thing, advancing technology separates combatants. Compare medieval warfare with WWII or modern war. The Star Wars battle scenes were completely taken from WWII depiction of aircraft dog fights. The X-wings and Tie-fighters fought little differently than combat between P-38s and Messerschmitt 109s. A movie centered around a real space battle would depict a lot of guys on the ground, and to make it interesting a few guys in a spacecraft in orbit or in space somewhere. A lot of the plot could depict detection and intelligence, analyzing information to identify enemies, short bursts of alarm when the crew realize there is an incoming round, and so forth. Much of it could involve interpersonal drama, such as conflicts over command decisions.


  21. It’s hardly surprising that Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff score highly, they were based on real events. As much as I love s.f. they nearly always break down as films because the dialogue is so appallingly crap. It’s almost at the level of the 1930’s-1950’s pulp s.f. comics – muscle-bound heroes, shrieking pneumatically-endowed women, “and with one bound he was free”. Intelligent s.f. novels would be almost impossible to make properly. Can you imagine the balls-up the studios would make with Iain M. Banks’ ‘Culture’ novels? Niven’s ‘Ringworld’?, Harrison’s ‘Eden’ novels?

    1. Ring world is hopelessly unrealistic. For one thing the physics is wrong. A ring around a gravitating body has antipodal points that counter each other. Assume we have a ring world of mass per unit length m’ around a star with mass M. If I take an angular region from the star to the ring the arc length on the ring has the mass which gravitationally interacts with the star. So for the ring at distance R from the star the gravitational potential is then U = -GMm/R, where the mass of the angular region, m, is given by the arc length L = @R (@ = angle) and the mass m = m’@R. So the gravitational potential energy is

      U = -GMm’.

      However, if I were to extend the lines for the arc length out to the other side I get a similar result, and the fact that the result has no dependency on the radial distance of the arc length of the Ring World tells us that there is no net radial attraction on the ring world. This may be extended to Dyson spheres as well. So any perturbation on the system can cause the ring to drift relative to the star within the plane of the ring. In fact the star could end up crashing into some portion of the ring.

      I seem to remember there was some plans to film AC Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama. However, there has been to news on this and I have not seen any release of such a movie.


  22. From what I remember Niven had the anomalies pointed out to him and he went back to correct them. He was quite embarrassed as he was an engineer. Mind you he was dealing with some pretty far out ideas. I too heard about the RwR film but it appears nothing will come of it.

    1. What is rather surprising is that F. Dyson (co-inventor of QED theory etc) proposed the Dyson sphere and was apparently unaware of this problem. The system is not stable, for the star does not gravitationally stabilize the sphere.


  23. A realistic space battle would mean that no spacecraft would see each other because they fly so fast.

  24. In defense of the Alien films:
    LV-426 and Fiorina 161 have ralatively similar to Earth’s likely because that was one of the reasons they would be settled to begin with, to make it easier for the colonists. Also, we saw only a tiny location on each world, and have no idea what the climate would be like elsewhere.

    FTL travel does occur in the Alien films, but it’s never explained, and no visul effects are used to draw attention to it. I think that’s the best way to do it.

    The Right Stuff has a very weird visual effect to go along when the sound barrier is broken.

    No Star Trek? They pretty much broke all of the “rules”.

    Armageddon has lots of bad science. Pretty much the whole movie, really.

    1. Yes and in the Right Stuff it had that weird thing with the natives and their bonfire flying up into space. I really liked that movie maybe I should read the book. Wally Shira said they should have called it the “light stuff” because of the small,light command imputs flying the mecury and gemini’s.

    2. The alien films suffer from bad biology. The prospect some alien life form can parasitically infect a human is less than the prospect some plant fungi could set up shop in a human. The other problem is that when the infant alien popped out of the human it was fully grown in the next scene. Those aliens were somewhat large, probably with 150kg mass, and they had to have gotten it from some food supply. The other problem is immune response. Even if such a parasite could make its living in a human the immune system would detect a problem. Even though our immune systems would be ill-equipped to deal with alien biology there would still be some sort of response.

      The first couple of alien films did though make a point that contact with alien life could be trouble. Though I suspect it would be trouble of a different sort. Humans on another planet with alien microbes might end up like loaves of bread in the presence of mold spores.


      1. The Alien in the first film does not actually state that it is interacting with the biological nature of the humans though. Much like a fungi or even dust mote, it is simply wrapped inside the human where it absorbs heat and possibly oxygen.

        Admittedly the increasing size of the creatures development seems hard to justify, though like some short lived insects, I believe the idea was that the final stage creature would not feed and was simply a bio-engineered machine for use as a weapon. The first film suggests the creature is actually bio-mechanical in nature and not actually an evolved organism. The later films changed that to get in the whole queen alien story.

        I suspect ‘mouldy’ humans is actually a better description of human/alien interaction, but it would have been a slightly less exciting movie.

      2. The first alien film, which I took a high school girl friend to watch, to her considerable disapproval BTW, had an element of mystery to it. The crew of the Earth ship encounters an alien craft of a very Gothic nature on that dismal planet, where the dead alien pilot has its skeletal chest popped open. One guy gets the alien larval form on his face and … . Midway through the movie they are dealing very badly with a fairly large highly aggressive creature which also has some sort of intelligence as well. There are a couple things which would seem to be apparent. This creature is not a simple microbe which is able to feast off of our flesh because our immune systems can’t manage the assault. This creature is able to exploit in a complex manner its host to complete a life cycle, which occurs in Earth life with considerable evolution. A complex parasite, such as a worm, is highly evolved to exploit its host from a molecular scale up to that of the whole host organism. This alien was not only highly complex, but had a sort of intelligence as well, but has not co-evolved with Earth life or humans. Clearly the mass of the creature which popped out of the first victim came from the host, and the alien at that stage was about the size of a very small dog.

        Of course science fiction movies depict alien life forms that are pretty much modeled on life here. The Gieger alien is a hybrid of sorts between insect type of life and humans. There is a website called the “Tree of Life,” which as I remember is at U Arizona, which depicts the huge number of branches of life, most of which are prokaryotic with a smaller subset of eukaryotes. There are some 25 branches of eukaryotes, of which 3 are fungi, plants and animals — the three branches which evolved into multicellular life. Amoebas have a branch which is sort of multicelluar, or intermittently so called slime molds. The number of evolutionary dice rolls which lead to these three branches are huge, and the number of possible alternatives almost uncountable. So complex life on another planet is likely to be incredibly different from what we recognize as life. Maybe on some planets there are life forms which are motile, which requires sensory abilities, some dexterity and the bio-machinery to control that. Yet it could turn out to be stunningly different from what we are familiar with.

        Probably of all the movies that depict alien life the most accurate might be that Steve McQueen classic “The Blob.” While it is a grade B celluloid affair, it at least imposed a minimal amount of our prejudices on what we think alien life might be. The alien movies fell apart after the second one, “Aliens” which featured the queen and a hive of aliens that had eaten out that planet colony. The one with the prisoners on that other dismal planet offered little, and the resurrection movie was just plain bad. I never saw the Alien v Predator movie —- that sounded too absurd.


      3. The Geiger alien is from his artwork which was actually supposed to be machines meshed with ancient egyptians to create organic machines. The original design concepts for the Alien film were that the creatures were not organic at all but such complex machines (weapons) that they could be released and produce virus like and adapt at a rapid rate to their host species in order to better wipe them out.

        The later parts of the franchise were pretty bad sci-fi and pretty bad story-telling in general, ignoring their scientific credentials (or lack thereof). The forthcoming film by Ridley Scott is a prequel apparently going back to explaining the creatures as an engineered weapon, rather than a biological species.

        The Blobs an interesting thought. Though it’s based primarily on jellyfish and other sea bound creatures which lack a skeletal structure. I suppose it’s always going to be difficult to posit something totally alien in nature – except maybe 2001s ‘obelisks’.

        Most biologists who bother to speculate on alien life generally accept that there’d be some form of evolutionary process with a replication involved. Depending on the environmental restrictions, evolution would move in some vastly different ways, but there would always be limits imposed by gravity, temperature, available organic chemistry, time frames, etc. There are actually a vast number of ‘theoretical’ creatures in the earth evolutionary outliers that never could have happened simply because our world doesn’t allow for such mutations to survive within the restrictions of what is available.

      4. Thanks for the alert on another Alien movie. Ooh boy, unless the reviews are somehow really good I will probably skip it.

        Giger (which is as it turns out the real spelling) does disturbing portrayals of necro-fantasy and related bio-mechanics. He did the album cover of ELP’s Brain Salad Surgery, which has a sort of tomb motif to it. The portrayal of the Aliens as some bio-mech engineered creation was I believe introduced in the Alien v. Predator films — at least according to my son who is a devotee of this sort of thing. In the Alien films there is that company which has an interest in getting their hands on the Alien, in fact why in the first movie the ship was diverted to that planet. As the franchise evolved I think the storyline evolved as well.


  25. Yes Darkgnat, there does need to be a few defences for the Alien movies and a few of the others there (not to take it too seriously of course!) In the first Alien movie, the small moon LV-426 is described as having a gravity of less than earths and an atmosphere of methane and other gases in the actual script conversations, so I’m not sure it falls into the same category. The later films use terraforming as a plot device, so that may be unrealistic. I like the ‘easy-interbreeding between humans and aliens’ for those films though – it’s somewhat less of a sexy mating for the human than the green-skinned alien girls in Star-Trek…

    Not sure where the weird depcition of vacuum comes in for 2001. Other than re-entering the ship, which isn’t in a vacuum. Also I’m pretty sure the slow-motion in space is the film run in slow motion as a dramatic effect, not a depcition. There’s plenty of scenes of people moving at normal speed in 2001.

    Nitpicking is fun!

    I did wonder about Serenity since I know how seriously they wanted to take some of the science (on a budget of course) but with specifically no faster than light travel they do get to jump around a lot of different planets and moons (all of which look just like some of the ranches outside San Fernando handily).

    In defence of some of the Star Wars movies I don’t think they actually refer to any weaponry as a laser, wasn’t it just ‘blasters’? Which could refer to a projectile weapon. But then it’s hard to defend Star Wars when you’re past age 12 and can understand the script is that bad.

    A realistic space battle would also probably involve craft moving in a directionless fashion with the thrust required to reach each other giving a brief encounter as the craft bypassed each others trajectory at incredible speeds. I recall Babylon 5 the tv series tried to show this with the ‘fighters’ not moving like jet planes but independently rotating on their directional axis whilst traversing on a translational ‘slide’ following an initial thrust. Problem is (as I work in TV and film and am pretty poor discussing physics) it ends up with pretty dull and hard to depict scenes of tiny craft whizzing past each other for a moment and then not re-engaging for a few minutes.

    So bad science can equal better drama. Maybe that’s why sci-fi tends to work better in novel form?

  26. How about “Defying Gravity”, anyone seen it ?

    I know it was not a movie but a TV series but it looked quite accurate for me.
    Shame it was canceled after 13 episodes though…

  27. The Last Starfighter recognized communications difficulties between aliens. Those sufficiently advanced species saw the problem and solved it with an implant: “You speak english!” “No, you hear english.”

    Of course, what you don’t realize is that in the far future the language adopted across the galaxy is in fact Urdu. Every futuristic movie you’ve ever seen is technically dubbed.

  28. Captain Kirk would so tap the alien queen.

    As far as Star Wars weaponry goes they do have a projectile variant of their sidearm. It’s called a “slug thrower.” It is presented as an older weapon type than the “blasters” that most people carry. The blaster only requres power pack so it is deffinately an energy weapon.

    That has come up a couple of times in the novels, as far as I can remember everyone in the movies carries blasters. Wow I never thought that information would be of any use whatsoever!

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