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Thread: Why Are Movies So Scientifically Inaccurate?

  1. #1
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    Why Are Movies So Scientifically Inaccurate?

    Why Are Movies So Scientifically Inaccurate?

    ...given the massive budgets of some of these films, don't you think somebody could have paid a consultant to check on a few facts? And for that matter, don't you think somebody might have hired screenwriters with a bit more creativity, who could actually deliver a good story that's consistent with scientific knowledge and still entertaining? (It's hardly impossible to do.)

    That this doesn't happen at all suggests there's something fundamental going on here. I suspect those on the entertainment side of the fence simply don't care about the details--they care about the story, period. And I'm damn sure that those on the business side of the industry don't care.

    But still...I'm surprised by how prevalent this kind of dumbness is--and how unnecessary. So what do people think: Is there any deeper way of explaining it?
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

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    if there is a deeper way to explain it, it could be that all creative works are not really about any systems of knowledge, like science or pottery, but about people.

    I disagree with this idea, and believe all creative works are somehow about truth, which need not be hindered by truth in the form of knowledge, but, instead should be enhanced by it.

    I read a quote from someone that basically, beauty arises when there are some restraint/rules/laws etc placed upon some sort of creation, hence, due to the limits of present physical material, a suspension bridge is beautiful compared to if it could just be built from some very very strong material.

    This is why a lot of TV and movies are not beautiful, because they often refuse to recognise rules or laws, like the laws of physics. IMO
    ................................

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    Because reality is insufficiently entertaining.

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    If you are sufficiently knowledgeable in any field, whether it be science, medicine, law, auto repair, computer programming, or graphic design, then chances are that you can find errors in anything that the entertainment industry comes up with. Entertainment writers and/or producers simply don't care to learn the details of any field, and will blatantly ignore any plot hole that gets in the way of telling their story.

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    It would be good to make a soap opera that just made stuff up all the time, for example, some guy could be driving down the road at 500mph and get a speeding too slow ticket from a gnome shaped telepathic giant earwig, and bob could be having an affair with the hairdresser in town.
    that is a giant hair off a mungosaure which was a space cucumber.
    And there could be an argument in the Vic.
    ................................

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason View Post
    Because reality is insufficiently entertaining.
    Exactly;
    Who says it needs to be accurate? I can expect some level of accuracy, and some level of inaccuracy. The real problem is what does the story expect?
    For instance, how much scientific accuracy is in Eureka? I love that show.
    While, a story which depicts reality gone wrong (or cascading issues), usually needs a level of accuracy to keep it believable.

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    I once dated a guy who said that every work of fiction is entitled to one great impossibility, and if it got much beyond that, there started to be problems. For example, I saw Journey to the Center of the Earth Monday, and okay, we'll accept, for the purposes of storytelling, a cavern at the center of the Earth. We have to; it's in the title. But more and more of the story made less and less sense, and not just to those of us who have studied geology and know how many liberties the film takes with it. (Muscovite? Really? It's in granite, among other things!) But even my boyfriend, who gives me grief when I spot errors in movies, couldn't understand certain plot points.
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    Spoiler Alert - Spoiler Alert - Spoiler Alert

    The one thing that irritates me beyond all measure, is how emergency procedures such as CPR, the Heimlich manoeuvre etc are so inaccurately portrayed. There is really no excuse for it.
    Just last week I watched the remake of Casino Royale and was appalled at the idiotic way in which emergency medical procedures were depicted.

    1/ James Bond has been poisoned and manages to stagger to his car, where he is in contact with his emergency support crew. Then - and this is the killer (pun intended) - they instruct him to attach a defibrillator to his chest and to use it before he dies. This is quite absurd. If he is capable of carrying out their instructions, then he is conscious and doesn't need a defibrillator. If he needs a defibrillator, then he is already unconscious and can't do anything. Do these idiots NOT know what a defibrillator is and how it works? It stops the heart to allow (hopefully) the pacemaker cells to pick up a regular rhythm again. Perform that procedure on a beating heart and technically you've just killed them. Unbelievably stupid. Secondly, if this car has such a great emergency pack to include a defibrillator, why doesn't it have some basic anti-toxin medicines?

    2/ Later in the same movie, Bond tries to rescue his girlfriend from an elevator underwater (don't ask - the reasons behind this are so stupid they would need a book to critique). So he manages to haul her to the surface and proceeds to perform CPR on her. CPR in this case stands for Completely Pointless Rubbish. His chest compressions are inneffectual and absurdly wrong, then he performs mouth to mouth - not rescue breathing, just mouth to mouth, since her airway could not possibly be open and her chest doesn't rise - which culminates in him giving up and (believe it or not) french kissing a corpse, before the token display of Hollywood angst as the camera pulls away.

    That, of course, is not an isolated instance but a general rule. I have never yet seen CPR accurately portrayed in film or television - even those that allegedly have medical advisors, like MASH and ER.

    What are these people thinking? We're used to the laws of physics being flouted but these clowns don't seem to understand basic things like how we stay alive.

    Rant over
    Last edited by Occam; 2008-Jul-31 at 11:42 PM. Reason: correct typo

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    Quote Originally Posted by weatherc View Post
    If you are sufficiently knowledgeable in any field, whether it be science, medicine, law, auto repair, computer programming, or graphic design, then chances are that you can find errors in anything that the entertainment industry comes up with.
    That's kinda unfair.

    If you are sufficiently knowledgeable, you can find errors in anything. All books have errors. Everybody has misconceptions, everybody makes mistakes. It's a curse of the genre that any science criticism is going to have errors.

    What I like about the BA is his willingness to keep the warts--mistakes, and apologies, and corrections--all visible. Instead of, you know, kesseling it.
    Entertainment writers and/or producers simply don't care to learn the details of any field, and will blatantly ignore any plot hole that gets in the way of telling their story.
    I'm not going to argue against that though

    Disclaimer: I am not accusing George Lucas of kesseling, I think he was talling a joke. But that's the general idea anyway.

  10. 2008-Jul-31, 09:04 PM

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    Err, if you perform proper CPR on a live actor, you maykill him/her. And substituting a dummy or doing some other special-effect obviously seems too much effort for the producers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stuart van Onselen View Post
    Err, if you perform proper CPR on a live actor, you maykill him/her. And substituting a dummy or doing some other special-effect obviously seems too much effort for the producers.
    Yes, you can't do real CPR on a conscious person but the argument about cost or effort just doesn't wash. Even if you 'fake' it without a prosthesis or false body, there is no excuse for elbows bending all over the place, hands in the wrong place, or only doing it for 15 seconds.

    Maybe I'm fixating about it but I have been trained in first aid, have performed CPR and know how valuable it is for people to know. Consistently showing it inaccurately is just irresponsible. They spend millions making an exploding building look real. Spending a few hundred getting their facts right about a common procedure wouldn't hurt them. In that particular movie, a great deal of effort went into showing the drowning in a realistic way.

    What really bugs me about things like this, is how movies are so insulting to intelligence. To deliberately falsify something, when it doesn't even move the story along or suspend disbelief is absurd. In fact, in my opinion, it's things like my examples that make many viewers just switch off and reject the narrative altogether.

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    Maybe they don't want to tire the actors out.

    I just took my CPR refresher course this last week, and two minutes of real compressions was enough to put this old dog in rehab.

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    CPR in this case stands for Completely Pointless Rubbish.

    That's a new one .


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    Quote Originally Posted by mike alexander View Post
    Maybe they don't want to tire the actors out.

    I just took my CPR refresher course this last week, and two minutes of real compressions was enough to put this old dog in rehab.
    You should have defibrillated.

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    It's not too hard for me to suspend my disbelief at even the most absurd plot points, but what really chaps my hide is the stuff that doesn't add value to the plot but that they still get wrong.

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    Like thunder and lightning always happening simultaneously? You don't even have to know science to know this is wrong, unless you directly underneath the storm, getting struck by the lightning.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Amber Robot View Post
    Like thunder and lightning always happening simultaneously? You don't even have to know science to know this is wrong, unless you directly underneath the storm, getting struck by the lightning.
    I could almost chalk this one up to "scary effect." To make the scene scarier. Because that's pretty scary to have lightning strike so close.
    Except one problem.
    The actors.
    They don't jump ten feet in the air and yell "OH CRAP! Did you hear how Close that was?!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason View Post
    Because reality is insufficiently entertaining.
    Only if you're not paying attention to the world around you. (Which, I should point out, is the lesson of so many Hollywood films.) Yes, you can get bogged down in mundane details to the point where even the most exciting thing in the world is dull and boring (as so many "educational" films do), but at the same time, if you don't have enough of the "color" of a particular profession, then you wind up with a film which is generic and bland.

    I think at least part of it can be explained by the specialization of our society. In times past, screenwriters would have a diverse background. Before they "made it" as a screenwriter in Hollywood they would most likely have held a variety of jobs, many of them came from "working class" backgrounds and grew up working on farms and the like. Now, however, they spend their high school years either not working, or working in the service industry. Nothing wrong with those things, of course, but it tends to give one a very narrow experience. They stay at the service industry type jobs when they go to college, and after graduation, they get office jobs, until they make it as writers (and lets face it, if you're a writer on a TV show, its an office job, along with being a creative job). Directors are the same way.

    This means, of course, that they don't know about anything outside of those areas, other than what they've seen in the movies. A few of them will actually go out and do some observation and pick up on important things, but most of them don't really bother.

    Generally, movies that "get" the little things right, tend to be very good, while movies which screw up the things that could be learned from a few minutes googling tend to suck hard, IMHO.

    There are, of course, exceptions. In Iron Man (a good film), I got snapped right out of the movie when dude grabs the crucible out of the fire with the tongs and he's not wearing gloves (among the many jobs I've held are machinist and foundryman). I don't care if you're holding something fairly "cool" like zinc, you're gonna have to have leather gloves on. (The film implies that it's palladium which melts at 2800F. I should also point out that dude's a doctor and, as such, his first instinct is going to be to protect his hands.) In Batman Begins you see Bruce Wayne grinding metal bats while wearing gloves (this is correct as metal heats up really fast when you're grinding on it). He is not wearing safety goggles/glasses, but that's not really an issue, as if you know what you're doing, you can get away without wearing safety goggles/glasses for some grinding operations. (I don't recommend it, however.)

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    Even very basic film techniques are unrealistic. If everything was absolutely realistic in a film there would be no soundtrack, all dialogue would be improvised, and the camera would have to be an obvious part of the scene (held by one of the characters and possibly commented on). No one wants to go to a theater to see something realistic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason View Post
    Because reality is insufficiently entertaining.
    Because reality doesn't generate enough profit.
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    Nobody wants a cop movie that is 3 hours of paperwork and phone calls , for that same reason they need to take liberties with science to make things more interesting unless it's a dialogue driven piece like Contact where you can be closer to reality. Movies are an escape and for me just watching and being entertained is what makes it a good movie, not how accurate it is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Small Red Giant View Post
    Nobody wants a cop movie that is 3 hours of paperwork and phone calls
    Ah, come on. Aren't you just waiting for the season of 24 where Jack Bauer has a tummy ache and spends the whole day either in bed asleep or in the bathroom. Now that would be quality TV!

    But semi-seriously, sure, sometimes for plot development or pacing or just plain cost one has to take liberties with things, that's why it is called fiction. But I think what most of us are unhappy about is when there is no good reason for bad science, apart, I suspect, from laziness of the script writers and the movie studio.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason View Post
    Even very basic film techniques are unrealistic. If everything was absolutely realistic in a film there would be no soundtrack, all dialogue would be improvised, and the camera would have to be an obvious part of the scene (held by one of the characters and possibly commented on). No one wants to go to a theater to see something realistic.
    Cloverfield was rather successful. OK, I admit having a 100 foot tall monster chewing New York to pieces rather strains the definition of "realistic", but the rest of your points were there.

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    The Rule Of Cool dictates that if an effect is so good that you don't care about the bad science, it may stay.
    (That pretty much goes for the whole Iron Man movie, for myself.)

    No excuse for bad storytelling/acting, though.


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    i think unrealistic movies garner only derision in the minds of those that know better. Granted that's a small population but look at Armageddon. If it had been in any way accurate it would at least have been palatable. But the trifecta of crap was too much. (Bad acting, bad script, bad science)

    look at 2001. No sound in space. Realistic gravity effects (for which there is still one that I simply can't figure out how it was accomplished). And it has withstood the test of time *because* its a poster-movie for accuracy. (Other reasons as well but it is referred to as the standard for space films, really)

    Other unrealistic things that bother me: gunshots that fire someone across a room. Give me a flipping break. Cars that withstand things that would snap a tank in half. Cars with 9 gears and an completely unrelated engine sound. English speaking aliens. the list goes on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LotusExcelle View Post
    look at 2001. No sound in space. Realistic gravity effects (for which there is still one that I simply can't figure out how it was accomplished).
    Which one? I know quite a bit about how the effects were accomplished.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gas Giant View Post
    Cloverfield was rather successful. OK, I admit having a 100 foot tall monster chewing New York to pieces rather strains the definition of "realistic", but the rest of your points were there.
    The giant monster pretty much proves my point. The Blair Witch Project is the same sort of thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LotusExcelle View Post
    Cars that withstand things that would snap a tank in half.
    ...and then explode because they hit a bush.

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    Jason - there is a shot down a corridor. At the end of it is a ladder which is spinning. Both guys walk to it and when they step on it the "stick" to where they step. I'm at work so I can't give you a time as to when it happens but its always baffled me. The only thing I can picture is a really large drum rotating one section then rotating the other. Must have taken a *long* time to get it timed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LotusExcelle View Post
    Jason - there is a shot down a corridor. At the end of it is a ladder which is spinning. Both guys walk to it and when they step on it the "stick" to where they step. I'm at work so I can't give you a time as to when it happens but its always baffled me. The only thing I can picture is a really large drum rotating one section then rotating the other. Must have taken a *long* time to get it timed.
    That's the hub of the centerfuge shot. Yes, it involved two rotating sections of set. The actors were always on the portion that wasn't rotating, and when they transitioned between the two, one section started rotating with the camera while the other one stopped, making it look like the actors were now rotating. You'll notice it's a very small set. If you look very carefully you can see a slight vibration in the foreground set when the two sections trade off their rotation, but it's very slight. Kubrick was a perfectionist, after all. The fact that it's all shot as a reflection in one of Hal's lenses probably helps the illusion.

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