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And Sometimes It’s Just Too Much To Take

October 23, 2015

The submarine was in a desparate situation. It had to escape under the polar ice before the evil villians could find and sink it. The captain ordered the boat “Ahead slow” under the ice flow. As the tension built, and the soundtrack let you know that something was about to happen, suddenly a massive piece of ice broke off from the overhead ice, falling and narrowly missing the unsuspecting . . .


The ice broke off and fell down on the submarine? How did THAT happen? Ice floats.

Occasionally, movie makers get the science so increadibly wrong that it throws us out of the movie. Films and books are designed to “suspend our disbelief.” We know that it’s just a movie. We even know that our hero, despite the precarious circumstances, isn’t going to die a horrible death. After all, there’s a third installment already announced for next year. 

But, we willingly let the movie makers transport us to an alternate universe and pretend that it’s not all makeup, computers and fancy lighting. In exchange for our willingness to pretend the director gives us a compelling view of our future or our past, or life on Mars, or some fantastical world on the other side of the galaxy, or beyond our imagination. And we will accept this bargain in exchange for our $8 ticket (or $4 if you go to the discount theaters in my area.) 

But, what about when the film maker breaks his promise of making a compelling world? It breaks the social contract that the movies are based on. Of course, every movie has errors., a popular movie site calls them “goofs.” Sometimes it’s a problem with coninuity. Wasn’t his hair wet in the last scene? Sometimes it’s anachronisms. If you look closely you can see the watches that the Zulu “warriers” were given as payment. And sometimes it’s just plain bad science. Taking the leaf higher into the air will not make the shadow bigger. The sun is 93 million miles away. It’s going to cast the same size shadow.

And it’s these last ones that I’m less forgiving of film makers for. I realize that falling ice makes the danger to your submarine seems more intense, but in no possible universe does ice “fall” in water. Being a computer guy, I tend to notice the computer mistakes a lot more than other things. 

“Hackers” was a mostly forgettable film about a group of . . .well. . .hackers. But, in order to heighten the suspense, during one scene the we see the hacker staring intently at the screen. The room is dimmed and as the camera focuses on the character’s face, we see the green letters reflected from the screen moving across his face. 

Huh? The monitor is SO bright that it’s actually projecting individual characters on someone face? Wow. Don’t look in the light. It’s going to be worse than those laser pointers!

My all time favorite computer moview to complain about is “The Net” with Sandra Bullock. She plays a computer security expert. She discovers a particularly nasty virus that is activated when you press the escape key. 

Oookay. It would be odd for a virus writer to go to the trouble of hooking the keyboard interrupt. And there’s a lot of technical stuff that would have to happen for a virus to be activated from a single keystroke, but okay. I’ll go with it. 

Then, we find out this virus works on both a MAC and a PC. Anyone who’s shelled out $150 for an application for their PC knows that you cannot install the same program on your Macbook. Still later in the movie we find out the virus also infects mainframe computers. At this point all the computer experts in teh audience were rolling our eyes. But where it went completely over the top was when the mainframe  was infected, the display screen started to “disintegrate.” In other words, as the genius virus writer not only wrote a virus that can read the keyboard, and run equally well on Apple, PC and mainframes, they wrote more code to modify the screen display. It would have been funny if the director had done it on purpose, but “The Net” is a drama, not a comedy. It’s also not about computers.  Not really. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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