There are certain movies that insult my intelligence so much that they make me want to track down the screenwriter and give him a whack on the side of the head.
I don't mean films that require a wholesale suspension of disbelief (like the Star Wars series) or that are clearly unrealistic from start to finish (The Little Mermaid). I don't mean movies that feature characters so stupid they would have eliminated themselves from the gene pool long ago (Dumb and Dumber) or ones that center their whole stories on an unexplained plot device (Being John Malkovich). Those movies I can work with, because they are at least internally consistent.
No, I mean those films which aspire to mighty heights of believability and realism, only to fall flat on their face somewhere near the climax of the story because some writer centered the plot on a humongous violation of the laws of physics. These films are part of an elite subclass which want us to believe that they could be true, which need us to believe they could be true, but snap somewhere short of the finish line. These include:
- The Matrix - A wonderful, wonderful geek movie if there ever was one. But the central punch of the film is when Morpheus tells Neo that humans are being controlled by machines in order to steal bioelectricity from their bodies. Anyone with even a shaky grasp of the second law of thermodynamics knows that this is a waste of their energy; humans don't create bioelectricity from nothing. The machines would get ten times more power by taking the food they feed the captive humans and burning it in a turbine somewhere.
- The Road to El Dorado - The second animated effort from DreamWorks Pictures and a rather good flick, despite its lackluster box office returns. The writers and animators go through great lengths to make the native South American inhabitants of El Dorado look, act, play and live authentically. But in their ambition, they forgot one detail: the South Americans didn't speak Spanish until after the Spaniards conquered them. Over half the film is about two Spanish con men playing at being gods to the natives without having to overcome any language barriers whatsoever.
- Independence Day - Sweet Lord, where to begin? I had the incredible misfortune of watching this movie the week after I finished reading Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, two modern masters of hard science fiction. In ID4, the aliens descend from orbit in giant anti-gravity destroyers, then carry out an elaborate scheme to destroy each major city from fifty feet above them. In Footfall, the aliens do the sensible thing and stay safely in orbit while dropping asteroids on cities with remarkable accuracy. If the ID4 aliens had been half as clever, the F-15 pilots wouldn't have gotten anywhere near them.*
Clearly, a good grounding in the sciences (and, sometimes, basic logic) needs to be firmly established in Hollywood before a raging mob of educated professionals storms the studio gates and pummels them to death with copies of Einstein's Theory of Relativity. The geeks must rise to the occasion.
First, a few courses in good creative writing, then on to Los Angeles with the millions made during the dot-com revolution. Start a new studio. Hire only writers and directors with, at minimum, a bachelor's degree in science. (I'd demand that the actors and actresses do the same, but there wouldn't be enough of those in the country to make two films.) Only make movies that make sense. Hype them, promote them, push them out nationwide and force the American people to get an education whether they want to or not.
Really, it's for their own good.
* Contrary to popular belief, the central flaw of ID4 is not when Jeff Goldblum hacks into the alien computer using an Apple Powerbook. The scientists at Area 51 had decades to perfect a computer interface to the alien fighter craft. Movie critics should also be required to have a good grounding in fundamental logic before being allowed to pursue their careers.