In your head, try to construct the most epic space battle possible. Take some time to let this battle play out. In this battle, you probably included some amazing starships with roaring engines and huge explosions. Perhaps you have one ship shooting another down which is engulfed in flames, or a ship with a wailing engine plummeting into another ship resulting in an ear-shattering collision. Sadly, there is one major issue with this scene, and that issue is that this scene is overwhelmingly scientifically inaccurate by all understandings of science in space. These inaccuracies have been perpetuated through films that you may have watched in your life. There are no scientific grounds to allow either sound in space, explosions, fire in space, or even something plummeting without the command to do so. However, the inaccurate depiction of concepts has been normalized and can sometimes go completely unnoticed by the general audience. These inaccuracies are not confined to the Sci-Fi genre.
In all genres of cinema, stories take place in a given reality. This reality may be very similar to our own, but may also be divergent from the reality that we know; i.e, a reality that has a rubber tire as a “living” entity. It sounds very philosophical, but science is intertwined with every part of reality. There is always a theory or law that explains or justifies every action that takes place in life. Whether that action is of me typing up this blog, or an action caught on camera and put on the big screen. If these films are in a fictional setting, then it is understandable to see some laws or theories that cannot be described by science.
Some films that take place in our reality, horribly misrepresent a scientific concept of either an action or scene. In some cases, a quick Google search by anyone working on the film would have resulted in the realization that what they are filming makes no sense, scientifically. On the other hand, some producers go above and beyond in order to accurately depict complex and “ungoogleable” concepts in their films. Surprisingly, both cases go unnoticed by the general audience, assuming the general audience isn’t filled with science lovers.
Due to the hard work of film producers, or the lack-there-of, I want to point out some of these accurately or inaccurately represented concepts that definitely may have slipped under the radar, which is almost funny to look back on and think about how some of these concepts weren’t recognized. These scientific reviews of a film will be focused more on the representation of the science in the film rather than the greatness of the film. In these reviews, I will break down a given scene and discuss the concept that was either accurately or inaccurately portrayed. Some of the concepts portrayed are complex. If that is the case, I will provide my best possible explanation of that concept so that you can understand the accuracy or inaccuracy presented.
In future blogs, I hope to discuss the scientific accuracies and inaccuracies in the films:
Outbreak (1995), Dr. Strange (2016), Interstellar (2014), Lucy (2014), Osmosis Jones (2001), and Skyfall (2012). I have a laundry list of other films that I can discuss regarding their science. I am excited to explore this aspect of cinema that largely goes unnoticed, and I hope to enlighten more movie lovers on the science in cinema. My next blog will be exploring the science in The Andromeda Strain (1971), directed by Robert Wise.
*I want to note that I am not claiming to be an expert in any field of science, but I do have a passion for pursuing knowledge in science and I will always try to research each concept heavily before discussing it.
– Steven Zeko, Film blogger
Steven Zeko is a senior at Lewis University, working towards a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education. Currently, he is involved in immunology research and Chem-ED research. Following his education, Steven wants to teach Biology, Chemistry, and Physics at a high school level. In his free time, Steven enjoys playing video games, reading, playing golf, and watching movies. He is typically reading two books at any given time, with one book being a science book and the other being any good book that he can find. Currently, Steven is reading Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Educated by Tara Westover. His fascination with science began when he was a kid by watching the works of Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Both being wonderful STEM educators, he hopes to invoke their ability to energize a crowd just by educating people about science.