Bad Science in Sci-Fi Movies? So What?

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Bad Science in Sci-Fi Movies? So What?

Yet again, the debate over science in cinema has arisen, all orbiting around the release of Christopher Nolan’s new blockbuster about galaxies, black holes, wormholes, and the awesome vastness of space. Interstellar, which has received pretty positive reviews from the majority of filmgoers and critics, has become the object of scientific inquiry, including some popular Neil deGrasse Tyson tweets and videos, gathered by the good folks at Salon. What has me curious, though, is why people still bother to hang on to scientific blunders in films.

To me, if anyone loses enjoyment over the wonky wormhole stuff in Interstellar, they’re thinking themselves out of a visually stunning story. It’s not worth it you science people, especially if that same incense is carried over to normal schmoes who just want to be like, “OMG planets and spaceships!”

There’s a myriad of films that have suffered because of their allegiance to story and fun rather than scientific accuracy. And you can categorize them for their supposedly terrible inaccuracies and Hollywood dribble.

You call that a bomb?

In the 2007 epic Sunshine, Danny Boyle and company send a sweet spaceship out to the sun to reignite it before the world is caught in another ice age. Still with me? According to science critics, the massive bomb the ship is carrying to create a reaction that’ll make the sun burn bright again is nowhere near big enough. But wait, this is a film where a horrifyingly burned man who thinks he’s space Jesus goes on a murderous rampage. Can we let this one go and enjoy how gorgeous the CG sun is?


OK, so scientists aren’t the only people who are mad about the whole unobtanium thing. Everyone’s still kinda grumbly about James Cameron’s wacky Pandora metal in Avatar, and scientists have gone way too far with the flora and fauna of a made up planet. Actually, science doesn’t have to be epic and awesome sounding. Americium and Californium sound ridiculous! Also, the movie’s about a big blue monster with a machine gun who rides a dragon. So, is it worth getting academic? Probably not.


Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, a Hollywood explosion of Philip K. Dick’s brilliantly eerie short story, tempts the audience with the quandary of whether or not we’re in charge of our own destinies. In this near future, precogs predict murders, and Tom Cruise flies to the rescue in impossible hovercrafts, thus making time paradoxes (or something). Weirdly enough, the rest of the science checks out (kinda), so we can overlook the precogs utter impossibility because they are awesome.

Robots are efficient, damnit!

No matter how great The Matrix is, and we’re talking the first one of course, getting energy from human heat and metabolism is completely ridiculous. Revolutionary robots would easily realize this and opt for nuclear power or something, because humans are pretty damn inefficient for harvesting power. Beyond that, though, isn’t it terrifying to see our kind trapped in Monsanto style cornfields with evil lightning and mechanical monsters? Also, f***ing bullet time.


It’s definitely annoying to watch films that glamorize hacking, but most of the time it’s more an aesthetic choice. However, in Independence Day, the problem that’s hard to overlook is an easily hacked computer network onboard a super powered alien galaxy destroyer. Worst mothership and deus ex machina ever. But really, if anyone loses sleep over that, they’re overlooking the fact that Roland Emmerich’s 1996 salute to humankind is nothing more than dumb, irrefutably amazing, popcorn schlock.

DNA and Giant Robots!

Pacific Rim was supposed to be awesome, but there’s a giggle-worthy amount of made up DNA nonsense in the film, along with some discrepancies in nuclear engineering. The story’s also highly illogical too, but anyone hung up on genetics and engineering should remind themselves that it’s a kaiju film with big dumb mecha fighters. Maybe fewer folks would be angry about the science, though, if CGI rain didn’t blot out the supposedly sweet action.

I can see why scientists get upset about terrible science in films, but story and aesthetics outweigh scientific accuracy. The Terminator wouldn’t have been nearly as fun without the time paradox, and Star Wars would have been awfully boring without deep space sound effects, lightspeed engines, controlled laser swords, and the Force. Actually, trying to insert science into how the Force works made the whole sage worse! F*** midichlorians.

So far, the best sci-fi in film history has always sacrificed actual science, because it’s only really worth trying to be accurate unless you can be right. Unless you’re Ridley Scott in the 80s and Alien really does feature what spaceships will look like in the future.

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