As we saw in my last post, Hollywood isn’t always dedicated to realism in their movies. But this doesn’t mean that they always get it wrong or that everyone failed their science courses. Many movies, such as the five I highlight below, use science and technology to drive plot and discussion in realistic and thought-provoking ways.
“Gattaca” is a movie set in a future society where eugenics is king and new children are born with the genes specifically chosen by their parents. Their identities are verified through their genetic makeup, their future success is guided through the mapping of their DNA, and naturally born children are viewed as lessers in comparison to their counterparts made in a lab.
While we are not yet at the stage where people are choosing their genetically perfect children, it is technology that is within reach. The makers of the film create a dystopian future that mirrors the possibilities of science today.
Related Article: Science in Gattaca
“Contact” is a controversial movie for some due to its ending, but that still doesn’t take away from the adoration of space and astronomy evident throughout. Based on the book by Carl Sagan, “Contact” focuses on the search for intelligent life via radio signals and the organization SETI.
Rather than depicting an alien invasion with ships hanging over well known landmarks, they use existing technology to find a signal in the noise. If one day we do find aliens waiting for us to say hi, I think we’ll all be surprised about how closely it relates to Sagan’s vision.
Related Article: SETI, Hawking, and Alien Contact
3. “The Dark Knight”
Yes, Batman can be technologically realistic and I’m not talking about the batarang. While we don’t watch superhero movies for realism or for products that we can hope to own (I may never have my own JARVIS), in “The Dark Knight”, Christopher Nolan does succeed at adding in legitimate technology in a discussion about the moral arguments we look for from Batman.
In the movie, it is revealed that Bruce Wayne has invested in a widespread cell phone surveillance system for the people of Gotham. Using their own devices, he’s able to create a sound map of the city and pinpoint his target. However, Lucius Fox, the head of Wayne Industries, speaks out against this tool and what it is capable of. In depicting what is a realistic use of technology, the movie also serves to debate the need for it as a tool.
Batman and the War on Terror
Full disclosure, “Moon” is one of my favorite movies of all time and I think everyone should watch it. Like, if you want to minimize this window to go purchase a copy or add it to your Netflix queue, the article will be waiting for you when you get back.
As more private companies begin to announce their move towards privatized space exploration and business, “Moon” serves to show us what an lunar mining operation could look like and how it would be staffed.
Related Article: Mining on the Moon
After seeing “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, people often ask themselves the same question: ‘If you could erase your memories, would you?’. But while the question initially seems like a fun hypothetical, science is quickly catching up to make it a reality. The movie’s actual technology may not be real, but the science behind it accurately and realistically displayed how we build memories. That science is now guiding additional research into potential methods of removing traumatic memories as a part of therapy.
Related Article: The Science of Eternal Sunshine