Those of us who watched War Of The Worlds were captivated by its special effects. Almost everyone muttered some sort of expletive at the end, angered by the quick and hurried ending. "Bacteria killed them all" was a wholly unexpected finale-perhaps one of the most anti-climactic endings of all time-except for the few who had read the book first! Constantine Hackers Independence Day
Movies have this magical power over people. Music is what perhaps comes closest in this regard, but even the power of music pales in comparison to the emotions that movies are able to elicit from even the most stoic. Women and macho-men alike cried like babies when they saw that little red cape covering one of the corpses in Schindler's List; we all laughed whole-heartedly at Jim Carrey's antics in Liar, Liar, and every Indian learnt more about the Mahatma by watching Gandhi than we ever did in school!
India has the most prolific movie industry in the world, with more movies being made here per year than in Hollywood! Only here can a simple family movie such as Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge run in packed cinemas for years at a stretch, primarily because it was a movie every Indian could relate to. Of course we also have the epic Sholay-a film that's even popular among those who snub Bollywood productions.
However, since reams have been written in praise of the all-time greats of the big screen, we'll stop here. Here, we applaud the tremendous effort and love that movie makers knead into their creations, but also highlight the technological changes that have occurred over the years-which not every movie maker has been able to meet.
Though there's no lack of creativity in movies, as is apparent from their continued success in the entertainment industry, there is a need for realism. When we say 'realism', we do not imply that every movie needs to be made like a reality show; we mean that movies should not depend on the audience's ignorance of a subject to make sense.
People have changed, and the inclusion of Internet access in our everyday lives means that we're free to learn about any subject we desire. There was a time when one could safely make a space movie with unrealistic physics and technology, and no one would notice. The people who would know right from wrong were a minority, and in all probability, locked in a super-secret basement somewhere in Area 51, doing top-secret research. Today, anyone with the desire to learn can log on to http://www.nasa.gov/ and read up on absolutely anything to do with space exploration.
This easy access to information has transformed today's movie audience into experts in their own rights. Unfortunately, some elements of movies, or for that matter, some movies in their entirety, require audiences that do not think for themselves.
A whole range of Web sites have sprung up over the last few years that talk about flaws in movies. Even The Internet Movie Database (IMDb.com) has a whole section dedicated to movie goof-ups. The most popular goof-up is one done by poor editing and scripting. These goofs, also called continuity goofs, happen when a particular scene is shot again and again-things around a set are bound to change. Like when shooting a scene, if there's a coffee cup on the table, after the twelfth take, the coffee cup may have been moved, or even taken out of the shot. When editing, this may be overlooked, but of course, audience members will notice it, and a few days later, you have a dozen new posts in IMDb's 'goof' section.
Another, more serious, type of goof-up is the type where you can see people or equipment used in the production of a movie. The simplest example is the boom microphone peeping in from the top of a shot, or a not-so-well-concealed person triggering smoke, or some other background effect.
However, without a doubt, the most serious flaws in movies are caused by bad research of a topic. Considering that trillions of dollars are spent on making movies every year, most of it on special effects and actor's fees, it's not too big an ask to expect directors and script writers to do their homework. Perhaps you could even go as far as to say, "If I can spot bad research in your multi-million dollar blockbuster, then, well, you suck!"
As Digit readers, it's especially bad when you see mistakes relating to technology in blockbuster movies. In fact, the idea for this story came about when a few of us watched the movie Constantine. Here's what happens:
Angela is mourning her sister's death, and is watching the security camera video of her sister jumping off the top of the building. All well and good so far. Then we start to see the errors creep in. First of all, security cameras do not follow subjects around like a diligent camera-man. Secondly, since when do security videos have close-ups? There's a shot of Angela's sister whispering the name Constantine, and of course we get to see it perfectly-those security cameras must be top-of-the-line Hollywood movie cameras!
However, this is not what made those of us watching the movie burst into peals of laughter. No, it took a special goof to do that! Angela is watching the security camera footage on her laptop. She's using Apple's QuickTime Media Player, the 'Q' icon is clearly visible, and when she notices her sister say something, she rewinds the clip. However, unlike any of us normal, everyday technology users, she doesn't use the progress bar; instead, she presses the 'Previous track' button.
There is a 'Rewind' button, but she clicks on the 'Previous' button. As any of us who have used a software media player will tell you, this button will take you back to the beginning of a clip, or even to a previous clip, but in this case, Angela magically rewinds the clip to exactly the right spot-talk about divine intervention!
OK, so some of you may argue that such a mistake isn't even noticeable and that we're nit-picking. True, perhaps most people will not even notice this error, and it is sort of minor, especially in a movie that deals with a much more serious subject-judgement day, evil, and God versus the devil! So what about movies that cover computers as a subject, and are targeted at us geeks?
Constantine merely started us off on this goof-hunt. The very next movie we decided to watch was The Net, starring Sandra Bullock. In no time flat, we were again rolling on the floor laughing. Sure, the movie is really old; sure, technology was just entering our lives back then, but the movie is about technology being evil and how our identities can be stolen using the Net!
This movie was a cult movie for us geeks, and was what sparked the interest in computers for quite a few of us. So imagine when we see the IP 23.75.345.200 being used in the movie! As most of us know, IP addresses are 8-bit numbers, and thus can only have values between zero and 255. The fact that the IP contains 345 means that someone didn't do their research properly.
Other stupid technology mistakes in The Net include viruses that blur your screen, obviously attacking your graphics card drivers and giving them the ability to display cool-looking distortions on the display. Yes, we are being sarcastic!
Overall, the way computer technology was depicted in The Net was unbelievable. Sure, the idea was that someone's electronic identity can be erased, but come on! Did she never sign anything in her life?
She never went to college? Had pictures taken for the annual yearbook? What about college friends? Don't banks expect you to sign cheques?
The Net expected us to believe in a paperless world, yet even today, the world isn't that way. Still, it was a good movie that made us all a little scared of the Internet even in 1995.
In The Core, which was recently doing the rounds on a popular movie channel, there's a character called Rat who is supposed to be the world's best hacker. This character is skinny, sickly-looking and the stereotypical nerd. However, the task assigned to him is a little far-fetched: hack the Internet!
He is given the job of hacking the entire Internet, and prevent news of the mission to the centre of the earth from leaking. Sure, hackers have much power in the world of the Internet, but preventing the flow of information? Ridiculous at best!
He also hacks into any and everything in under two minutes flat!
However, computer technology had a very small role in this movie-most of it was dominated by unbelievable physics. For example, there is talk about the frequency of sound waves changing when passing through different mediums. Any physics student should be able to tell you that this is impossible-the amplitude and velocity can change, not the frequency.
Then there's Unobtanium! It's a magical metal that gets stronger with increased temperatures and pressures. Perhaps they should have called the metal "Unbelievable-anium"…
Overall, this movie was really bad for any science student to watch, not just computer geeks!
Here's a movie that should send all Digit readers into fits of laughter!
The year 1995 did not belong to Sandra Bullock in The Net, not as far as we are concerned. Angelina Jolie, in Hackers, took the baker home with her!
The plot is about hackers in 1995 who stumble upon a huge plot to swindle money from a corporation, and somewhere along the line, the plot involves the American Secret Service. Billions of dollars at stake? Nope, not quite; all this racket is created over the attempted theft of a mere 25 million dollars. If anything, here's one aspect of the movie that goes against Hollywood norms of exaggeration!
Coming back to goofs and unbelievable technology… we're not quite sure where to begin with this one!
The plot involves a hacker called 'Ice Cool' who creates a virus in 1988 at the tender age of 11, a virus that crashes 1,507 computers - surely a huge deal in 1988! It's 1995 now, and he's finally allowed to touch computers again - and of course, his first act in the movie is to hack a television station. Here he meets (in the virtual world) another hacker called 'Acid Burn', who promptly manages to terminate his connection… so far so good.
However, this is where technology takes a backseat and Hollywood effects kick in.
Throughout the movie, you see unbelievable displays on computer screens, a lot of useless jargon such as RISC, PCI-BUS, and so on being thrown at you out of context, but by far, the juiciest of all blunders is when Acid Burn (Jolie) shows off her new laptop, which is a Mac, to Ice Cool, and boasts of it having a P6 chip! Were the writers of this movie soothsayers? Apple just recently announced its plans to use Intel's chips for the first time!
As for the rest of the movie, we'll let the screenshots do the talking!
Yes, there was computer technology used in the plot of Independence Day; though most of us were busy oohing and aahing at the effects, some computer nerds were asking, "So how exactly does Jeff Goldblum interface with Alien technology?"
It takes the best hackers and virus writers on the planet a good deal of time to come up with a virus for, say, Windows XP. In order to find a flaw in an operating system, you need to be an expert in that system! And that's for just finding a flaw - writing a virus that's undetectable and exploits that flaw is another ballgame altogether!
Jeff Goldblum's character manages to do this in a matter of hours!
Let's not even begin to talk about an alien race that traverses the universe to go to war with us, runs everything on computers, and does not believe in anti-virus software to protect against viruses created by those much lower down in the technology chain!
We're Not Stupid
There are perhaps thousands of movies out there that have loads of technology goof-ups, but it's good to see the effort that movie makers are putting in to improve the believability of their stories. As technology invades more and more people's lives, perhaps soon we'll see movies that don't divert our minds from plots by making silly mistakes. After all, in all the movies mentioned here (with the exception of Hackers and The Net, perhaps) technology was just a prop, but ended up taking centre stage because of glaring errors.
It's time that the Holly- and Bollywoods of the world start accepting that we, their audience, are not stupid any more, and will not just sit down and believe or accept anything they throw at us.
Some people might argue that movies are meant to be journeys of fantasy, and need not conform to real-world boundaries. However, to be truly immersive, movies need to be based firmly on reality. This is the reason why horror movies may not scare us, but walking down a dark, desolate street in the middle of the night makes us edgy!
We'd love to hear your take on this subject, and also hear about more technology goofs you might have seen! Write in to us.
Thus far, Bollywood has been known more for the antics of characters portrayed by actors such as Mithun Chakraborty and Rajnikant! We're used to seeing people leap up to the fourth floor of a building-backwards! People think nothing of a hero who can split a bullet on a blade and kill two baddies with one shot! It's cinema, it's supposed to be unbelievable!