Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ridiculous Application of Premises in Movies

In general, I'm a complete sucker for suspending my disbelief during movies. I'll go along with the vast majority of absurd premises, and don't frequently think ahead to what might happen next of what exactly that guy with the dossier was really doing, or whatever. I remember watching a Wile E. Coyote cartoon with a friend of my brother's, and being surprised that he would predict how every joke would end. It's not that I couldn't figure it out if I stopped to think - I just never did. So I generally just go along with whatever ridiculous premise is being stated..

But for some reason, one thing that always causes me to reinstate my disbelief is when movies take a particular technological premise, and apply it to absurdly limited ends.

A great example of this is in the new Star Trek movie. The U.S.S. Enterprise is in a tangle with the Romulans, and the Enterprise captain has been taken hostage after stupidly going aboard the Romulan ship. (Apparently, the prospect he would be detained didn't occur to him). The Romulans are firing on the Enterprise. They might be in trouble.


Thankfully the Enterprise has a weapon that can transport stuff inside the enemy ship! What a stroke of luck! 

Now, gentle reader, what weapon would you choose to send inside the ship?

a) Several nuclear bombs on 3 second detonation delays to multiple parts of the enemy ship
b) Two guys with guns
c) A fruit basket

As you probably guessed, they go with option b), but realistically you may as well have picked c). Moreover, it's not as if they decided that the chance of saving the captain is worth risking everyone else on the ship by attempting a rescue - apparently option b) doesn't appear to occur to anybody the ship.

And all these people are meant to be graduates from a military academy? That, alas, I cannot believe.

Anyway, I was thinking about this after watching The Prestige yesterday, as part of the project of going through all Christopher Nolan movies (Inception, Memento and The Dark Knight together put him in the category of 'presume I'll watch the movie even if I don't hear anything else about it other than his involvement', a post currently only occupied by the Coen Brothers).

The movie is great, but they also have a real lack of imagination on one particular premise (some plot spoilers below the jump)

So Hugh Jackman's character get Nikola Tesla to create a machine that uses electricity to create duplicate copies of items - top hats, a cat, that kind of thing. He wants it for a magic trick.

Again, I ask you - if you had a device that could duplicate stuff, can you think of any use you could apply it to than magic tricks? Anything at all you might duplicate? $100 bills, for instance? Okay, so you don't want a counterfeiting rap. Anything else? Gold? Diamond Rings? Rare Paintings? Slave armies? Eliminate all scarcity in the world?

No, I thought not. Purely for magic tricks. Perhaps we'd be better off destroying the machine entirely, in case it gets put to evil use. What, there's a famine in Africa we could be eliminating by duplicating a million cheeseburgers? Bah, not important. Magic or nothing, that's my motto.

Lame. Do better, Christopher Nolan. Here's a cool plot twist you could try - obsessed magician gets awesome duplicating device, gives up stupid magic tricks to become the most important entrepreneur ever, and massive increases in world prosperity result! Nobody would see it coming, that's for damn sure.

I guess this is why economists don't direct movies.


  1. Why wouldn't you duplicate the duplicating machine?

  2. Ha, an excellent suggestion Mr Von Neumann! This kind of out-of-the-box thinking is why I'm going to hire you as my counsel for whatever crazy corporation I eventually(/never) set up.