5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

How many times have we seen James Bond pick up some incredibly useful new technological gadget that ends up saving his life, only to completely forget it exists in his next movie? But it isn't just Bond -- action heroes do this all the time. What's worse, some of this tech could change the world.
5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

How many times have we seen James Bond pick up some incredibly useful new technological gadget that ends up saving his life, only to completely forget it exists in his next movie? But it isn't just Bond -- action heroes do this all the time. Some cool new technology is introduced for the sake of one scene, then dumped in a basement and never mentioned again.

If you stop to think about it, it turns out that a lot of these gadgets and inventions wouldn't just make the lives of our heroes a lot easier -- some of them might even change the world.

The Paralyzing Device in Iron Man Is a Bigger Deal Than the Suit

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

The Tech

When the bad guy of your film is Jeff Bridges with a Lex Luthor haircut and the good guy is a genius in a rocket-powered war costume, you know you're going to have to level the playing field a bit. One of the ways the first Iron Man movie does that is by giving the villain a little electronic device that emits a high-frequency sound that paralyzes whoever hears it for 15 minutes.

Obadiah Stane (Bridges) uses this twice in the film: once to defeat some terrorist guy, and the second time to freeze his business partner Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in order to steal the heart battery that keeps him alive and powers his Iron Man suit. According to Obadiah's Bond-villain rant, the device was created by their company and rejected for use by the military, so presumably he just pocketed a prototype and has been using it as his own version of Rophynol since then.

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

"Did you honestly think this was just a beard war, Tony?"

The Bullshit

Holy shit, Obadiah is right, the Army should have totally jumped on that. It's a freaking nonlethal way to totally immobilize enemies, resulting in no apparent side effects. Sounds can be amplified, right? Load one of those into a tank and give your soldiers those nifty earplugs Obadiah uses, and war has just become 100 percent easier. In fact, you know what else that would look great on? A fucking crime-fighting robot suit.

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

"Look, I only had enough room for that or the porn. I made the right call."

Tony's entire objective in this movie is stopping his company from building things that kill people. As Iron Man, he deals constantly with situations where civilian casualties are an issue -- we see him dealing with hostage takers in this film by utilizing a sick multi-kill sharpshooting device from his shoulder. It's wicked boss, but probably not as boss at the whole "not killing people" thing.

But hell, that instant-immobilization device would actually be a hell of a lot more useful to an army than that super-expensive Iron Man suit. Even in the films, there's no conflict that couldn't benefit from this device. Every villain that Iron Man has fought so far was a person who had ears, and that means they were all susceptible to this.

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

"Mind waiting for me there for 15 minutes while I get something to drink?"
"... shit."

And how about the new Avengers film? Does this work on Norse gods? Even if it doesn't, it certainly could have taken down Hawkeye when he was all possessed, not to mention Loki's countless human henchmen, as well as the out-of-control Hulk. Tony could have solved the entire movie by himself without having to calling in the other guys if he hadn't completely forgotten that this revolutionary technology existed.

Batman's Bat-Calling Signal in the Dark Knight Trilogy Is Used Exactly Once

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

The Tech

At one point in Batman Begins, the Caped Crusader finds himself cornered in the city asylum with a SWAT team moving in on him. He needs a nonlethal but still badass-looking escape -- the solution? Bats. Lots and lots of bats.

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

Every one of those cops died of rabies.

Batman triggers a small device hidden in his Bat-boot that almost immediately calls thousands of bats, all apparently attracted to the signal emitting from this handy little gadget. The swarm pretty much puts the cops on their asses as Batman disappears in a cloud of winged rodents.

The Bullshit

This one scene is the entire history of Batman's amazing Bat-swarm device. The thing never, ever shows up again in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, despite how effective it proved to be and how easy it was to carry. It fit inside the sole of Batman's boot, so it's not like it would have used up any room in his utility belt. Did we miss the scene where Batman swears off using this device for moral reasons?

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

You know, to respect the privacy of bats.

How is this not useful ever again? Like later in Batman Begins, when Batman is overrun by crazed citizens and nearly beaten to death -- why not disperse them painlessly by siccing hundreds of bats on them? Or in The Dark Knight, when he ambushes the mobsters and gets bitten by a dog in the process: He could just call on the bats and catch everyone while they're busy freaking out. And while we don't want to spoil anything for those of you who haven't seen The Dark Knight Rises, we can think of at least four different scenes where a big-ass flock of bats swirling around and confusing the bad guys would have made things a hell of a lot easier.

In fact, if we were Batman, we'd just keep that shit on all the time. He should be returning DVDs to Redbox in the form of a cluster of bats.

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

"... pick me up a copy of Jack & Jill, and don't shit on it this time."

Seriously, think about it: Batman is all about image. It's the entire reason why he has those pointy ears on top of his cowl and why he shapes all his boomerangs like bats and so on. He wants to be seen as more than a man, as a mythological creature that punches bad people. If his whole deal is to strike fear into the hearts of the wicked, he should use this even when he's stopping street muggings and convince everyone that he's literally made out of bats. You know, like some sort of ... Man-of-Bats or something.

So screw clean energy -- bat-calling devices were the real missed opportunity here.

The Mission: Impossible Agents Should Use Face Masks All the Time

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

The Tech

One of the staples of the Mission: Impossible film series is the characters' tendency to use extremely realistic rubber masks to hide their identities -- M:I2 probably still has the world record for the movie with most scenes where one character takes off his face and turns out to be another character.

In this universe, all you have to do is take a few stills of your mark's face, stick it in some magic box and BAM: rubber mask! It can be done on the go, and you can even imitate the other guy's voice using a special chip. Obviously these are pretty useful for frame-ups, but they have also been used to fake peoples' deaths, as well as trick the bad guy out of a confession or two. On top of that, they also make fantastic sex toys.

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

"Yeah, just like that ... now, show me the money ..."

The Bullshit

Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol goes to great lengths to answer the question "Why aren't they using face masks for this particular mission?" by showing their face-making machine breaking down in the middle of the movie. We think a better question would be "Why aren't they using them for everything else?"

There's no reason why the Impossible Mission Force agents couldn't have masks on all the time. Almost every time things go all screwy in these films, it's because some terrorist they've confronted decides to make things personal -- a situation that could easily be averted if the IMF operatives didn't walk around with their real identities out.

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

"Uh ... sir, our security footage shows Doris Day rappelling from the ceiling."

For instance, in the third film, there's a scene where Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) grabs the movie's villain and hangs him out of the plane to interrogate him. This happens after the guy threatens to come after Hunt and everyone he loves, and the incident does nothing to change the guy's mind. So ... why couldn't Hunt have been wearing a mask during that? Not just to avoid retribution -- how awesome would it be to whip a bad guy while wearing his own face?

At the end of the fourth film (spoilers ahead), Ethan looks at his wife from afar, after going through the trouble of faking her death and not seeing her in months or maybe even years, knowing that he can't go near her without putting her life at risk. Well, um, why not just put on another dude's face and have lunch with her? Hell, give masks to both of them to be extra careful -- make it a meeting between an elderly Chinese man and Tom Cruise in a Martin Lawrence "Big Momma" fat suit.

Unless, of course, the next movie reveals that Ethan has actually been wearing a mask all along, and that he really looks like Jonah Hill.

The Giant Robots in Real Steel Are Only Used for Fighting

E 5

The Tech

You may know Real Steel under its unofficial but way more honest name: Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots: The Movie. It is 2020, and apparently people punching other people just doesn't do it for us anymore, so according to the film's history, we began to create remote-control robots to take the hits for us. As the sport evolved, so did the bots, and soon enough we were commanding giant mechanical gods in the ring.

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

But without actual human beings suffering terrible pain, where's the thrill?

Quality- and price-wise, these things pretty much range the same as cars do today, except for being all electric-powered. We see our hero working with all kinds of robots, from a used million-dollar bot going for $45,000 to an old sparring bot he finds in a robot junkyard. The fights range as well, from trashy backyard brawls against garage-made mecha-Frankensteins thrown together for a few hundred bucks ...


Somehow, this is actually less corrupt than real boxing.

... to multimillion-dollar World Robot Boxing pay-per-view matches.

Sorint Sprint

So in the future, this is an incredibly popular sport -- even the Army gets in on the robot-sparring action.

The Bullshit

Hold the damned phone. We still have an army? Of people? In a future where powerful, fully controllable fighting robots exist?


"Sir, I'm just saying, couldn't we at least try using one of them for landmine duty?"

This isn't a world where robots existed and then someone came up with the idea of making them fight: They were created exclusively for that. And in fact, all through the movie, we never see robots being used for anything else. Not a single goddamn thing. It's our world, just like it is now, except that robots box. Somehow, in the space of 10 years, humanity went straight from not having yet perfected robotic technology to misusing it for frivolous entertainment, skipping the part where we do anything useful with it.

You might argue that we don't want them to take jobs, except that each one still has to be controlled remotely. This is a future where no person should ever have to do a dangerous job ever again ... and yet even the ref who has to stand between deadly killer machines is human.


Also, why the hell would you need a referee if the fighters are robots?

And it's not like these robots are super expensive or hard to find. You can literally go into a robot junkyard and pick up a fully functional one that someone just threw away, like our down-on-his-luck main character does in the movie. By the way, we know the guy is going through a rough time because at the beginning of the movie, he has resorted to fighting his giant bot at the local fair for pocket change. There should be a law that states you officially can't call yourself poor if you have at least one giant robot in your household.

The Laser in
Tron Could Change the Way We Travel

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

The Tech

In the first Tron film, our hero, Flynn (Jeff Bridges), uses an experimental laser that deconstructs his body and transfers it into the computer world where, for some reason, conflicts are settled American Gladiators-style. So, first Flynn is shot with the laser and disintegrated bit by bit ...

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

... and then a digital version of him appears inside the computer:

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

"Ah man, this is gonna make whackin' it to Internet porn awkward."

The process is reversed at the end of the movie. In the sequel, Tron: Legacy, it's revealed that, after he makes it out of the computer, Flynn decides to pour all his efforts into using this device to build "the perfect computer program." Flynn spends years as the rightful head of ENCOM (the company that made the laser) and toils away in the basement of his arcade, using the laser to go in and out of the computer until he accidentally gets trapped inside. Flynn's son goes in to bring his father back, but in the end he comes out with a hot digital chick instead, as a consolation prize.

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

The whole franchise was basically a stealthy Weird Science remake.

The Bullshit

OK, let's back up for a second. So the laser can take people and turn them into information, then put them back together in the real world? Well, there's already a name for that in science fiction: It's called a "transporter." They invented the transporter from Star Trek and then just stuck it in a basement.

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

Along with Flynn's Playboy collection and his Creedence LPs.

Out of all the things you could do with a machine that disintegrates people and then puts them back together, "going into a computer and making programs from the inside" has to be one of the least useful. All you'd really need is another laser somewhere else and an Internet connection, and you'd be beaming motherlovers around the world in seconds, at no cost.

Flynn clearly thinks he's using the laser for the greater good (unlike the greedy people who made it, who use it exclusively to punish former employees) -- but really, who gives a shit about creating a "perfect program" when you could make every existing transportation method pointless? And rid the world of petroleum, and solve global warming?

5 Powerful Sci-Fi Technologies Wasted by Their Own Movies

Not to mention end prison overcrowding.

OK, sure, not everyone in the world would be willing to turn themselves into megabytes and risk being accidentally thrown into a game of Pong, but honestly, all of that still sounds way better than going to the airport.

You can follow David on Twitter, or check him out over at Film School Rejects, where he is a regular contributor.

For more movie head scratchers, check out 6 Movie Heroes Who Actually Made Things Worse and 6 Technologies Conspicuously Absent from Sci-Fi Movies.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The Explosive Breaking Bad Alternate Ending You Didn't See.

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