The superheroes in Watchmen win the Vietnam War, X-Men: Days Of Future Past shows us how the Cuban Missile Crisis would have gone down if mutants were involved, and Cars 3 depicts the grim world that follows when Pixar just stops caring. Movies love to blow up the history books, but what happens when they don't even realize they've done it?
In Batman Begins, the film that kicked off DC's fascination with sad-ass superheroes, the bad guys are a bunch of murderous ninjas. Their leader, Ra's al Ghul, is ruled by his strict moral code: killing people he thinks are too decadent, or who live in a city that he thinks kinda sucks. As he explains to Bruce Wayne:
"The League of Shadows has been a check against human corruption for thousands of years. We sacked Rome, loaded trade ships with plague rats, burned London to the ground. Every time a civilization reaches the pinnacle of its decadence, we return to restore the balance."
So they've been behind every major collapse since Jesus was born, and Gotham City is next: They plan to release a special gas that will make everyone really scared and start punching each other to death, like a Black Friday sale -- but not on a Friday! The terror.
We've been taught that empires that grow too big, abusive, or arrogant are naturally predisposed to failure. That's why the Soviet Union collapsed, and that's why the colonists rebelled against Great Britain. Corruption, inequality, and bureaucratic bloat eat away at complacent civilizations from the inside, like a political chest-burster. But in Batman's world, the fate of nations are actually decided by a group of self-righteous ninjas sneaking around with sickly rats in their pockets.
The League of Shadows is eventually defeated because they underestimate the strength and drive of their supposedly soft enemies. Maybe Rome and 17th-century London were actually ideal civilizations that, if given time, could have pushed the planet into a Golden Age. But instead, the League murdered millions and put us all back at square one because they decided that the roads sucked, or whatever.
Countless historians have attempted to understand the turmoil that led to major historical downfalls, and all of their work has been pointless. The final chapter of every book on Roman history should just end with: "And then asshole ninjas burned everything down." What sort of lessons are the people in this universe actually able to learn from history? Make sure a handful of elitists living in the mountains of Bhutan dig your civilization? That's a difficult lesson to apply to public policy.
District 9 is about aliens stranded in Johannesburg, but unlike your typical alien invasion force, they're armed with little more than malnourishment and the ability to projectile vomit. The South African government, eager to showcase their famous hospitality towards people that are different, rounded them up and shoved them into hellish refugee camps. They're almost immediately beset upon by gangsters, who offer the aliens addictive cat food in exchange for their advanced technology, a deal that previously only worked with the ThunderCats.
We just gloss over the fact that the movie takes place in 1982, when the Cold War was still on, and South Africa was still super into oppressing black people. Apartheid wasn't abolished until 1994, but protests were ramping up in the '80s. How do you think the arrival of aliens in an oppressive but developed country at such a volatile time would go? South Africa would become a global power overnight. They're now the only country in the world with access to technology well beyond what humanity has ever seen.
A major factor in the end of apartheid was pressure from other governments, including the United States, which participated in an economic boycott of South Africa. But given America's Cold War track record -- mostly propping up dictatorships that were considered helpful -- what's a little systemic racism between friends, if it gives you a shot at overwhelming superiority against the commies?
Even after the alien ship leaves at the end of the movie, most of the aliens -- and their technology -- stays behind. The apartheid government could stay in power for decades, if not indefinitely. All because the aliens didn't run out of gas over Switzerland instead.
In Michael Bay Presents: 17 Hours Of Explosions And Also Some Robots That Occasionally Transform, Megatron was discovered frozen in ice back in the 1930s, then hauled to a secret government facility. Virtually every major scientific breakthrough since then is attributed to scientists studying the intricate technology that powers Megatron.
Similarly, Men In Black credits most modern technology (like Velcro and microwave ovens) to illegal immigrant aliens, which they confiscated, and sold to the public to fund MIB's secret enterprises. There's probably a political metaphor in there somewhere.
There's a huge difference between inventing something, and just taking someone's idea without fully understanding how it works -- that's why all of our DIY projects end in disaster. According to these movies, virtually every inventor you've ever heard of is a fraud. Some secret society just nominated a bunch of regular dudes to "invent" technology that had already been taken from an alien, or reverse engineered from a dickhead robot.
It's actually kind of pathetic how slowly our technology developed, considering we had a fully functional alien space robot for nearly a century. Who examined that incredibly advanced alien technology, and came up with Betamax players and the Ford Pinto?
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is about two idiots using time travel to pass a basic history course, and also force some of humanity's most influential figures to perform household chores. In other words, it's the greatest time-travel movie ever made. Bill and Ted need to graduate high school to save their music career, because their music goes on to become the basis of a utopian civilisation. But their adventures caused so many anomalies that those futuristic people will surely have a wildly different history than ours.
Exposing ancient people to the modern world, and then plopping them back in their own era, would cause innumerable problems. For starters, Beethoven falls in love with Bon Jovi-style rock music 200 years before it's actually invented, and his own influential music is going to start sounding pretty weird when he tries to emulate "Livin' On A Prayer" with a harpsichord. How are Bill and Ted even going to get famous when musical tastes will shift so radically?
Abraham Lincoln would need all of two minutes in a modern school library to learn how, and when he's murdered. With that knowledge, he's sure to find an excuse to miss that night's trip to the theater and forever change American history. What if Joan of Arc avoids capture and execution, or Napoleon learns how to avoid defeat on the battlefield? What if the famously brilliant Socrates learns anything about modern technology, and teaches it to the ancient Greeks? Ironically, all the history that Bill and Ted desperately learned became completely inaccurate the moment they started their report.
In Inglourious Basterds, Hitler gets pumped full of enough lead to poison a whole town's water supply, while the rest of the Nazi leadership burns to death. This all happens right around D-Day. Whatever mid-level bureaucrats are left in charge of Nazi Germany would probably just surrender. America wins the war in 1944! U-S-A! U-S-A!
Oh, but wait ... who attacked Pearl Harbor? Unless you learned history from Animal House, you know that the answer is Japan. One of the other heavily militarized nations in the Axis -- the one that only surrendered after the threat of total annihilation by nuclear weapons. Hitler's death didn't make them vanish into thin air.
After Berlin fell in May of 1945, Allied generals took a serious look at a full-scale assault on mainland Japan called Operation Downfall. Casualty estimates varied, but ranged into millions of Allied troops, and tens of millions of Japanese soldiers and civilians. Everyone agreed that it would have been a lengthy and brutal struggle. So surrender was instead forced, with the use of two nuclear bombs, which "only" killed 200,000+ people.
But those bombs weren't ready until the summer of 1945 -- more than a full year after Hitler was killed in Inglourious Basterds. An early German surrender would have meant full Allied attention on Japan, with no nuclear option. The Basterds may have ended the war early in Europe, but worldwide casualties would have ballooned enormously. Wait, are we trying to argue that dropping nuclear bombs on civilians was the better option, here? That ... that can't be right.
For more fictional universes that leave a lot more questions than answers, check out 6 Important Problems That Famous Movies Forgot To Solve and 6 Characters Who Forget They Have Powers That Solve The Plot.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out 5 Horrifying Secret Rules of Life in a Movie Universe, and other videos you won't see on the site!
Follow us on Facebook, and we'll follow you everywhere.