4 Dumb Ways Movies Don't Understand Money
Hollywood loves to sacrifice logic for the sake of plot convenience or a cool visual. They've also never expected anyone to pay attention to the financial details, and we're not talking about how they can claim blockbusters like Forrest Gump or Batman never turned a profit.
You'd think that since their goal is for the film to make money, they'd try to treat money with a little more respect for its part in the picture. Starting with ...
Money Weighs More And Takes Up A Lot More Space Than Filmmakers Think
For American currency, a bundle of 100 crisp bills is 6.14" X 2.61" X .434", and weighs just shy of a quarter of a pound. You can fit about 248 bundles per cubic foot. That's 24,800 bills and approximately 56 pounds per cubic foot. That's just something to keep in mind the next time you see a huge stack of cash on screen.
Some movies get it right. In Kill Bill Vol. 2, when Elle brings Budd $1 million in a small carry-on suitcase, that's just enough room for that amount of cash and a pissed off black mamba snake ready to give Michael Madsen the most dignified death scene possible inside of a mobile home in Barstow.
Scoff at that all you want, but if we die in a room with curtains, we're calling that a win.
A lot of movies get the size right but ignore the weight. In Heat, it is possible for three guys to carry out $12.2 million in oversized gym bags over their shoulders, but the subsequent shootout with the cops would be much harder to pull off with the dead weight of a husky 10-year-old hitting the back of their thighs with every step.
In the opening bank robbery of The Dark Knight, yes, $68 million would fit in eight long duffle bags, but the Joker and his bus driver certainly wouldn't be tossing them around like rag dolls. They would weigh about 190 pounds each. And in case that doesn't ruin the scene enough, they're only shown loading four of them into the bus. Remember that next time someone praises Christopher Nolan's meticulous attention to detail.
By far, the worst offender is Ocean's Eleven. They were stealing $160 million "without breaking a sweat," right? Not if they had anywhere near the right amount on screen. $160 million cash, assuming it was all in $100 bills, would be approximately 64.5 cubic feet weighing about 3,613 pounds. That's a lot for nine thieves (Clooney and the computer geek lucked out on this one) to have to load out in one trip.
Although, if they used the realistic amount, admittedly, the ending would be a lot funnier. Imagine nine guys trying to stroll through the Bellagio carrying the weight equivalent of a Honda CR-V. It's even funnier when you remember one of those guys is a 95-pound acrobat, and another is a 78-year-old Carl Reiner.
Fantasy Worldbuilding Never Really Accounts For Economics
At Cracked, we're certainly no strangers to picking on the Harry Potter universe. One could say it's our "Freebird." Well, get your lighters in the air because we're going for another encore.
As anyone who's ever been two days from payday and can't find a Coinstar machine will tell you, paying for everything in coins is a royal pain in the ass. Having the wizarding world's currency consist of three denominations of coins, even with magic at your disposal, has to be a nightmare to deal with just on a practical level. Also, with 17 Sickles to a Galleon, 29 Knuts to a Sickle ... having your entire system of currency based on two prime numbers is absolutely bonkers.
Then there's Gringotts Wizarding Bank, the worst bank ever conceived. They have just two locations, and only one of them is in the wizarding world. No branch offices, no ATMs, and no competition. They only offer two services: exchanging Muggle money for wizarding money and storing valuables in vaults. It's basically a Western Union kiosk inside a U-Store-It. Oh, and the only people who work there are all cranky, shrewd goblins who look and act like the kind of anti-semitic caricatures that even 8chan would think is "a bit much."
But wizarding money can't hold a floating candle to the economics of the assassins in the John Wick movies. Say what you will about Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts, but at least their value is fixed. In the John Wick movies, a single gold coin is worth as much as your reputation. John Wick is so respected in that world, he can get away with only paying one gold coin for pretty much anything. One could only imagine how many coins someone who no one respects have to fork over for the same services. Although being able to charge jerks more money is probably every retail worker's wet dream.
Then there's Star Wars. You could cut them a little slack on account that having their centralized governing bodies collapse at the same rate as A Star Is Born gets remade. That's gotta wreak havoc on their galactic economy. But you'd think that they would establish at least some form of standard exchange rates between the planets.
Yes, the Outer Rim is pretty far from Coruscant, but surely a franchise that spent half of a trilogy on Senate procedures and trade disputes could conjure up someone on Tatooine who could exchange Republic credits for something a junk dealer like Watto would accept instead of having to appeal to his obviously crippling gambling problem. Let's break down Qui-Gon's problem in a more earthly context: If your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, you shouldn't have to bet on the tow truck driver's prize rooster to win the cock fight just to get a new fuel pump ... only to double down on that bet just because you think the rooster would make a great intern.
If Superhero Teams Didn't Have The One Rich Guy, They Probably Wouldn't Seem So Heroic
Think of any comic book superhero movie from the past 20 years. What do you think each hero's net worth is? It's fun to argue over who is richer, Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne, but what about Thor, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and maybe even Black Panther? They might be disqualified from the discussion because they each originate from kingdoms that are isolated from the outside world and aren't exactly part of any western trade alliances.
Now, who would you say is the poorest superhero? It's really difficult to say because A. the Department of Labor doesn't register wage statistics for gods among men, B. costumes and equipment aren't cheap, and trying to deduct that on their taxes kinda negates the whole "secret identity" thing, and C. most of the time, they're crashing on some rich guy's couch!
Tony Stark funds the Avengers. Bruce Wayne bankrolls the Justice League. The X-Men has Professor X's family fortune to thank for everything, but then again, the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters has to be charging tuition, right? Hold up ... Is this a Mutant-Level Marketing scam?
Supervillain groups don't have to worry about making payroll because they have zero qualms about stealing what they need to cover the costs. Which begs the question, without some kajillionaire trust fund baby paying for everything, are we really sure any of these heroes would be saving the world on spec?
In Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker's landlord constantly hounding him for his rent was one of the many stress factors that made him quit being Spider-Man. And the only reason he was living in that crappy apartment in the first place is that his roommate, who had been paying all the bills, didn't want him around anymore because SpIdEr-MaN KiLlEd mY FaThEr or some crap. Such a drama queen.
The point is, without a benefactor, superheroes would probably be just working-class schmoes like the rest of us ... much more productive schmoes, but schmoes nonetheless. Now that Tony Stark is gone from the MCU, it's a safe bet Kang the Conqueror will have no problem laying waste to everything, all because Hulk had to pull a double at Pinkberry.
Time Travel Is A Really Stupid Way To Make Money
On general principle, Hollywood should probably just cool it on the time travel front for a while. It may seem like the best way to try to give your troubled plot a mulligan, but all it's really doing is ruining the story across four dimensions instead of just three. Watch all six Terminator movies and both seasons of The Sarah Connor Chronicles and try to convince anyone that the timeline makes any sense... if you're not too busy praying for the sweet release of death halfway through Terminator: Salvation.
The biggest problem with time travel as a plot device is when the technology is in the hands of an antagonist who smells money to be made. This complaint is pretty much specific to Back to the Future Part II, but an argument could be made that it also applies to Timecop. Both films basically have the same plot: bad guy goes back in time to give his past-self information that will make him richer in his past self's future/future self's present, good guys go back in time to stop them, good guys succeed, roll credits.
Both films also suffer from the same basic flaw: in order for the get-rich-quick scheme to work, not only would they have to execute their plan, but manage to pull it off while making sure the exact same sequence of events takes place that led to them getting their hands on a time machine in the first place, then they have to remember the exact time they went back to talk to their past self, and remember to give them the exact same information as their future self gave them back when they were sent on this convoluted quest.
The key difference between these two bad guys is that Senator Knock-off Hans Gruber from Timecop was smart enough to possibly pull all of that off. His only mistake was underestimating the wiles of peak-era Jean-Claude Van Damme and his glorious hockey hair.
Biff Tannen, on the other hand, was definitely not smart enough to pull it off. In fact, according to the rules of time travel established in the first Back to the Future, Biff's plan for world domination (that inexplicably involves staying in Hill Valley, CA), would've failed even if Doc and Marty had done absolutely nothing. The moment Biff had Doc committed to the mental hospital in the alternate timeline meant the time machine was never invented, meaning Biff never would've stolen the machine in 2015, no sports almanac, no handoff to young Biff, alternate timeline never took place, evil Biff fades from existence, timeline restores itself. The end ..?
But Biff was certainly smart about one move in his plan: He had only placed one bet using the sport almanac. If he had continued to make bets and proceeded to win every time, he would've been blacklisted from every sports book in the western hemisphere. Instead, he took his winnings, invested in oil companies, gained enough political juice to legalize gambling, and used the information in the sports almanac to manipulate the odds in his casino's favor. Pretty clever, butthead.
Top image: Warner Bros. Pictures