5 Completely Unreasonable Ways Movie Characters Spend Money
Movies are never more unrealistic than when they're showing us exactly what a dollar can buy. Part-time baristas live in spacious New York apartments. The Joker never has a problem meeting payroll, much less building his torture-themed amusement parks. But when you dig into what some movie plots must have cost, the real madness begins. For example ...
Who Is Funding These Incredibly Elaborate Murderous Experiments?
1997's Cube is a low-budget horror film about several unlucky prisoners using math to escape a gigantic, impossibly complex death trap someone has built for them. The titular cube contains 17,516 rotating cubes that are home to some truly gnarly booby traps capable of turning someone into tinier cubes.
That is ... a lot of effort. The gigantic eyesore would cost billions to construct (and costs are always amplified when you're trying to do it in total secrecy; think of the logistics there), and millions more to power and maintain. You're talking constant maintenance, and you'd need a cleaning crew to wipe up the exploded bodies and blood trails. The sequel and prequel attempt to clarify why it was built (it involves an evil corporation and a totalitarian government), but even if evil is your goal, there are better ways to spend the money.
Yet "impossibly expensive killer experiment that will yield no useful data or accomplish any tangible goal" is a whole genre now. The Belko Experiment is about 80 office workers being forced to kill one another in their locked-down building. The experiment, run by a vague organization of presumably bored scientists, focuses on what happens when people are forced into a kill-or-be-killed situation. The scenario is enforced by miniature explosives implanted in the employees' skulls.
Even assuming they have some non-crazy motivation, instead of making the subjects fight in a cost-effective abandoned warehouse, the unlucky employees are hired by a fake company, relocated to Colombia, given competitive salaries, and probably each housed in a chic two-bedroom apartment with a washer and a dryer. The office building itself is equipped with an extensive surveillance system and massive steel plates to keep everyone in. To prevent the workers from signaling for help from the roof, a plethora of armed henchmen (who probably have chic apartments too) are stationed outside to stay inside and kill each other for science. Hidden murder-prisons aren't cheap.
And then, at the end of the film, we learn that there are at least 130 similar office buildings around the world, where other unlucky employees have beaten each other to death with fire extinguishers. All of this to learn lessons about humanity that could be learned by opening any history book.
Total Recall's Hole Through The Earth Is The Costliest Possible Way To Travel
Len Wiseman's Total Recall "remake/adaptation" doesn't get Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, or Jessica Biel's asses to Mars. Instead it stays on Earth, which relies on an 8,000-mile gravity elevator called "The Fall," which goes through the planet's core to get people from Point A to Point B. Wiseman decided to avoid space travel, but he wanted "to make sure there was a sense of traveling." So he created a mammoth subway system that can reach speeds of 28,000 mph.
Why? Well, according to the film, chemical warfare destroyed everything except Great Britain and Australia, and air travel is limited because of toxins lingering in the atmosphere. So instead of making planes that can keep out those toxins, the remaining governments decided that a planetary elevator seemed more logical.
Give them credit for thinking big; someone figured out how to drill an 8,000-mile hole through the Earth's core that shuttles people from one end to the other in 17 minutes. It's impossible to calculate the costs involved, but the Channel Tunnel, a 31-mile tunnel that links England to France, took six years to finish and cost $35 billion in today's money.
So if they maintain the same cost per mile, even while digging through magma, this tunnel would cost at least $9 trillion (in today's money). The reality would have to be ten times that. You're talking about coming up with enough raw material and heat-resistant gear to line the tunnel, and enough dump trucks (and fuel) to remove an entire mountain range's worth of debris. Also, they must've housed thousands of workers in the tunnel, because it would've been very difficult to transport them hundreds or thousands of miles back home every night.
Most impressively, after the tunnel was completed, the post-apocalyptic world wasn't bankrupt, and they had enough engineers and crew to staff and maintain an 8,000-mile state-of-the-art tunnel. All of that just to have The Fall blown up at the end of the movie.
The Price Of Your Average Evil Lair Is Mind-Boggling
I want it noted that I love gigantic evil lairs, and understand why villainous billionaires need cavernous home bases to unleash their evil schemes. With that said, there are several lairs that really are just financially irresponsible, and I'm not afraid to say so.
For instance, in You Only Live Twice, the dastardly Ernst Stavro Blofeld builds a secret lair inside a Japanese volcano that would require $17.6 billion of startup money and an annual maintenance cost of $15 million. Why? He needs a base big enough to launch incredibly expensive rockets into space so he can disrupt Soviet-American relations.
And once more, you have the massive but difficult-to-calculate secrecy tax. In order to achieve his goal of starting a war between the two countries, the secrecy of his secret volcano base (writing that phrase never gets old) is incredibly important. Which means he had to fund, design, and build a secret lair inside a volcano, while making sure there was no paper trail or trackers capable of pinpointing where the giant rockets were being launched from.
Just imagine the sheer number of financial transactions, the purchase and transportation of construction materials, concrete, steel, surveillance equipment, rocket fuel, plus the vetting and hiring of staff. James Bond is actually able to track the facility by locating paperwork, which leads to a boat that delivers rocket fuel to the facility. I love secret lairs, and I especially love this lair because it features a piranha kill zone. However, Blodfeld's plan was spectacularly short-sighted because there was zero chance he could keep it a secret for long. There are only so many photo-happy tourists a villain can kill before people start asking questions (and you can only kill so many people who have started asking questions).
That's just one example, of course. Blofeld's joint seems downright practical compared to the "nearly undetectable" underwater base located beneath the Arctic ice that was funded by evil genius James McCullen in the 2009 film G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra. Who thought it was a good idea to build a massive base under Arctic? How did they even start construction? Who did they hire to do it? Did contractors bid on it? Are there enough submarines capable of working at an Arctic base? How did the materials get delivered? How much did each submarine cost? How did no one notice?
The most insane thing about the base is not that the submarine budget was around $200 billion; it's that it has a self-destruct button that blows up the ice above the base and causes it to sink into the water and crush the mind-bendingly expensive facility. So M.A.R.S. Industries spends trillions on a secret lair that could be destroyed by someone blowing up the ice above them? The whole thing seems terribly impractical, and someone should have said something.
Spectacular Revenge Schemes Hardly Seem Worth It
Characters who spend insane amounts of money on revenge are nothing new in literature or cinema. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Oldboy, and Die Hard With A Vengeance all feature people going to expensive lengths for revenge, and honestly, you see it in real life too. And then there's Danny Ocean in Ocean's Thirteen, who spends tens of millions of dollars to cause a fake earthquake so he can get revenge on a slimy Vegas-type guy who swindled his friend out of a casino. It really does seem like the crew had other options.
To pull off the job, the crew have to disrupt the opening of their target's new casino to ensure it doesn't make $500 million on its opening night or win a coveted Five Diamond Award. The problem is that the casino has a sophisticated security system that tracks the biometrics of the gamblers to prevent cheating. The prior two Ocean films taught us that creativity, luck, and yoga can defeat such measures. Ocean's Thirteen teaches us that the easiest way to beat anti-theft technology is renting or purchasing two $36 million 600-ton tunnel boring machines and having them shipped, delivered, and installed underneath the Las Vegas strip.
The boring machines were used to dig the English Channel, and their massive weight means at least 20 18-wheeler long-haul trucks would be needed to deliver them from whatever port they arrived at. Then they had to find a field crew who would need to spend weeks (or months) rebuilding the machines and placing them under the Las Vegas strip (what is the permitting process?).
The kicker is they have to do it twice because the first machine breaks down, which forces them to borrow $36 million from the slimy Vegas-type guy they originally stole from in Ocean's Eleven. I'm pretty sure there were more creative ways to get around security systems. Also, don't get me started on how much it would cost to rig slot machines, create fake dice, and do all the other expensive things that happen in Ocean's Thirteen.
Though when it comes to long-term revenge plans, it's probably hard to top The Dark Knight Rises. The plot revolves around Bane and his army digging around Gotham's sewer systems to place thousands of pounds of explosives around important areas so they can isolate and destroy the city ... and they carefully craft the entire plan around upsetting Bruce Wayne, forcing him to look on helplessly from a hole in the ground on the other side of the world.
It really does seem like they're taking down the whole city just to spite Batman -- a plan that involves buying airplanes, paying henchmen, the constant transportation of a decaying neutron bomb, and a massive accumulation of explosives. Just kidnap Bruce and throw him in the hole! It's not only way cheaper, but also has about 10,000 fewer chances to go horribly wrong.
Engineered Super Soldiers Would Break Your Defense Budget
The Unisols (aka dead reanimated soldiers) featured in Roland Emmerich's 1991 movie Universal Soldier cost $250 million each. The plot sees the two MVP Unisols, Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren in an Oscar-worthy performance) and Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) go rogue after they remember that they killed each other during the Vietnam War and then continue their brawl. From there, the whole operation is destroyed, because the people running it and the other redshirt Unisols (who also cost $250 million each) get killed. So a 23-year program goes to shit because two reanimated soldiers hated each other.
Genetically or cybernetically engineered super soldiers are a staple of the action genre, and honestly, they never seem like a good idea. The 1998 film Soldier stars a jacked-up Kurt Russell and focuses on a secret government program that spent 40 years turning babies into emotionless killers by training, feeding, housing, drugging, and traumatizing them. Were the billions of dollars well-spent? Nope. When the old incredibly expensive soldiers are made redundant by new incredibly expensive soldiers, the two start battling, and the fight ends quickly because one side has Kurt Russell.
And then there are the clones in the Star Wars universe, who are created in an astronomically expensive lab located on an ocean planet (why?), or the lab-generated super soldiers in The X-Files, RoboCop, Hanna, Black Mask, and American Ultra. This is an enormous amount of money spent on ground troops who 1) are only slightly better than the current methods of just training recruits, and 2) go rogue approximately 100% of the time.
For more, check out 3 Ridiculous Movie Schemes That Make No Sense - Obsessive Pop Culture Disorder:
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