I don't mean in any way to excuse the monstrous experiments done on prisoners, the disabled, orphans, women, minorities ... basically, anyone that couldn't be mistaken for a President at some point. But those horrible things occurred because the citizenry viewed a large swath of the population as not fully people. Regular, non-science folk were just as likely to be horrible monsters, science was simply turbo-charging the monster agenda.
So the scientist who only cares about their work, ethics be damned, shouldn't be any more of a trope than the guy who makes windshield wipers, ethics be damned. Or the guy who goes to ballgames, ethics be damned.
Scientists Know All Science
Movies tend to treat scientists like they treat minorities: There's at most one of them in the movie, they probably aren't ending up with the romantic lead, and they're used as a stand-in for a wide range of diverse backgrounds.
In Batman Begins the main thing we know about Lucius Fox's scientific background is that he helped Bruce Wayne's father build Gotham's train system. That could mean he studied a lot of different things but "antidotes to psychoactive drugs" isn't likely to be one of them. Unless some component of Gotham's public transit system involved psychoactive drugs.
Which would actually explain a lot, come to think of it.
And yet when Scarecrow's fear toxin threatens the city, he whips up a cure like he used to teach "Cures For Fear Gas" at Gotham U. It's like if you had a Cambodian character come across a riddle in Japanese and they were all like, "I'll take care of this!"
Hollywood also acts like once a scientist makes their discovery -- that the solution to the equation was in them all along -- then we're only moments away from a great implementation of that discovery. In reality, the difference between a discovery and great implementation is the difference between your stoned friend saying, "You know what would make a great movie?" and Inception.
"But mine has bong rip sounds instead of *BRAAAAAHMM*s!"
Engineering isn't some afterthought done by second-string scientists hammering out the details that the real talent is too busy for. Everything that works well has a good deal of engineering behind it. My damn liquid soap dispenser is specifically designed to pump the right amount of soap of a given viscosity. Fill it with the cheaper soap and it squirts out at you like you're playing a practical joke on yourself for the next month. Every sufficiently complex project has unforeseen problems. If you don't take that into account, you end up with a cure for a zombie outbreak that can only be manufactured as a suppository.
Having super smart scientist characters is cool and fun and I'm all for it. But making someone such a good particle physicist that they know organic chemistry is like having a character that's such a good race car driver they can fly a helicopter.
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For more check out 4 Things Movies Always Get Wrong About Computer Hackers and 5 'Scientific' Movies That Actively Hate Science.
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