6 High-Tech Movie Facilities That Make No Sense
Have you ever noticed that in every movie wherein the hero has to raid some futuristic stronghold of villainy to rescue prisoners, destroy a super weapon, or dismantle an evil robotic brain trust, all of those things tend to be located in the same room? This is probably related to the fact that most Hollywood science-fiction writing is done by young men living in studio apartments who have no idea how to change their own oil, let alone how a complicated orbiting moon base should function.
Once you strip away plot conveniences and forget about how cool everything looks for a second, it becomes immediately obvious that virtually no futuristic facility in the history of cinema could possibly serve its intended purpose in real life. For example, unless there's a nuclear reactor hiding behind Sylvester Stallone's naked ass, the cryo-prison in Demolition Man would incur a million-dollar electric bill every month just keeping all of those people frozen in giant blocks of ice, not to mention the mountain of paperwork the warden would have to fill out if there was ever a blackout.
Star Wars -- The Death Star
Star Wars is a movie about a magical terrorist who destroys the galactic equivalent of the Pentagon after being safely guided through a suicide bombing mission by the ghost of the man who mutilated his father. Earlier in the movie, our heroes infiltrated Space Pentagon (here known as the Death Star) to free the princess of a dead planet, which carries the same level of esteem as being the assistant manager of a Bennigan's that is no longer open.
The Death Star is at least the size of a moon -- we know this because the heroes literally mistake it for one. In actuality, it's probably the size of several moons, because we have to assume that it's layered like an onion, with multiple levels all the way down to its core. What are the odds that the one space garage Luke and Han get pulled into is within walking distance of where Princess Leia, an incredibly valuable political prisoner, is being held? That would be like looking for a single person in the entirety of Asia, landing at a random airport, and finding her in the baggage claim.
Vader doesn't like to have a long walk ahead of him when he parks his Jetta in the shuttle bay.
Think about it -- the hangar they land in, the detention bay, the tractor beam controls, and the garbage chute are all within an elevator ride and a heroic chasm swing of each other. Luke and Han are in and out of the Death Star in maybe an hour. The odds on that are like a million to one (not to be confused with A Million to Juan, which utilizes an entirely different numerical system).
Pictured: that joke.
Sure, the Death Star has turbo lifts, and we do see Luke and Han riding one, but those things aren't moving at the speed of light. The circumference of Earth's moon is 6,783 miles. Assuming the Death Star is around the same size, even if the turbo lifts were moving as fast as a commercial jet (about 500 miles per hour), it would still take 13 hours to get from one side of the facility to the other.
And at hour six, Chewie informs the others that he has to take a wicked shit.
And yet they reach Leia almost immediately. Obi-Wan, on foot, reaches the tractor beam controls, which are standing out in the open without any kind of lock or covering. They aren't even behind a door, they're just in the middle of a catwalk. Fire alarms in a public high school have more security than that. The Death Star has a surface area of over 14 million square miles, and yet every critical area of the station is located within roller-skating distance of the hangar that the heroes of the Rebel Alliance land in.
"Wow, this was so easy I have time to run a completely different errand before meeting the others back at the ship."
It would be a nightmare to work in a place that size. What if Vader needed you to take some documents down to Accounting, which is 12 hours away from your department by turbo lift? And why is the trash compacter full of water and a bog monster?
Maybe it's picking cans and bottles.
This isn't a recycling center in South Carolina, it's a fucking state-of-the-art space station. It's not like a cyclopean space octopus wandered in through an open window, so that means it's either supposed to be there, performing some crucial trash-related function, or it's a pet that someone flushed. Apparently the Emperor decreed that every Imperial facility should have a dedicated medieval torture chamber to drown all of their garbage.
Face/Off -- The Prison
In Face/Off, John Travolta has several pounds of fat and skeleton lasered off his body to wear Nicolas Cage's surgically removed face and assume his identity in order to infiltrate a prison to learn the location of a hidden bomb, because the 1990s were a decade in which we allowed things like this to occur. The prison, located on an oil rig out in the middle of the ocean, is the most sophisticated correctional facility in the world.
It's a secret prison, which is how the filmmakers explain the fact that it in no way looks like a prison.
Its remote location makes it virtually inescapable, and all of the inmates are required to wear giant magnetic thunder boots, which can be activated to root them to the floor at a moment's notice. I suspect a majority of this movie's plot was conceived by someone who was playing with action figures.
In order for this ridiculous magnetic prison to work, every single one of the inmates has to be wearing giant metal Super Mario shoes all of the time.
Seen here being wedged into the groin of another human being.
Now, if you go to prison in real life, they give you tissue paper shoes for the explicit purpose of preventing you from using your shoes to murder yourself or those around you. But the island prison in Face/Off, built to house the most dangerous criminals on the planet, dresses its inmates in hulking steel robot boots that can easily be used to stomp a person's head into pie filling and/or kick an escape-sized hole through stone and mortar. Not that Thomas Jane would ever wear them, though, because Thomas Jane doesn't wear shoes.
Don't you even think of talking your "shoe" nonsense around Thomas Jane.
Also, when a riot finally does break out, the guards don't bother to activate the boots. The entire purpose of giving your prisoners magnetic boots is to be able to immediately crush any violent outburst at the flick of a switch, but apparently there is only one magnet-boot switch in the entire facility, and nobody was covering the switch that day.
This is the exact situation those boots were meant to prevent.
And as for the whole "inescapable island prison" thing? After murdering his way through the riot, Cage's character just kind of leaps right off the edge of the oil rig, which is, like, a 100-foot drop directly into the ocean, and swims to freedom. We see him hot-wiring a station wagon in the very next scene. They could have built that prison in the middle of Disneyland and it wouldn't have made a difference.
"FUCK YOUR BOOTS!"
Alien -- The Nostromo
Alien tells the story of a bunch of intergalactic truckers employed by an impossibly evil corporation that tricks them into picking up a flesh-eating-moonbeast stowaway because of some vague plan to turn it into a weapon that, five sequels later, has yet to be adequately explained. The truckers' ship, the Nostromo, is a state-of-the-art tugboat hauling a giant refinery through space, because in the future the best way to get around environmental regulations is to have your mercury-belching textile mills floating out in the middle of the goddamned universe.
Why is there water leaking everywhere? Literally every section of the ship is perpetually moist, if not collecting several pools of freestanding water as it pours out of the ceiling like Old Yeller tears. That's a fucking emergency on a pontoon boat, so shouldn't it be a Class 12 Panic Jubilee on a billion-dollar star freighter?
... is everything ...
We're talking about a handful of minimum wage workers screaming through the galaxy in a flying medieval castle -- water is an incredibly precious resource in this scenario. And the fact that it's sweating everywhere has to be some kind of problem, right? Some kind of system failure? Modern spaceships are full of delicate electrical systems -- you could probably kill every astronaut on the International Space Station just by spilling a juice box in the wrong place. Meanwhile, someone has apparently left a garden hose running somewhere on the Nostromo.
"Whoops. Our giant space boiler is leaking again."
Their warp drive is going to rust a million miles from Saturn, and then they'll be stuck listening to the same Clive Cussler audiobook they bought from a gas station convenience store until the oxygen scrubbers burn out and everyone suffocates. It's not like they can use their escape pod, because for some insane reason the only escape pod on the Nostromo wasn't designed to carry the entire crew.
Ripley makes sure to find room for the cat, though.
What the hell is going on in that room that Harry Dean Stanton gets ambushed in? The amount of water that falls on his head in that sequence is easily one or two gallons. Leaking that much water in the middle of freaking space should trigger some kind of alarm, but he just stares dopily up at it as if a leaky skylight in the center of the galaxy is a typical Wednesday.
"Yep. Everything seems to be in order here."
And why are there chains? It looks like he wandered into a Tool video.
There is nothing for you in this room, Harry Dean Stanton.
Also, and this is neither here nor there, but Alien is the loudest movie about deep space that I have ever seen. When they touch down on the alien planet to investigate the beacon, it sounds like a bunch of banshees having a laser-tag match in a house of mirrors. But all the dialogue sounds like it was recorded on a tape deck in an old coffee can. Ridley Scott clearly did this so that we'd turn our televisions way up to hear what everyone is saying, and then wind up shitting our pants inside-out when the Alien explodes onscreen like a body-horror-rape torpedo and detonates the speakers.
Elysium -- Elysium
Elysium is about white people hoarding food and medicine from the poor and denigrating an entire impoverished population to nothing more than a spectacular balcony view from their income-restricted resort community nestled safely behind miles of impenetrable security. Essentially, it's about building a Sandals in space.
"We did it, everyone!"
The richest people in the world live on Elysium, a massive space station full of mansions and palm trees, protected by the best technology in the world. Matt Damon rocket-boots his way up there with a couple of crazy mercenaries, who proceed to conquer the floating paradise almost immediately and nearly install their psychopathic leader as the new President of Space.
In fairness, I would vote for this man based on this picture.
That fancy orbiting tax shelter has to be hundreds of miles across at the very least. So why, inside Elysium headquarters, do they keep the prison, the armory, the medical bay, and the computer controls for every single one of the station's operating functions close enough together that you can reach them all in a modest jogging circuit? Three guys are able to take over the entire station in about five minutes, because every important facility and personnel member is within a baseball's throw of each other.
For example, here we see one man wiping out the majority of Elysium's governing body with a single grenade.
You'd think that in a station as vast and important to the upper echelon of society as Elysium, they would spread all those things out over a few miles. That's the primary reason the Capitol Building, the White House, and the Pentagon aren't just three different floors in the same shopping mall. Otherwise the A-Team could've busted in and annexed America back in the 1980s.
"No, just keep everything in one building. Nobody wants to have to fight afternoon space traffic."
Star Trek -- Nero's Ship
Star Trek is about J.J. Abrams taking classic science-fiction (normally concerned with psychological horror and the suspense inherent in the discovery of the unknown) and sculpting it into a spaceship-detonating explosion fest with the cunning use of lens flares and lead-actor sprinting. In the movie, Nero, a Romulan from the future, accidentally travels back in time and seeks to destroy the Federation's home base of Earth as punishment for allowing his planet to get consumed by a solar flare, although honestly I have no idea what he expected Tyler Perry to do about an emotionless astrological event.
"I don't know why I'm here, either."
Nero's ship, ostensibly a mining vessel, looks like someone tried to build a LEGO pirate ship out of dinosaur teeth. Everything is unnecessarily sharp, and there are hoses dangling everywhere, apparently by design.
"She'll never fly like this, boys! We need more hoses!"
Furthermore, the interior is laid out like a honeycombing skyscraper, with absolutely no railings to speak of.
Nero prefers his workplace to look like a dangerous riddle.
In the show, every time the Enterprise takes damage from enemy laser blasts, the crew gets tossed around the flight deck like socks in a dryer. So what's going to happen to Nero's crew when their ship gets attacked by space pirates, or if they suddenly have to hit the brakes and make a hard right turn? Every Romulan on board would either go rocketing off a hundred-foot balcony to their deaths or get filleted by a jagged wall sconce.
This should not be present in any flying machine.
Also, why does a mining ship have an endless arsenal of weaponry? I get that it's a Romulan ship, and Romulans are the kinds of aliens that would outfit a taxi cab with laser cannons and a missile launcher, but Nero has been floating around in space, trapped in the past, for 25 years. Where the hell is he going to buy a bunch of rockets that haven't been invented yet? He has to be out of ammo -- he destroys both a Klingon fleet and a Federation fleet after using entirely too much ordinance to kill Kirk's dad in the beginning of the movie.
Image presented without comment.
Also, yet again, there's water everywhere. We see Nero sloshing through a freaking lagoon while he's interrogating a prisoner, like he's wading into a creek to find his fishing rod. Why is there water on all of these spaceships? Are they hydroelectric?
"We pulled a handbrake turn and my waterbed exploded."
RoboCop -- OCP Headquarters
There is no plot description for RoboCop that cannot be immediately understood by reading the film's title.
The company responsible for RoboCop, Omni Consumer Products (OCP), has their headquarters in a futuristic skyscraper.
In one of the film's first scenes, we see them showcasing ED-209, a herculean murderbot, in a boardroom meeting on what has to be the 100th floor of the building. However, as we observe in a later sequence, ED-209 cannot navigate a staircase, and clearly weighs several tons.
Although he has been doing Pilates and would appreciate it if you acknowledged his effort.
How the hell did they get him up there for that meeting, and how did they expect to get him back down once they broke for lunch? He's too freaking big to ride the elevator we see the other characters use.
"Guys, this ... this isn't going to happen."
The only way they could've gotten him to the top floor is if he were assembled entirely in the boardroom like a ship in a bottle. Once the meeting is explosively adjourned, he could've maybe parachuted out the window, but there's no way ED-209 is taking that tiny glass peanut whistle of an elevator down to the ground floor to turn in his valet ticket.
"Five bucks? I was here for 10 minutes!"
Also, this is a technologically advanced future city, policed by robot centurions manufactured by OCP, the wealthiest company in the world, and yet OCP still uses a freaking stenographer at their board meetings?
"Let's start by reviewing last quarter's profits. Everyone get out your adding machines."
It's not like the idea of tape recorders was too far-fetched for the writers of this movie. The ability to record random shit that people say comes preloaded on RoboCop's hard drive like Windows, so OCP clearly recognized how useful that is. And they're obviously not worried about having a record of their meetings, because they have a person in attendance whose specific purpose is to write down everything that is being said. Why don't they just have RoboCop sit in on every meeting and keep the minutes?
In OCP's defense, their "robots in the workplace" policy needs some adjustments.
Later, we see RoboCop visit the computer archives of the police station, which for some reason has a terminal that can be accessed only by RoboCop punching it with his data-harvesting daggerfist.
"Read the file? What an amusing concept. No, fellow officer, RoboCop stabs the knowledge he requires."
RoboCop can use a keyboard just like anyone else -- why take the time to design a completely new system that precisely one law enforcement official in the entire world can use? Even more baffling is the fact that several people try to stop RoboCop from entering, insisting that he isn't allowed to be back there. If he's not allowed to be in the police archives, why did they install a terminal that only he is capable of operating? That's like buying a bunch of Super Nintendo games for your Sega Genesis.
"This is bullshit. I just want to play NBA Jam."
More importantly, RoboCop is a fucking robot -- the entire purpose behind his creation is to make an exponentially more efficient police officer. Shouldn't he be able to remotely access the database with his robot brain whenever he feels like it? Having to drunk-shuffle your way down to a basement to solve mysteries is the opposite of efficiency.
"Everyone stand back. I have robotic police work to attend to."
While rewatching Face/Off for this column, Tom was suddenly reminded that there was a brief period wherein an $80 million action movie with John Travolta and Nicolas Cage was a smart investment. Read his novel Stitches and follow him on Twitter and Tumblr.