6 Pieces of Sci-Fi Technology That Make No Sense
The most perplexing part of any science fiction story is rarely ever a major plot detail, unless you're watching a SyFy film, in which case the most perplexing part is how the movie was made without causing the collective brains of everyone involved to have a group aneurism brought on by sheer stupid overload. In other sci-fi, there are numerous small and generally overlooked details that never get adequately explained because they're not entirely essential to the story proper, but at the same time could probably use a bit more detail because, you know, what the fuck?
Escape from New York's Light Wall
The world's very first sci-fi filmmaker may have been a goldfish, or perhaps a playful kitten. I say this only because of sci-fi's long history of light love. The people who make sci-fi love lights. They like flashing bulbs and lasers and occasionally chandeliers. You can't make a good sci-fi film without lights. You definitely can't make a bad one. Now take a second to look at that still from Escape from New York up there.
Just behind Lee Van Cleef there you'll notice a massive wall panel covered in lights. It's like they based their operation out of a shitty Lite-Brite factory. In the movie, no one ever touches that light panel, it's never discussed, it has no purpose. It's just an artistic touch, a piece of flair. But what the fuck is it? It's like the panels on the 1960s Enterprise, just flashing lights blinking on and off to indicate that yes, we have power and yes, we're wasting it like the dickens.
"Captain, our electricity bill is ridiculous."
I want to believe this light panel has a purpose. Throughout the movie, the lights just change patterns. It's like a bothersome string of Christmas lights that got cubed and some asshole installed a blinker in the string, so now they all keep turning on and off, just waiting to cause a lazy seizure if you watch them too long.
The story in Escape is that Snake Plissken, a one-eyed fellow who growls more than speaks and who everyone thinks is dead, has to save the president from the terrible prison that is Manhattan. He has only so many hours to do so, otherwise no one gives a fuck, plus Snake will die. So he's motivated. This command center exists to track Snake's progress and extract the president once he has succeeded. Those lights, therefore, are to monitor the health and safety of either the president or Snake Plissken. That's what they do, all flipping on and off every second on what is easily a 3x3 panel set into the wall.
Do the lights indicate in some graph form the general satisfaction of the voting public with how this situation is being dealt with? Occupied cubicles in another part of the building where soldiers are preparing a furious round of musical chairs as indicated by illuminated lights? John Carpenter needs to spill the beans.
Quantum Leap's Ziggy Interface
Quantum Leap was probably the best sci-fi show that Scott Bakula has ever been on. Top two, anyway. And the episode in which this happens will forever be timeless:
It's awesome writing with emotional impact like that that kept us all from noticing something that was staring us in the face since the show began. Namely that Scott Bakula is traveling through time via the consciousness of strangers thanks to the help of an AI made from LEGO. Look at that thing.
This thing could make you endure years in a Donald P. Bellisario show.
That's Ziggy. Well, that's the model handlink that Al uses to get info from the supercomputer called Ziggy that apparently has info on everyone in the past ever and is awesome at guessing what kind of do-gooder shit might make Sam Leap to another person.
You spend most of Quantum Leap either looking for your remote control or, at the very least, wondering what Sam has to do this week to get out of another jam, such as being a woman, or black, or retarded. I can't stress how impactful the writing on Quantum Leap was. But there should have been at least a little lip service paid to how a supercomputer with a million GB of memory, which was totally a lot back in the 1990s, interfaced with the rest of the world via a block of transparent LEGOs with a handful of LEDs behind them.
Just cross this with a shark and you've got a SyFy franchise!
Ziggy was advanced enough to have its own ego, but unless it was speaking via light and sound in some Close Encounters method of communication, what did that hand unit do? It seems entirely plausible that Al was just fucking with Sam the entire time he was adrift in time because no one knew what the hell was going on anyway. There was no display screen, no visible buttons, just some squishy, sproingy sounds when Al whacked it as an example of the quality put into its design. Does anyone but Chris Brown think something should work better after you smack it?
Deadly Friend's BB
Deadly Friend is one of the less inspiring films in Wes Craven's film catalog, which is saying something because, by and large, Wes Craven doesn't make good films. Go on, laud the merits of Scream or Nightmare on Elm Street and I'll throw Vampire in Brooklyn at you. Then, when you're reeling from that affront, I'll double team you with Pulse and Shocker until you're passed out in a puddle of your own panic shit.
Filmmaking chops aside, we can debate the merits of the technology present in Deadly Friend because the movie is predicated on you not understanding robotics and biology and/or being heavily medicated while you watch. Here's the story in a nutshell -- this kid has created a robot complete with artificial intelligence named BB. It's basically his best friend and they do dumb crap together and have fun. He's the Hobbes to the main character's Calvin. One day, Throw Momma from the Train shoots BB with a shotgun because she is old and abominable, as old people tend to be. Slightly worse is that Kristy Swanson gets in an accident and suffers brain death. Kristy Swanson was very hot in the '80s, so naturally the kid in this movie loves her and wants to save her. He does this by jamming a microchip in her dead-ass brain. Naturally two things happen -- she comes back to life and she's basically a robot.
Despite BB being a friendly puppy of a robot previously, now that he's merged brains with a teen girl, he's homicidal as fuck. He pops Throw Momma from the Train's head with a basketball, there's a gif and everything.
Spoiler for those who feel they can get spoilers from movies that came out in 1986 -- the movie ends with BB tearing its way out of Kristy Swanson's carcass, only this time he has evil, sharp robot teeth in a decorative mouth. It grabs the kid who created it and kills him. The end. Now how the fuck does that work?
I guess this kid is a genius, what with his remarkable 1980s AI and all. BB probably runs on some kind of wicked 286 processor and has upward of 500kb of memory and everything. Still, merging that kind of technology with the technology required for a robot to grow itself a new robot body inside a human corpse like some kind of awesome parasitic wasp larvae is leaps and bounds beyond the normal.
Say Kristy Swanson didn't die. Could he have put that microchip in a sandwich and made the sandwich grow an evil robot? A watermelon? A turd stack? What exactly were the limitations on this thing?
In the Iron Man comics and movies and cartoons and dioramas and dubstep remixes, Jarvis, who I'll just type without the caps and periods from now on, is the AI that helps Tony Stark in his day-to-day business. He's named Jarvis and talks with an English accent because he's basically the butler without a body. That severely limits his practical usefulness, although you'll see that, in the films, he does have an abundance of info at hand that helps Tony when he needs it. All things being equal, Jarvis is a pretty useful guy and a good friend. And therein lies some weirdness.
Jarvis expresses concern for Tony's well being. Not only does he warn him about danger, he also offers to make a call to Gwyneth Paltrow, something no one should ever willingly do, when it seems clear that Tony is about to selflessly die for mankind at the end of The Avengers. A machine offered Tony the chance to say his final farewell, to try to tie up loose ends. Jarvis has empathy, Jarvis can feel. Jarvis is alive.
He's like this guy, only not as close to death.
Why does anyone give a shit about Tony Stark's shiny blue battery packs when he seems to have created life? Couldn't Jarvis shut down pretty much any villain or criminal in the world any time he wanted to?
Obnoxious Tony Stark, who has issues maintaining any kind of relationship and spends his life playing at shiny metal god-man, just went out and made himself the perfect friend -- a partner, a confidante, and a conscience, all with the voice of the albino from The Da Vinci Code. This seems much more monumental than any of Stark's other achievements, especially since Jarvis is also capable of operating the Iron Man suits autonomously. He's basically the bastard offspring of Alfred and Skynet. And since Tony displayed how easily (in front of an audience no less) he can hack into a secured website on his own, you have to assume Jarvis could do the same thing and spread his program across the globe, controlling all machines all the time if he wanted to. All of them with that same sense of British decorum and politeness.
I Come in Peace's Flying CD
Originally titled Dark Angel because fuck yeah, so cool man! I Come in Peace is about Dolph Lundgren and an alien drug dealer played by a half albino who never mastered English. It's precisely as great as I have described it. Need some icing on your Lundgren cake? The alien drug dealer gets his drugs from human brains and his weapon of choice is a CD. What CD? God, I hope it was the Eagles' greatest hits, or maybe Culture Club, but no one's really identified it yet. Point is, this movie came out right around the time CD players were owned only by oil barons and billionaire arms dealers. The rest of us didn't know what either letter in "CD" stood for and were still winding our tapes with pencils when they got all gobbled up by a shitty tape player from Woolworth's. How'd that memory lane bomb feel? Atomic?
We can assume the producers of the movie were blown away by how it looks like a disc but was all metallic and awesome so they decided to include the CD as a weapon. Imagine if it was made of razors, man! It could like fly and be like a ninja star only round like a Frisbee! Then the production team continued jizzing over the idea through a series of animal grunts and honks.
"Holy balls, it flies and it's shiny! Look at it!"
When the alien uses the disc to kill in the movie, we're treated to the disc kill-cam view, which is great because it's like we're sitting right there on top of the CD as it flies from victim to victim, cutting throats and bouncing off walls before cutting more throats. How does it know to go for human necks anyway? What keeps propelling it after it hits the first neck? Shouldn't it just embed itself in the soft, meaty hide of a victim rather than ricochet off like the dude was made of steel?
There's always the possibility that the view we're treated to is the view of a tiny pilot, but that's never really addressed in the film and you can never see a kind of Jetsons-like bubble cockpit in any of the few scenes where we almost get a look at the CD when it's pinballing through white men in white suits who also sell drugs. Everyone in this movie sells drugs, by the way. In fact, maybe there was a social message there, since CDs were so rare at the time that you probably had to be a drug dealer to own them anyway. Not saying it's a good message or one that even makes sense -- this is a Dolph Lundgren movie, after all -- but they could have been going for some kind of social awareness there.
Seems like more effort should have been put into getting a hold of this weapon, though, as a CD that has enough awareness of itself and its surroundings to keep looking for jugular veins could be useful technology to have. It also seems like, if the alien were serious about his job, he'd have two of them. Or 10.
Predator's Nuclear Wristband
Every movie featuring a Predator ends with something getting blown up in a nuclear way, or at least an attempt at it. The only way you can end one of these movies is by attempting to render the entire area the film took place in uninhabitable in an effort to try to prevent sequels, but it never works. The first film was awesome, and we should all watch it religiously. Alien vs. Predator: Requiem was so bad that it's replaced waterboarding as a method of extracting information in unofficial prisons throughout the Middle East. "No no! The Alien has dreadlocks! Make it stop!" But it never stops.
Predators are alien hunters who must be so goddamn bored with their lives. They travel across galaxies to kill a couple of things in a jungle and bring the skulls home because their home world never invented Pong or something. Then later we find out they hunt the aliens from the Alien franchise, but they still do that shit on Earth, despite neither one being indigenous. They bring along a small arsenal of fun weapons like plasma cannons and spears and razor nets, and also a really snazzy wristband that will blow shit up.
From the Michael Bay wristwatch collection.
Every Predator has a small nuclear weapon on his arm. Small in the sense that it fits on his arm, but big enough to destroy a hell of a lot of stuff. In our world, we expect spies to have maybe a cyanide capsule, just in case shit goes awry. Predators don't do poison, though, that's a puss wank of a way out of your problems. Best to destroy a solid acre of land to teach anyone around you a lesson at the same time.
I'm no nuclear technician, but isn't this more dangerous than it should be? Wouldn't a nice little seppuku dagger be more effective? The same control panel that arms the bomb also controls the shoulder gun and the invisibility function, and water shorted it out. It malfunctions in water! Danny Glover sliced one right off. There's no real consideration for safety programmed into these things at all, and if you think there is, I invite you to consider the end of Alien vs. Predator, in which a Predator, infected with an alien embryo, is brought aboard the Predator ship and left on the coffee table by the window. They already demonstrated that Predators have the ability to see an embryo growing inside another life form, so these guys either forgot to check their friend who just spent a day fighting aliens to see if he was infected or they didn't care because they were all high on bath salts. Point is, you can't trust their judgment, these aren't smart extra-terrestrials. They're angry, sure, but not smart. And they all carry nuclear wristwatches.