A Summer of Cineplex Science

From time travel to rogue waves, the best (and worst) of this summer´s movies. Now with PopSci´s EGQ: Expected Gibberish Quotient. Launch the slideshow here.

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Poseidon
Out Now
Sure, there will be plenty of heroes struggling for survival aboard the sinking cruise ship at the center of Poseidon, but the real star of this film may be the rogue wave that causes all the problems in the first place. Scientists believe that these ocean giants form when two wave fronts intersect. On rare occasions, the overlap focuses the combined wave energy to produce a wall of water up to 100 feet tall. Naturally, narrative needs forced the filmmakers to stray from reality in places. For example, visual-effects supervisor Boyd Shermis notes that rogue waves typically form in turbulent seas, whereas Poseidon´s monster strikes out of nowhere. Shermis says they also created a 170-foot wave-nearly twice as tall as the largest rogue on record. The Big Draw: The bulk of the filmmakers´ science homework went into making water behave as it would in a real ocean. The physics models that drive the effects account for the water below the surface, not only on the ocean´s skin. So when a wave breaks, Shermis says, âa'¬You´re not just slabbing foam particles onto the surface. You´re actually spawning the foam from within the 3-D volume of water.âa'¬
Worst Fear: The two hours that follow the two-minute wave sequence
EGQ: Low. All they want is a way out, not an explanation of what happened. For more on rogue waves, visit PopSci's blog.
X-Men: The Last Stand
Out Now
Genetic mutations let these superheroes sprout wings, manipulate metal, and control the weather. In this sequel, scientists discover a way to suppress the supergenes. ** The Big Draw:** Colossus--the metallic strongman required heavy special effects.
Worst Fear: That the resident biochemist, Beast, offers an RNA-based explanation for the gene silencing
EGQ: High. This franchise has less respect for evolution than Fred Flintstone.
Superman Returns
June 30
After an extended hiatus away from Earth, Krypton´s first son flies back to find that the people of Earth-not to mention Lois Lane-no longer need him. The Big Draw: Want to feel a little closer to the Man of Steel? In IMAX theaters, a 20-minute section of the movie will be shown in 3-D.
Worst Fear: That the story line and acting, in contrast, will be one-dimensional
EGQ: Low. Suspension of disbelief, people. There´s no point trying to explain Superman.
Cars
June 9
Lightning McQueen gets lost on his way to a race and ends up in the town of Radiator Springs, a forgotten spot populated by, among other autos, a sexy 2002 Porsche 911 and a quiet 1951 Hudson Hornet. The Big Draw: Driver Richard Petty´s cameo as a 1970 Plymouth Superbird
Worst Fear: That Cars won´t live up to Pixar´s last few movies
EGQ: Low. Someone could conjure an AI-run-amok backstory to explain this world run by autos, but why bother?
Click
June 30
A mad scientist in a Bed Bath & Beyond gives the ultimate remote to a time-crunched family man. The gadget offers a new twist on time travel: Instead of transporting him to the past or future, it changes the flow of time around him. The Big Draw: Watching Adam Sandler try to outsmart time-travel paradoxes
Worst Fear: Watching Adam Sandler try to outsmart time-travel paradoxes
EGQ: Medium. Mad scientists are always good for a few mentions of string theory.
A Scanner Darkly
July 7
In this adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story, a cop becomes addicted to a mysterious drug and develops a split personality. The Big Draw: The film was shot with live actors, then tweaked by rotoscoping. Artists draw over the film´s frames, creating oddly realistic animated scenes.
Worst Fear: That the scramble suit, an outfit that makes someone look like any and all people, won´t live up to Dick´s description
EGQ: High. This is Philip K. Dick, after all.
Apocalypto
August 4
Director Mel Gibson hopes to transport audiences to the last days of the ancient Mayan empire. Concrete causes of the collapse of the Mayas have proved elusive, but some recent evidence suggests climate change-specifically, droughts-may have contributed. The Big Draw: Reconstructed Mayan cityscapes and reported scenes of human sacrifice
Worst Fear: Mel Gibson
EGQ: Astronomical. All the characters will speak Yucatec Maya.