PopSci’s Guide to Summer Sci-Tech Movies
From the gadgets in Get Smart to the gamma rays in The Hulk, we rate the scientific jargon quotient of new films
Based on the popular Japanese animated series, this campy live-action/animated hybrid from the Wachowski brothers, of Matrix fame, follows a racecar driver through a futuristic sport that’s equal parts Nascar, X Games and American Gladiators. The film’s real stars are the animated cars, particularly the Mach 5, which has wheels that can pivot 180 degrees; jacks that deploy on the go to launch the vehicle into the air; and a robotic pigeon that flies out, films what’s going on farther along the track, and creates a simulation of the course ahead so the driver can plan his way. Geek Candy: Wild visual effects. The Wachowskis are known for their pioneering digital techniques, and the movie’s live-action stars will be racing and fighting in an unnaturally bright environment. [Read more about how they did it in aHow to Make a Digital World.a] Expected Gibberish Quotient (EGQ): High, and proudly so. The creators flaunt the utterly fake technology in the Mach 5.
Yes, it’s another comic-book movie, but this one begins with a womanizing boozer and ends with a pair of mad geniuses in robotic suits duking it out. The story spelled out in a€œ The Real Iron Man follows inventor Tony Stark as he develops an exoskeleton that lets him outrace planes, fire missiles from his forearm, and fight crime, with no superpower beyond his own engineering ingenuity. Geek Candy: The suit. Shane Mahan, a designer who helped construct the exoskeleton, says, aIt’s really a wearable jet.a EGQ: Medium-high. The film skips features of the comic’s suit that seemed too far-fetched, such as an undersheath that’s genetically engineered to pop out of his bone marrow. But, come on, it’s a wearable jet.
The Incredible Hulk
The big green monster is back, in this do-over of the 2003 flick that rehashes the same hero and story. Physicist Bruce Banner looks for a cure to the gamma-radiation-inflicted change that transforms him into a tank-tossing brute whenever he loses his temper. Geek Candy: The Hulk himselfa€”specifically, how the filmmakers will create the eight-foot-tall, 500-pound superhero, since fans were disappointed with the 2003 version. EGQ: High. Radiation turn man into green monster. Hulk not understand. Neither will you.
Regarding this latest movie from notoriously secretive director M. Night Shyamalan, all we can tell you is that something happens, and a lot of people diea€”we think. Geek Candy: Finding out if the rumors about the plant-borne suicide-inducing neurotoxin are valid. EGQ: Potentially high, but this being Shyamalan, we won’t know for sure until the movie’s final five minutes.
This update of the 1960s TV series follows bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart as he battles the evil crime syndicate KAOS. Geek Candy:The gadgets. Along with the famous shoe phone, new devices include a flamethrowing Swiss Army knife that also shoots a miniature harpoon tied to spider-silk nanothread. EGQ: Medium. The gadgets may be overly complex, but the filmmakers stuck to quasi-plausible technology.
After 700 years of clearing Earth’s overflowing garbage, a robot called WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter-Earth class) hitches a ride off the planet that humans abandoned centuries before and uncovers a secret that might allow mankind to return to Earth. Basically, Roomba saves the world. Geek Candy: Pixar, the animation studio that brought us Toy Story and Ratatouille, taking on robots. Enough said. EGQ: Low. There’s almost no dialogue, and given early video clips of WALL-E in action, this robot looks like the real thinga€”or what the real thing might resemble in a few centuries, anyway.
Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D
In this remake of Jules Verne’s classic novel Journey to the Center of the Earth, a scientist and his nephew discover that the path described in Verne’s book is real, and they follow it down to a lost world. Geek Candy: The extra dimension. Brighter projectors from 3-D innovator RealD 3D will allow theaters to show the movie’s photo-real special effects on much larger screens than ever before. EGQ: High. The movie’s Web site describes the scientist’s theories as auntraditionalaabasically, a license for gibberish.
The Dark Knight
Batman returns to combat the crazed, murderous Joker, with the help of a few new toys, including a more flexible, mobile suit with titanium-based armor plates, gauntlets that let him fire blades from his arms, and a mortar rifle that launches adhesive grenades. Geek Candy: Batman’s gear, especially his new ride. The Batpod is an all-terrain, fat-wheeled motorcycle stacked with machine guns and cannons. EGQ: Low. The Joker looks too psychotically impatient to resort to such needlessly complex tricks as the toxin-unleashing microwave-beam generator from Batman Begins. He’s just gonna kill people.
The Dark Knight