9 Sci-Fi Films We Nitpicked Before 'Interstellar'

by Michael Arbeiter

Christopher Nolan has spent so much time reading up on quantum mechanics, theoretical physics, space travel, and the like, that he apparently never had time to find out about Twitter. Proof: The Interstellar director claims ignorance of a world in which the common man and cultural elite alike come together to nitpick and fustigate every movie that hits theaters. According to Nolan, this phenomenon is unique to his films alone.

The filmmaker has caught wind of the public's handful of quibbles with the science in his latest movie, which takes the occasional liberty in order to craft a story about yet impossible space travel, hyper-sentient robots, and journeys through the unknown corners of the universe. (The nerve, right?) While the practice of nitpicking can be quite the counterintuitive endeavor, I can't exactly back Nolan's assertion that he's the only victim of this rather irritating crime.

"My films are always held to a weirdly high standard for those issues that isn’t applied to everybody else’s films — which I’m fine with. People are always accusing my films of having plot holes," Nolan says to The Daily Beast. "There have been a bunch of knee-jerk tweets by people who’ve only seen the film once, but to really take on the science of the film, you’re going to need to sit down with the film for a bit and probably also read Kip [Thorne, theoretical physicist and Interstellar executive producer]’s book."

While I sympathize with Nolan's articulation of the necessary leaps you have to take to tell a good story ("I know where we cheated in the way you have to cheat in movies," he says), he's clearly off point in claiming that no other movies — science fiction films, in particular — earn the same degree of scorn. I can think of a handful from recent years that have been treated to no amateur sum of nitpickery.


The scorn tossed at last year's Oscar-winning Gravity earned a good deal of attention thanks to its source: America's premier astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. The scientific took to Twitter just days after the film's theatrical release to lambast it for details like scientific principles and factual inaccuracies about the locations of satellites.

Less an authority on science but as much an entertaining complainer, actor and comedian Louis C.K. had some similar qualms about the movie. On the talk radio program Opie & Anthony , C.K. lamented everything from the film's lapsed physical logic to the impossible notion of Sandra Bullock's "hesitant astronaut" character.


Tyson again took to the plate, although much more gently, to discredit some of the science on which Ridley Scott's Prometheus was founded (chiding specifically the assessment of distance between fictional planets). The astrophysicist was joined by thinkers of all sorts in tearing down the Alien prequel. Archaeologist Wade Catts and geologist Bill Chadwick criticized the focal excavation team's professional decorum; animal biology academic Ken Paige took issue with some of the language fostered by characters studying alien life forms.


Considering the massive success that was James Cameron's Avatar, the hordes of inevitable detractors would logically be all the larger (now that's solid science). Fans laid waste to elements like the location of Pandora and the inconsistencies in the showcased technology.


Here's a new one: the director himself pointing out problems with the science in a film! After the release of this summer's surprise hit Lucy, director Luc Besson admitted calmly that the "Humans only use 10 percent of their brains" principle that stands as the veritable backbone of the movie is totally bogus. But he doesn't really care. (Some others do, though.)


Astronomer Phil Plait, a regular contributor to Slate magazine, had a few things to say about J.J. Abrams' Star Trek into Darkness , notably the errors in reasoning that centered its opening sequence around a mission to subdue an active volcano by solidifying its bubbling magma. (Admittedly, Plait said that issues like these weren't that distracting in the grand scheme of his enjoyment of Into Darkness.)


This one hasn't even come out yet and it's already irking some science purists! National Geographic science writer Brian Switek has voiced distaste over the featherless design of the impending fourquel's velociraptors, a choice that he considers lethal for the Jurassic Park franchise. (He voiced no problems with the impeccable design of star Chris Pratt, however.)


You can find just about any other science fiction film here, tagged to one outstanding issue or another about its troublesome reasoning.

Images: Paramount Pictures (2); Warner Bros.; 20th Century Fox (2); Universal Pictures (2); TriStar Pictures