Our sister site SCI FI Wire just got a big upgrade. It's always been loaded with up-to-the-nanosecond entertainment news, but now it's loaded with big graphics and lots of opportunities for readers to chime in, too. This Wire feature on great trailers that led to terrible movies inspired us to create this list of absurd devices in sci-fi movies.
Sure, by its nature sci fi will include some fantastical elements, particularly with tech. But sometimes that tech crosses the line between plausible coolness and sheer fantasy. After all, it stands for science fiction, which isn't an excuse for flights of fancy or magic.
When far-fetched "technology" with no basis in reality at all shows up in a movie, our disbelief crashes down all around us. Where do we draw the line? Come along with us for a spirited jaunt into the realm of absurdity.
1. Syncord in The Sixth Day
It looks like a pair of funky cool sunglasses, but this device actually scans your eyes and somehow creates a complete copy of all your memories. Take this record, called a "syncord" in the movie ("synaptic record," perhaps?), and you've got something you can upload into a new clone of yourself, letting you cheat death. Fun concept, insanely ridiculous technology. Even if you could copy all your memories somehow, doing it instantaneously would be an unobtainable feat.
2. Hoverboard in Back to the Future II
We're not even going to touch that time-traveling DeLorean — at least it's based on a real car — but Marty McFly's levitating skateboard passes into the realm of insanity. Some people say there is already levitating tech in secret military bases, lifting aircraft just like flying saucers, but we're not buying it.
3. Cellphone Tracker in The Dark Knight
Miraculously, every cellphone in Gotham City is turned into a probe for Batman. The Dark Knight kept tabs on the entire city, perched in front of a huge wall of screens, monitoring the sonar signals sent to him by all these helpful handheld devices. Yeah, right. These magical cellphones can all transmit 3D images, too, in real time, and then Batman can see all this imagery right when he needs it, there in his heads-up display. Why can't we all have this 3D sonar feature?
4. Pumpkin Bomb in Spider-Man
Look out! Here comes an exploding pumpkin! Maybe it's because Spider-Man started out as a comic book, but that pumpkin bomb launched by the glider-riding Green Goblin is beyond absurd. A crowd of partyers outside on a terrace are instantly turned into skeletons by the devastating weapon, destroying our suspension of disbelief at the same time. But then, if we're already believing a guy shoots out high-tension wires out of his wrists the enable him to fly effortlessly throughout a major city, why not bombs that disintegrate things? Because it's stupid.
5. All-Terrain Armored Transport in Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back
We're supposed to believe that the Empire, with all its technical resources and armaments, needs to use elephant-like walking devices with spindly legs that look like they could be steam-powered? One nudge and these clumsy oafs would topple over like a top-heavy SUV. The Force is weak in these Imperial AT-AT Walkers, no matter how much fun they are to animate — and watch.
6. Project Genesis Torpedo in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
So there's this torpedo, you see? It's so powerful and awesome that it not only terraforms an entire lifeless planet in a matter of seconds — in the right conditions, it creates stars and entire solar systems. Some torpedo. Leaned on heavily as a plot device in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and mentioned in a few movies and episodes after that, this God bomb takes that concept of Deus ex Machina way too far. Even so, it's one of the best special effects shots of all time.
7. Meteor Guns in The Last Starfighter and Starship Troopers
"Fire the Meteor Gun!" the bad guys command in The Last Starfighter, and the massive command ship launches a few rocks at Rylos, the good guys' home base. Too bad the ship is a few star systems over, and those boulders would take centuries to hit their target, instead of the few minutes it takes in the movie. Sorry, bad guys! That electronic monocle you're wearing sure looks cool, though. Same problem in Starship Troopers: How could the bugs attack Earth with a meteor, unless said attack was planned sometime during the Renaissance?
8. Virgil's Unobtainium Hull in The Core
The ship in the movie, called Virgil, is designed to travel to the core of the planet, so, sure, the hull would need to be made of something that can withstand those temperatures. They call it "unobtainium" in the movie. It's still absurd, but OK. But it also somehow uses the heat to power the ship? C'mon, guys!