The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Guest Blogger: A Scientific View of Ridley Scott’s Use of Science

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Note:  Joel Hutson is one of the original subscribers to The Seeker, and sometimes chimes in with comments.  You might remember him from the road trip to Detroit two summers ago as described in these pages.  Since then, he’s been busy writing science stuff.  He is soon to have his first publication; it will appear in The Journal of Experimental Biology, and is titled “A test of the validity of range of motion studies of fossil archosaur elbow mobility using repeated-measures analysis and the extant phylogenetic bracket.”  You might say he knows a thing or two about science.  Thusly, he opines regarding yesterday’s post about Prometheus:

I only know Ridley Scott’s name, as do many other science teachers, simply because his name is synonymous with the movie Alien.  That movie is impressive in many ways, which Jeff deftly explained.  However, as an avid Star Wars fan, I must mention the one aspect of Scott’s movies that Jeff may not know about, but anyone with a scientific bent will appreciate.  Scott’s science fiction movies are scientifically accurate, or, at least much more so than movies like Star Wars.  This detail is important for three reasons:

1) Scott has the testicular fortitude to not play down to the ignorant demands of the masses and make the decisions that bad science should be used for sensational effect (e.g., like Kubrick he did not let the sounds of rockets be heard in space in Alien, which is an impossibility);

2) unlike Kubrick’s 2001:  Space Odyssey, Scott’s scientific accuracy is used not to bore you, but is with great effect to draw you in, as was done in another gripping science fiction movie called Predator;

3) Scott’s science is often “dual science,” which is science that can be used for good or evil and so he seems also to be using his films for social commentary, on the not-so-nice uses to which science can be put.

In short, I like Scott’s movies because I can relax with the foreknowledge that I will appreciate his attention to detail, and anticipate that he will use science to scare the bejeezus out of me instead of awakening the little guy on my shoulder who says, “Ahem. . . that’s not possible.”

Comments:  Thanks for your insights, Joel.  It’s interesting to note that you mentioned the scientific quality of Predator. Let’s not forget that the Predator and Alien universes have been mashed up in two films, so there must be something sympatico about them beyond the scientific quality.

As coincidence would have it, The New Yorker published a Science Fiction issue last week.  In it, no less an authority than Ursula K. Le Guin commented on the struggle of denial that SF writers put themselves through as they strive to have their work considered as legitimate literature by what she calls the Republic of Letters:  “Pay no attention to the spaceships, the post-holocaust scenery, or the mutants…  My novel is not sci-fi; it is literature.”  It seems that science fiction literature is not alone in that regard; science fiction films have suffered under the same pall.  Again, here’s hoping that Ridley Scott transcends the usual trappings and that those of us who see Prometheus talk more about the people than the panache.  I’m starting to worry that the film was shot in 3D.

Written by seeker70

June 7, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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