I read a rather damning article about the movie “Battleship” the other day and thought to my self, let’s go watch it and see for yourself… which I did.

Now some of the criticism in that article was definitely accurate, maybe even all of it, but I noticed one thing:

One of the biggest gripes the author had with the movie was, that it didn’t realistically portray the way somebody rises in the ranks of the Navy and that some of the language/procedures used in the movie were wrong. This got me thinking a bit.

My background is in IT and whenever one of the “uberhackers” in movies hijack a satellite with a cellphone (Die Hard 4) or hack into a system using a 6 screen setup within 1 minute (Swordfish) or when you see HTML-code scroll on a page pretending to be something highly secret (too many movies to count), I cringe internally. It takes me out of the movie and makes it all slightly ridiculous.

BUT…

I’m a subject matter expert on IT (as is the author above on all stuff Navy), so when I see these things, I know they are bogus. However, 99% of the people I interact with are experts on other things and they absolutely don’t mind or even notice.

When I think of how that stuff would look like, if it were realistic, what a drab movie that would make. Imaging that hacker-dude in Die Hard 4 having to first go to a decent computer, fire up his tools, figuring out how the network of the satellite is laid out, hack into it, figure out how the communication with the satellite actually works, reverse engineer the protocol, override all security measures, … he’d probably spend a few days/weeks on this and the audience would fall asleep before the first port scan is even completed.

Which brings me to the point: nobody except the experts care about realistic portrayal of something. Even I have to admit that hacking a satellite with a cellphone looks cooler on screen than the real deal. Also, experts are such a minute minority of people going to the movies that they couldn’t care less about making those guys happy.

Movies are about making stuff look and feel cool, not about being accurate. If you want accurate, watch a documentary.

However, if they take it to such extremes that even non-experts see the ludicrousness of something, then they probably did an epic-fail… i.e. creating an atomic bomb out of chewing-gum, spare paper clips and an old shoe is probably taking it too far for pretty much everybody…

To get back to the original movie in question: In Battleship, they reactivate a museum ship anchored in Hawaii since WWII. You probably don’t need to be an expert to assume that (a) nothing lying around for 50 years still works and (b) it wouldn’t have active weaponry on board. But hey, at least it looks cool. Also 5 guys carrying a 500kg round and slippery ordinance¬† on they shoulders is probably stretching it a bit, too… on the other hand, having aliens with forcefields and stuff is totally believable (because there is no frame of reference or any experts around to disprove it, I guess).

Movies are a weird thing, aren’t they?