Response to “Reel Reality: Science Consultants in Hollywood”

When I first glanced at this article, I assumed it was going to be fairly similar to the other two articles on Moodle other than it being considerably longer. But, I was surprised by just how much I did learn from the article. I didn’t think of movies like Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind having science consultants, especially with Gladiator, considering A Beautiful Mind does center on a mental disorder thus involving science. However, I could understand this inclusion when the article went into detail about perceptual reality and the consultants being there to make actions look realistic. It would also explain why a consultant would be needed for a movie like Spiderman considering the stunts and such involved.

What really surprised me was the popularity and influence of science consultants. According to the article, 20% of top grossing films have had science consultants. And out of the consultants interviewed, almost all of them had a favorable experience and were heard by the directors. That’s not to say I believe in the stereotype that all directors/producers are money hungry business men, but it was refreshing to hear about people like Ron Howard who wanted his consultant for Apollo 13 “glued to his side.” I think that was a wise decision considering that was based on a factual happening so it should have been more meticulous in “getting it right” as the mentioned directors like to say.

Unlike Apollo 13, I was surprised to hear how much “fact” was used in Jurassic Park. I had no idea that the protagonist archeologist was based off a real person. And I do stress the “based off” part, because we all know when a movie says it’s based off a true story that things are changed. Regardless, I was surprised to know how much they took from real life, even describing the character in press junkets with the same language used in an actual article about the real archaeologist.       

A smaller detail that I found fascinating was the amount of background images that were taken from the science consultants. I had no idea that theses science consultants provided things like slides, chart, graphs and the like to put up as props for the setting of the scenes in the film. It was said that in Twister they used radar images from actual meteorologists. They weren’t showing what the characters were saying they were, but it’s still an improvement from making some random stuff up that wouldn’t look remotely realistic. I also found it interesting how the consultant was able to affect the writing of Twister, even changing the original plot of having one tornado last for days. I can see the logic behind that kind of plot. It would have been like the Jaws of tornadoes as in that one that never dies and follows them around in a wake of death and destruction, but I’m glad they changed it. I was also highly amused by one consultant rooting through their trash to get notes to scatter around the floor for a movie. It gave me a new appreciation for movie props in Sci-Fi/natural disaster films.

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