I enjoyed watching two recently-released movies, Live Free or Die Hard and Transformers, but I noticed something very similar about them: they portrayed computers very poorly.
Yes, I know one is a movie where a guy kills a helicopter by launching a car at it and the other is about a civil war between giant alien shapeshifting robots. I know, understand, and accept that concessions have to be made in realism in certain areas in order to fit the theme of a movie.
The Die Hard movies are about a guy who just won't die no matter how much you throw at him. This particular sequel is also supposed to show a credible threat to the United States' national security. Transformers, as I stated earlier, is about giant alien shapeshifting robots.
Neither film required computers and computer systems to be portrayed so poorly in order for the base themes to come through. Live Free's theme would have been improved by a more realistic portrayal of computer technology and Transformers could have spent that time giving us more character development for the actual Transformers.
Live Free did better with its portrayal of computer technology. The biggest problem was how a building with power was capable of using the Internet when pretty much the entire state was without power. If I'm not mistaken, one of the characters was under the impression that mobile phones used satellites for communication. The subplot about a super-special cryptographic algorithm being used for entering a PIN on the door to the bad guy's secret lair was just ridiculous.
There's really no excuse for continuing to propagate misconceptions about computers and technology. As more and more people use computers in their daily lives, the general population's understanding of computers will increase. Such movies may not age as well because the ignorance shown in the movies could eventually be seen as "cheesy."
I mean, if John McClane fell out of a window, but did a midair double-jump just before landing to avoid injury, I doubt the scene would generally be accepted simply because everyone knows that people can't just jump in midair. Why should we be expected to accept other made-up elements when we know things work differently? (This is, of course, excluding situations where the theme or style of a movie allows for those changes. I don't expect the TV series Reboot to give an accurate portrayal of computer technology, for example.)
Of course, the concept of realism in movies goes well beyond portrayal of computers and technology. I'll explore the larger scope in a later post.
In the meantime, how do you generally feel when a movie portrays your profession or hobby in an entirely unrealistic manner?