The Things That Hollywood Keeps Getting Wrong
Hollywood has been one of the world’s biggest producers of motion pictures for around a century and currently releases around 700 English-language films every year. Of course, Bollywood creates many more films than its American counterpart, but Californian studios typically generate larger box office takings from their content.
Being one of the biggest centers for movie production, Hollywood has many of the English-speaking world’s best talent, with directors like Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and James Cameron all household names.
However, Hollywood regularly makes mistakes in its portrayal of events, scientific principles, and the way people behave. Most of the time, these mistakes are not malicious and are often the result of artistic decisions to help improve the flow of the storytelling and keep the audience engaged.
Most of the time, this doesn’t matter as movies are works of fiction, but it can create common misconceptions among the public.
Casinos are a go-to theme and setting for many movies. Titles like Casino (1995), Ocean’s Eleven (2001), and 21 (2008) are just three of the many popular films that have been set mostly inside casinos. Then there are movies like Daniel Craig’s first outing as James Bond, Casino Royale (2006), in which he plays a high stakes game of cards against the criminal he’s pursuing.
The reason that casinos and casino games are so popular for Hollywood moviemakers is that they are something that most people are familiar with while still providing a sense of intrigue. Even if you’ve never been to a casino, you can imagine what they look like inside, and even if you’ve never played blackjack, you likely have a basic understanding of the rules.
This vague familiarity has allowed directors and writers to be very creative in their portrayal of casinos. For example, modern casinos have replaced their “one-armed bandits” with video slot machines that use digital displays instead of physical spinning reels. Most also use themed symbols on their reels, instead of the traditional Bar and fruit icons. The same is true about online casinos, with most sites offering hundreds of different video slot options with themes ranging from fishing to space.
Despite this, directors still typically show players using the old machines with mechanical arms, mostly because this is easier for the viewer to see than a small press of a button.
Explosions are a big part of many action movies. They’re destructive, loud, and provide an opportunity for the protagonist to calmly walk away looking cool as they refuse to turn around to admire their handiwork.
Yet, movie explosions bear little resemblance to what happens in real life.
A real explosion wreaks havoc indiscriminately on everything around it by launching a high-pressure wave of air very quickly in all directions. It is, for the most part, invisible, though it is sometimes possible to see a “blast wave”.
Like someone pressing a small button on a slot machine, an invisible explosion doesn’t work well on camera as the audience can’t see what’s going on.
Hollywood’s solution is to replace the blast wave with lots of fire and smoke, something that looks visually spectacular but is not overly realistic.
Most people know how to use a computer, at least enough to check their emails and do a bit of online shopping. The proportion of people that understand what a TCP port, an IP number, or a routing table are is smaller.
This lack of expertise is often exploited by Hollywood to simplify computer processes that would be long-winded or boring. For the most part, this is a mostly harmless approach but it does lead people to assume that computers are capable of things that are impossible in real life.
This has been happening since early computer hacking movies like WarGames (1983), when a guy trying to get early access to video games somehow effortlessly hacked into a US military computer system, to recent TV shows like Bones where an artist-cum-hacker reassures a colleague that she can fend off a computer hacker because she’s “tripled her firewall” – a meaningless sentence.
For the most part, all of these Hollywood mistakes are the result of needing to explain and show complicated concepts and principles as quickly and easily as possible, rather than any because of any sort of malicious intent. After all, these films are typically works of fiction, so directors can use as much creative freedom as they want.