Pharyngula

Will Smith must be stopped

He has a new movie coming out this summer, After Earth. It looks awful, but then, that’s what I’ve come to expect from Will Smith’s Sci-Fi outings.

Jebus. Anyone remember that abomination, I, Robot? How about I Am Legend? I steer clear of these movies with a high concept and a big name star, because usually what you find is that the story is a concoction by committee with an agenda solely to recoup the costs and make lots of money…so we get buzzwords and nods to high-minded causes and the usual action-adventure pap. Just looking at the trailer, I’m getting pissed off: it’s supposed to be a pro-environmentalism movie, and what’s it about? A guy running around in the wilderness fighting off the hostile wildlife.

Anyway, I got one of those generic invitations to help reassure the world that it’s a good science movie. Here’s part of what I was sent:

On May 31st, Columbia Pictures is releasing what is perhaps the biggest movie of the summer, After Earth, starring Will Smith, directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

No. Just no. Shyamalan is a hack. Why do people keep handing him big money and big projects?

There are a lot of science parallels to this film, and I write to see if you or a colleague might be interested in interviewing one of After Earth’s top filmmakers and or a scientist associated herein.

Famous futurist Ray Kurzweil

Jesus fuck. Kurzweil is a consultant? Pill-popping techno-geek with an immortality fetish and no understanding of biology at all is the consultant on a movie with a supposed environmental message? WHY?

explored with Will, his son Jaden Smith, and Elon Musk, how science fact meets science fiction in After Earth, and tghis can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RocpHuJWolc. As well, XPRIZE has teamed up with Sony to launch an unprecedented robotics challenge (information attached). What’s more, NASA plans to disseminate a lesson plan to teachers based on the scientific implications of After Earth, as seen here http://www.lifeafterearthscience.com/.

OK, I checked out the lesson plan. It’s not bad, but it has nothing to do with the movie — it’s all about biodiversity and cycles and climate change and that sort of thing, by a respectable author of biology textbooks. It’s a merkin to cover the toxic crap that will be in the movie.

In After Earth, earth has devolved, in a sense, to a more primordial state, forcing mankind to leave. One thousand years after this exodus, the planet has built up defense mechanisms so as to prevent the return of its previous human inhabitants. It might be said that nature reacted this way because it perceived humans as a threat to its survival.

“Devolved”? “Primordial state”? Look at the trailer. It’s a lush planet thick with plant and animal life, nothing to force people out. Except, of course, the bizarre hint that there are rapid — really rapid — weather changes (I won’t call it “climate”), in which you can be running through a temperate forest and suddenly a tree will freeze. Yeah, right. As for the teleological rationale, just gag it, goofballs.

Given the backing behind it, the extravagantly expensive Will Smith, the fact that he’s using it as a vehicle to give his son star billing, the horrible director, and the hints of bad science in the trailer, I’m going to call this one right now: it’s going to suck. It will be shiny and glossy and have lots of CGI, but it will suck hard.

I saw Iron Man 3 last night, and let me just say…I am so tired of SF movies that resolve all of their conflicts with a big battle with the baddies, preferably featuring huge explosions and impossible physics. This one is going to up the ante with idiot biology added to the profit-making mix.

They asked if I wanted to interview any of the scientists or writers involved. I don’t think so.

Although a conversation with Ray Kurzweil could be…fun.

Comments

  1. #1 maus
    May 8, 2013

    Well duh, Smith is a Scientologist, of course he knows all about that sciencey stuff! L Ron and his action-hero friends Travolta and Cruise learned him good in the ways of the world.

  2. #2 Richard Bellingham
    May 8, 2013

    Oh god, that sounds like a sequel to The Happening.

  3. #3 Coozoe
    Chicago
    May 8, 2013

    Well I like the premise of the movie. I prefer humans to lose the battle due their unnatural habits. I am certain this move will not end with nature winning.

  4. #4 Daddy Love
    Issaquah, WA
    May 8, 2013

    This film sound Suckecto Garcia. But I’m not sure why the hate on Iron Man. It’s a comic book. OF COURSE it has a big baddy fight and exploding stuff and, yes, some violated physics. That’s the genre.

  5. #5 Science Man Supreme
    May 9, 2013

    Gee wize PZ. Don’t have a cow. Running around in the woods fighting off hostile wildlife is basically the history of man uo until a couple of centuries ago.

    Far as that goes, I still hunt dangerous animals myself.

    oh, and as far as poor sci-fi movies go the Jurasic Park series was good movies, but totally ficticious. Wild animals do not hunt humans like these dinosaurs did. Besides anyone who ventures onto an island like that without proper tactical gear and weaponry is crazy. Oh and for the record a .50 BMG will blow a hole through a T Rex big enough to fit your leg in, so the movies were inaccurate in portaying T. Rex as a bullet proof animal. The .50 BMG is a 770 grain 50 caliber anti-tank cartridge. At 600 yards it can splinter a 6 inch thick piece of solid steel and still have enough power to keep blazing a few hundred more yards taking down anything in its path. A man armed with a semi-auto .50 BMG would take down any animal that ever roamed this earth.

    Besides knights used to take down triceratops and stegasaurus and velociraptors with spears, swords, all kinds of primitive weapons. The modern rifles we have today would make short work out of eliminating any threat on those islands.

    oh and speaking of violated physics, what about the time Jesus walked on water, walked THROUGH a stone wall, raised the dead to life again, killed a fig tree by speaking to it, and the other numerous things He did?

  6. #6 G.
    May 9, 2013

    What to do with Ray Kurzweil, and I’m dead serious about this.

    Start off with, “Ray, when did you start believing in reincarnation?”

    This will make him do a double-take, and no doubt he’ll deny believing in reincarnation and ask what you mean. Then you come back with this:

    “Uploading. The idea of uploading a mind from a biological brain to any type of computer platform necessarily requires, as a precondition, that minds can exist separately from brains. So in effect, taking a mind out of a brain and putting it into any other entity is a form of reincarnation, even if the entity is a computer rather than another person or animal.”

    Then he’ll go on to the “gradualist” arguement: replace the brain one neuron at a time with silicon neurons. There are two possible comebacks to this:

    One: “At the beginning it might feel like enhancement, but after a while it’ll feel like Alzheimer’s. And then you die, and either you have an afterlife or you cease to exist. And that’s all.”

    Two: “If you replace one neuron per second with and there are 100 billion neurons in the brain (conservatively), you’re long since dead & recycled before you can replace even a tiny fraction of it.”

    The way I usually close those arguements, which is optional;-), is with something like this: “I’m not buying it. But if you can get a mind to exist outside of a biological brain, then what you have there is a soul, and at that point your soul is as free as a bird, so why tie it down to a silicon prosthesis?”

    Also of note: he’s been hired as a biggie over at Google. So if he starts proselytizing for Google Glass, tell him: No Thanks, you already get all the surveillance you want, for your taxpayer’s dollars, and the idea of turning the public into a herd of walking telescreens is just gross.

    If you do any of this with Kurzweil, I’d love to read the results here.

  7. #7 Buck Field
    Coyhaique, CHILE
    May 9, 2013

    Love the preview! Reminds me of “StructuredDream Star Trek by the Minute” dissection of Abram’s reboot.

    @G. (#6) – About the Google Glass, don’t worry, they’ll find a way to eliminate that pesky walking around, so we can happily plug into our borg alcoves and have perceptions of anything we want matrixed into our brains. Plumbing will take care of the organic needs.

  8. #8 Kzzz
    May 9, 2013

    Dear PZ, I wonder have you seen SF film “The man from Earth”. If not, you should – most probably you will enjoy this one a lot ;)

    Cheers,
    K

  9. #9 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    May 10, 2013
    There are a lot of science parallels to this film

    :-D Somehow I think that’s actually a good way to put it!

    Besides knights used to take down triceratops and stegasaurus and velociraptors

    …Dude, even if you’ve somehow decided that you can compress seventy million years (or more than twice that, a hundred and fifty million, in the case of Stegosaurus) into a few hundred years, the knights are still on the wrong continent to ever encounter any of those. Triceratops and Stegosaurus are from western North America, Velociraptor from eastern Asia.

    and the other numerous things He did

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. Evidence, please.

    So in effect, taking a mind out of a brain and putting it into any other entity is a form of reincarnation, even if the entity is a computer rather than another person or animal.

    So?

    Do you seriously believe you can convince Kurzweil that his “uploading” won’t happen because it might be classified as reincarnation???

    It won’t happen because it doesn’t fit how brains work.

    it’ll feel like Alzheimer’s

    Alzheimer’s doesn’t feel like anything. You not only forget, you forget that you ever knew, so you don’t notice you’re forgetting.

  10. #10 larry
    Canada
    May 10, 2013

    | Alzheimer’s doesn’t feel like anything. You not only forget,
    | you forget that you ever knew, so you don’t notice you’re
    | forgetting.

    Sorry – talk to someone living with a person showing progressive dementia; only in the final stage, does the sufferer lose awareness of loss. It’s part of the essential cruelty of the condition.

  11. #11 GregH
    Canada
    May 10, 2013

    “Shyamalan is a hack. Why do people keep handing him big money and big projects?”

    There’s a question that science could help us answer! I think it would be money well spent, as it would tell us quite a bit about the modern human world. Well, at least in N. America.

  12. #12 lynn
    May 10, 2013

    You have to see the bit by comedian (and former physicist) Dara O’Briain about the movie 2012, where he rips apart the scientists’ explanation for why the world is falling apart — “The neutrinos have mutated!”

  13. #13 Science man supreme
    May 11, 2013

    @ david

    no such thing as 70 million years ago. The earth is less than 10,000 years old. When marco Polo visited China he witnessed enormous animals with three horns on their heads pulling large wagons. Not sure what animal besides a triceratops is larger than an elephant with three horns on its head.

    Ever hear of DRAGONS? the word dinosaur had not yet been invented when hunters were killing “dragons” for sport and country. Pterasaurs were seen as late as the civil war era by native americans and soldiers alike.

    Just becuase your little biology book teaches evolution and “millions of years” only means there are some very senile characters writing textbooks these days, not to mention some very anti-God forces at work there.

    Hate to burst your bubble dave, but evolution is a crock and a scam dreamed up by some hairy old God hater to feed his own delusions of how he wanted things to work. Nothing less. Global warming is another fraud that you probably believe in. a worldwide ponzi scheme.

  14. #14 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    May 11, 2013

    no such thing as 70 million years ago.

    Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective

    The earth is less than 10,000 years old.

    You wish. Even if you somehow decide to ignore radiometric dating altogether, the fact remains that snow falls on the ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica and forms distinct summer and winter layers. Drill into the ice and count the layers. In Greenland, the bottom lies at 250,000 year layers. In Antarctica, you can drill down 800,000 year layers and still not reach the bottom.

    When marco Polo visited China he witnessed enormous animals with three horns on their heads pulling large wagons.

    Show me.

    Ever hear of DRAGONS?

    Yeah. They’re fictitious, have contradictory and impossible properties. Ever heard of elfs and fairies? Hint: they’re fictitious, too!

    Now, many dragon tales may well be based on fossil bones. The griffins may be based on Protoceratops skeletons found in Mongolia – and indeed, nobody has ever claimed to have seen a live griffin…

    hunters were killing “dragons” for sport and country

    Tell me, why is that exclusively “reported” in legends and never in more sober documents? Why aren’t there any names of historically traceable figures in them? Why aren’t there any bones, let alone bones with sword or spear wounds? I could go on!

    Pter[o]saurs were seen as late as the civil war era by native americans and soldiers alike.

    Show me.

    your little biology book teaches

    I’m the kind of person who writes the books. See my location? That’s the natural-history museum of Berlin, Germany.

    very senile

    I’m 30 years old… :-)

    some very anti-God forces at work there

    Have you no idea how ridiculous you sound?

    For those who believe there is a god, being “anti-God” is a ridiculous idea. “Yo! Watch me fight against the Almighty!” …yeah, right.

    For those who think all gods are fictitious, being “anti-God” is a ridiculous idea, too! “Yo! Watch me, I’m against Superman!” Sort of useless when Superman doesn’t exist in the first place, don’t you think.

    evolution is

    Wait a minute. There’s evolution, and there’s the theory of evolution.

    Evolution is an observed fact. I’ve seen it happen with my own two eyes, overnight, in a petri dish, and so has everybody else who ever took that compulsory course for first-year students of molecular biology. Want details?

    The theory of evolution by mutation, selection and drift explains this fact. It explains how evolution works and how it doesn’t work. It wasn’t thought up by a single person, but by a long list of people, and it’s being refined from decade to decade (the refinements get smaller and smaller as only details are left to fill in anymore).

    Global warming is another fraud that you probably believe in. a worldwide ponzi scheme.

    The age of the Earth, evolution, the existence of gods, global warming… how many more times do you want to change the topic in a single comment???

    But, yeah: global warming is an observed fact, too. The years 2010 and 2012 are the warmest on record, and 2013 is off to a warm start as well.

    a worldwide ponzi scheme.

    LOL. Where’s the money in this? Now please do me a favor and expose your complete ignorance of science funding. :-)

    You have a lot to learn, young padawan.

  15. #15 A. Noyd
    May 11, 2013

    @Science man supreme
    Do you believe it’s possible that you’re wrong about any of the things you’ve said?

  16. #16 A. Noyd
    May 11, 2013

    David Marjanović (#14)

    For those who believe there is a god, being “anti-God” is a ridiculous idea. “Yo! Watch me fight against the Almighty!” …yeah, right.

    I think you mean it’s an awesome idea. If I believed there is a god, that would be my mission in life (and death!)—freeing humanity from the evil mega-tyrant. It would be futile, to be sure, but necessary and moral. I don’t understand why theists, especially those from the more martyr-rific religions, aren’t excited to become eternal warriors against god.

  17. #17 Ethelred the Unready
    May 11, 2013

    Why do goddists think atheists are “anti-god”? That’s like being anti-Sauron or anti-Valdemort or anti-any other fictitious villain. I’m no more anti-god than I’m anti-Snidely Whiplash and for exactly the same reason.

  18. #18 lewis
    May 11, 2013

    Well it must be the libbys in hollywood who would make a movie about the envirnment they would believe al gore when he says we need to save the wales, or the rainforest or the clams or whatever. Its obvious to those of us who arent so openminded our brains dont fall out that gods in control…

    Ethlrreed. your anti-god because you hate god, the evidence for god is all around you, you only have to LOOK and youll see, but you deny anyway to bring down civilization and make us all antigod like you atheists working with the antichrist.

  19. #19 Pencils
    May 12, 2013

    #18–Save the Wales–wait, are Charles and Camilla in trouble?

    And, yes, I do see the wonder of nature and the universe all around me, but it doesn’t in any way force me to believe in a Christian god. I don’t understand how you get from point A to point B in that instance. I’m a historian, not a scientist, but I do understand how “civilization” began long before the Christian religion, long before the Jewish religion, in fact, and how it has thrived in many areas of the world where Christianity has never gained much of a foothold. Therefore, how exactly does denying the existence of the Christian god bring down civilization? Maybe I can get Sam and Dean Winchester to help me bring down civilization…

  20. #20 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    May 12, 2013

    elfs

    Uh, elves. Sorry. *facepalm*

    It would be futile, to be sure, but necessary and moral.

    I don’t see much of a point in dying uselessly, however heroically. Cursing Moby Dick just before drowning is ridiculous.

    theists, especially those from the more martyr-rific religions

    The whole point of that kind of religion is that the martyrs are richly rewarded in the afterlife. To find people who want to sacrifice their afterlife, you have to turn elsewhere. The closest thing is a bodhisattva (somebody who has reached Buddhist enlightenment and could therefore go into nirvana, but refuses to do so until all living beings are enlightened).

    Therefore, how exactly does denying the existence of the Christian god bring down civilization?

    I live in quite a godless place. The East Germans are the most godless people in the world, with 50 % declaring themselves atheists in polls (and much of the rest is “don’t know/don’t care”); that number has been increasing since the end of communism.

    Well, there’s plenty of civilization around me, thankyouverymuch. You don’t seem to know what you’re talking about.

    Now, lewis, you said there’s evidence. Show me some. I’m all virtual ears.

  21. #21 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    May 12, 2013

    You don’t seem to know what you’re talking about.

    Uh, sorry, addressing lewis here.

    But speaking of the beginnings of civilization (however defined), Göbekli Tepe is about a thousand years older than the universe according to Science man supreme.

  22. #22 David Marjanović
    May 12, 2013

    …and the city wall of Jericho was already 300 to 600 years old at the time of the oldest date from Göbekli Tepe! It’s 1400 years older than the universe!!!

    Why do people laugh at creationists?
    Only creationists don’t understand why!

  23. #23 Ethelred the Unready
    May 12, 2013

    lewis,

    I don’t hate gods. Just because I don’t share your belief in gods doesn’t mean I hate them or even you. I think you’re deluded but that’s no reason to hate you.

    One of the strongest arguments I have for the non-existence of gods is the vast number of different gods there are. If the evidence for the existence of gods was so great, then everyone would believe in the same god or gods. For that matter, if the evidence for the Christian gods was there, then there would be only one Christian church instead of several thousand different sects believing contradictory things about what’s supposedly the same gods.

  24. #24 A. Noyd
    May 12, 2013

    David Marjanović (#20)

    I don’t see much of a point in dying uselessly, however heroically.

    But, by their mythology, death isn’t an end to anything. If we faced appeasing a tyrant for eternity, mortal calculations of self interest would have to change.

    The whole point of that kind of religion is that the martyrs are richly rewarded in the afterlife.

    Well, I think you’re right in that that’s what really motivates martyrs, but don’t they like to pretend they’re not thinking of the reward? That the reward comes from doing the “right thing” no matter the cost to themselves?

  25. #25 Kris
    Decatur, GA
    May 12, 2013

    “Science parallels” This phrase makes me cringe. All I can think of are all the “Science Parallels” in “What the Bleep do we know” Watch out, Ramtha’s coming to get you.

    But PZ why the ire for Kurzweil? What’s your beef with him?

  26. #27 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    May 13, 2013

    But, by their mythology, death isn’t an end to anything.

    Indeed: if an almighty being decides you’re going to hell, guess where you go. :-)

    There have been martyrs for secular ideologies (or at least ideologies that don’t believe in an afterlife). But, AFAIK, they all thought they were actually accomplishing something.

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