Famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is not your typical movie critic — but when he offers up his opinions on what Hollywood blockbusters get right and wrong about space, physics, and even mythical weaponry, his 1.4 million Twitter followers tend to listen. Earlier this week, he launched an extended Twitter attack on Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity for its various inaccuracies. (He has since taken to Facebook to praise other aspects of the film, including "the thinness of Earth's atmosphere relative to Earth's size" and "the transition from silence to sound between an unpressurized and a pressurized airlock.") Here, read Tyson's compliments and complaints about eight Hollywood films:
The film #Gravity should be renamed "Zero Gravity"— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 6, 2013
The film #Gravity should be renamed "Angular Momentum"— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 6, 2013
DeGrasse went on to unleash a litany of complaints under the banner "Mysteries Of #Gravity":
Mysteries of #Gravity: How Hubble (350mi up) ISS (230mi up) & a Chinese Space Station are all in sight lines of one another.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 6, 2013
Mysteries of #Gravity: When Clooney releases Bullock's tether, he drifts away. In zero-G a single tug brings them together.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 6, 2013
Mysteries of #Gravity: Nearly all satellites orbit Earth west to east yet all satellite debris portrayed orbited east to west— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 6, 2013
Mysteries of #Gravity: Why Bullock's hair, in otherwise convincing zero-G scenes, did not float freely on her head.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 6, 2013
Decide if his complaints affect your enjoyment by watching this clip from the film:
James Cameron didn't intend to make any changes to Titanic for its 3D re-release in 2012, which fell on the 100th anniversary of the ship's sinking — but he made one other small adjustment on the advice of Tyson. "Neil deGrasse Tyson sent me quite a snarky email saying that, at that time of year, in that position in the Atlantic in 1912, when Rose (Kate Winslet) is lying on the piece of driftwood and staring up at the stars, that is not the star field she would have seen," said Cameron in an interview with Discovery. "And with my reputation as a perfectionist, I should have known that and I should have put the right star field in. So I said 'All right, send me the right stars for that exact time and I'll put it in the movie.'"
Prior to his snarky letter, Tyson had publicly (and bitingly) pointed out the discrepancy at a 2009 panel hosted by St. Petersburg College in Florida: "There she is looking up. There is only one sky she should have been looking at … and it was the wrong sky! Worse than that, it was not only the wrong sky; the left-half of the sky was a mirror reflection of the right-half of the sky! It was not only wrong, it was lazy! And I'm thinking, this is wrong." Judge the scene for yourself:
3. The Amazing Spider-Man
Director Marc Webb's reboot of the Spider-Man franchise hit theaters last year, and Tyson was among the impressed — but not necessarily because he likes Andrew Garfield more than Tobey Maguire.
Saw Spider-Man. The starless night skies were accurate. Not much is visible from NYC's light-polluted steel & glass canyons.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) July 3, 2012
Watch the scene for yourself:
Tyson answered an age-old question hotly debated by fans: How much does Thor's hammer weigh, anyway?
If Thor's hammer is made of neutron-star matter, implied by legend, then it weighs as much as a herd of 300-billion elephants— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) February 5, 2013
He also approved of Hollywood's explanation that the hammer, called Mjölnir, was forged in the core of a dying star: "A dying star, if it's of a certain variety, it could be made of neutron matter. And if it is, it is really dense and really heavy," said Tyson in an interview with NPR, adding, "You need the power of Thor to wield it." Even the Hulk struggles with it:
5. Star Trek and Star Wars
Tyson bravely risked causing a schism among his fan base when he revealed that he believes the Star Trek franchise is superior to the Star Wars franchise. "I never got into Star Wars," said Tyson in an interview with Business Insider. "Maybe because they made no attempt to portray real physics. At all. I like the double star sunset scene [on Tatooine]. Most stars you see in the night sky are double and triple stars, so that's a very common thing we would expect in the universe. But, yeah... [holds up Vulcan hand sign]." Check out that gorgeous Tatooine sunset for yourself:
In June 2012, Tyson came back from a midnight showing of Prometheus — Ridley Scott's prequel to Alien — with some complaints.
Prometheus goes 35 light yrs into space, but CharlizeTheron gaffes "We're a half billion miles from Earth"- just past Jupiter— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) June 8, 2012
Tyson later elaborated on some other problems with the movie in an interview with NPR: "The unrealistic part of it is that it's a humanoid alien planting DNA seeds to seed all of life on Earth. And most life on Earth is not humanoid. In fact, most life on Earth is plant and bacterial. So if they were to represent that accurately, it would be some kind of bacterium dropping its DNA into the oceans of Earth." This is the humanoid alien that drew Tyson's ire:
Few people go to Michael Bay movies expecting realism — but that didn't stop Tyson from slamming 1998's Armageddon earlier this year.
Of course in the 1998 film Armageddon, the asteroid chunks had awesome aim, hitting **all** the great cities of the world.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) February 15, 2013
In the film Armageddon, a takeaway line was "No More Taxes!" But taxes are what funded the NASA mission that saved the world— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) February 15, 2013
Watch the asteroid chunks hit New York City:
8. Pitch Perfect
And it's not just blockbusters that draw Tyson's trained eye. Earlier this year, he gave a solid score for the not-even-remotely-science-related comedy Pitch Perfect.
Not that anybody asked, but the film "PitchPerfect" gets a B+ in night sky renditions, w/ a nice shot of Orion on the horizon— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) January 6, 2013
Here's the famous nighttime "riff-off":
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