Monday, July 22, 2013

Science! Week: There's No Superscience In Marvel Movies (And That's A Good Thing)

Okay, so maybe "no" superscience is overselling it a bit.  You do have the engineering feats of the Stark family, and the biochemistry of Bruce Banner and Dr. Erskine.  There's even the dimensional science from Thor, based on Asgardian tech and investigated by Dr. Selvig.  But there isn't a Reed Richards- or Hank Pym-style polymath to be found anywhere.  And that's a good thing.

There are some minor spoilers for Iron Man 3 and what's been revealed about the second Avengers movie below.

Now, I say this as someone who is a huge, huge fan of superscience in comic books.  I love Stark and Pym and Richards and Luthor and all of the other guys that spend their morning designing a robot, their afternoon poking a wormhole, and ignore their dinner in favor of trying to make a shrink ray.  That stuff is great - in comic books.
If you don't like this, I'm not sure we can be friends
In the slightly more realistic world that the Marvel cinematic universe seems to be trying to create, that stuff needs to be reined in a tad.  It's already a stretch for the typical audience that Tony Stark has created an armored suit that flies faster than a jet, can achieve near earth orbit, trade shots with a tank, and be swapped out in seconds for another.  If you then ask them to accept that he's an expert in gamma radiation (which the Avengers smartly did not do), you're starting to strain credibility even more.

That's why I don't have the slightest problem with Hank Pym not showing up in Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, and why I'm fine with Stark creating Ultron.  It's already been established that Stark has made an AI, and that he could easily engineer a humanoid robot.  He's exactly the kind of egomaniac who would pattern an AI on himself.  And it's a reasonable stretch for the audience to take the character as he's previously been presented and add this one thing.
Oh no, no creepy robot marriage
I'm not saying we can't ever have crazy science later on.  Bring on the Pym particles and the Wakandan vibranium-based tech.  If Reed Richards wasn't tied up with Sony, I'd say bring him in as a dimensional and/or FTL specialist. It's even fine for the scientists to be able to explain to each other "this is how it works," and have the others understand and even maybe able to add an additional piece of the puzzle when working together, as when Stark helps develop Extremis tech in Iron Man 3, or Stark and Banner collaborating in Avengers.  But by giving them their specialties and having them principally operate within those specialties, it removes a point of stress on the suspension of disbelief for the audience that hasn't grown up on crazy comic book superscience. Beyond that, it helps build a better story by giving insight into the characters, what their specialized interests are, and why they behave the way they do; with the limits of a two hour movie, that kind of compact characterization is golden.
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