Greetings Manic Fans. Les here to call several films to task for insulting our intelligence with objects and devices that are completely impossible. They can be physically impossible to do what they do, or they can be technologically impossible for the era the film depicts.

 

Warning:  Spoilers and really stupid things ahead…

 

#12. Doctor Zarkov’s rocketship(Flash Gordon)

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This is low on the list for a simple reason…Flash Gordon is a fantasy-heavy science fiction film and you’re not meant to question the practical physics of anything they have on the screen…..Vultan’s kingdom hovers in the clouds on rocketjets…..Klytus’ machine can drain a brain of all its memories and then reprogram the subject to be a secret agent….the royal doctor has a potion to bring a victim of poison gas execution back from the dead…you accept all of this because of the context(Kingdom of Mongo where shit like this is normal LOL!).

Doctor Zarkov’s(Topol) rocketship, on the other hand, was conceived, built and fired from Earth…..and it’s definitely NOT NASA tech. Now a private entrepreneur is capable of building a spacecraft to attain orbit today. Back in 1980, not a chance. Additionally, the first stage launch vehicle wasn’t large enough to contain sufficient rocket fuel to put that capsule into orbit at a great enough distance to allow the main unit to power out of orbit into outer space. By a rough estimate, the 1st stage was about 20 feet tall. The only rocket ever made that could put a manned spaceship out of orbit into outer space(and return, that is…) was the Saturn V rocket.

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It had 3…count ‘em 3 launching stage rockets and was over 360 feet tall. As built, Doctor Zarkov’s rocketship couldn’t have worked as it did.

 

#11. The convertible car who’s soft top works as a parachute(Pee Wee’s Big Adventure)

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Yeah, this one’s low on the list too for a simple reason….you’re not really supposed to take this film very seriously, so it’s a lesser transgression against reality. Basically, Pee Wee(Paul Reubens) is driving and the car goes off a cliff. He spends several moments screaming with his escaped convict companion and then the soft top springs open, and the car gently glides down to land without killing the two of them. You buy it because the film is just so silly….but it wouldn’t work in reality.

 

#10. The Wright Flyer(Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian)

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Now, hear me out….The Wright Flyer IS a real airplane(The first one to fly)…what makes it impossible in this film is the way it flies. They have it doing extreme banks and trick maneuvers through the inside of the museum, and there’s no way in Hell the REAL Wright Flyer could’ve done those moves in the real world…..As a matter of fact, I can’t think of a single airplane of any era that could’ve pulled off those moves(the only flying vehicles that may have done it are a helicopter, or the Harrier Jet…but definitely NOT an airplane).   It requires extreme suspension of disbelief through those scenes.

 

#9. Stuart Little’s model biplane(Stuart Little 2)

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This one has the same problems that the Wright Flyer did. Stuart(Michael J Fox) uses it to do complex maneuvers inside a house! There’s no possible way this could work in the real world. and speakin of which….

 

#8. The Little’s kitchen sink drain(Stuart Little 2)

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It’s a good scene of suspense, really…Stuart rides a hook on a piece of twine down the kitchen sink drain to try and recover Mrs. Little’s(Geena Davis) diamond ring. The pipe goes straight down…and keeps going straight down…and in a scene of peril, the twine breaks and it looks like poor Stewart is going to end up in the city sewer. There’s just one problem: Kitchen sink drains aren’t built that way(I was an apprentice plumber for 6 years. Trust me on this…). A drain like that goes down about 10 inches and then joins what’s called a P-Trap(A “J” shaped pipe that traps water to prevent the smell of the sewer from invading the sink).

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In the real world, all they had to do was disassemble the P-Trap, and they’d have recovered the ring without Stuart needing to go down the pipe in the first place….at the very least, he’d have stopped at the P-Trap without ever being in any real danger.

 

#7. Artemus Gordon’s flying machine(The WIld, Wild West)

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Ok, you’ll see this film cited often in this blog….At the start of the film, Artemus(Kevin Kline) demonstrates a souped-up victorian bicycle with a rocket engine to propel it at really fast speed. It’s a tube with an exhaust about 5 feet long. In the final battle, they adapt it with glider wings to become a fighter plane(Using the analogy of the wasp vs. the tarantula seen earlier in the film…). Now the concept is sound. Using a propellant to accelerate the contraption to takeoff speed works…except the rocket couldn’t have enough fuel to fly it for as long as they kept it in the air during the fight. It would’ve run out of oomph and been forced to land long before it did.

 

#6. The 80 foot steam-powered mechanical tarantula(The Wild, Wild West)

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OMG! Where do I begin? Firstly, steam power is great for engines(Ship, Train, really old tramcars…) but it has it’s limits, and no amount of steam could’ve generated enough power to move 40 foot iron tarantula legs to lift, let alone move, several hundred tons of iron tarantula body for that length of time. Secondly, even using modern power(electric/nuclear) This couldn’t be successfully built TODAY, let alone beck in the wild west(OK…maybe this could be done today with hydraulic limbs…but that technology was invented in the 1940’s). Lastly, this vehicle was equipped with a weapon that shot explosive fireballs capable of being fired rapidly in succession(This one possibly could’ve been done like a gatling gun, except with cannonballs, but for the time period of the film, it was pretty far-fetched….then again, if you can buy a film based in the 19th Century America that had a black secret service agent, I guess you’ll buy anything….).

 

#5. Doctor Loveless’s steam-powered walker/wheelchair(The Wild, Wild West)

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The original Doctor Loveless in the TV show was a dwarf. In the film, they made him half a man(the top half) stuck in a mechanical device like a steam powered wheelchair. Ok, I can suspend my disbelief long enough to accept that a man cut off at the hip level could be fitted to mechanical device that he drives(powered by steam…which begs the question…who’s shoveling coal into the furnace?..but I digress…)…but at the end of the film, his platform lifts off the wheelchair on 4 iron walker legs and he fights with them!…at superhuman speed!…Robotic prosthetics cannot move at that speed even today. There’s no possible way this could’ve been done in the 19th Century.

 

#4. Doctor Loveless’s magnetic flying beheading buzzsaw discs

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Theoretically, the doctor would put these highly magnetic metallic neck collars on his victims, the machine would wind up these large buzzsaws and send them spinning through the air to then be attracted to the collars where they’d behead the wearer. In a long drawn out scene, Artemus(Kevin Kline) and James West(Will Smith) have the collars on and are running for their lives chased by the discs. Several problems here… There’s no possible way those collars could generate that strong a magnetic field. A super electromagnet requires huge amounts of power to operate sufficiently to pick up a car. Those collars would’ve required hooking the equivalent of 24 car batteries to them to have a chance to generate enough magnetism to attract the discs. And if they did, the discs would’ve traveled about twice as fast as they did. They never would’ve been able to get more than 3 steps before getting killed. The other problem with the magnetic collars is if they generated the same magnetic fields, they couldn’t attract one another. For magnets to attract, one has to be the positive ion and the other has to be the negative ion….basic physics, my friends. They two of them spend some hilarity trying to get unstuck from each other…this was absolutely impossible.

 

#3. Data’s false teeth on a thin spring attached to his wrist(The Goonies)

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Ke Huy Quan played this boy who built gadgets that were attached to his body for all kinds of purposes. I could easily have made the whole list on his gadgets, but that would’ve been too easy. However, in the middle of the film, he falls through a trap door and is about to get impaled on spikes when he activates the most ludicrous gadget he’s got. A set of false teeth on a long thin spring shoot out of his wrist and grab onto a rock outcropping and halts his fall just short of death. Firstly, a set of plastic teeth aren’t strong enough to hold up a 60 pound boy, let alone one who’s close to maximum falling velocity. Secondly, the spring wasn’t strong enough to hold up 60 pounds, let alone that weight close to maximum falling velocity. Lastly, even IF they could, the force of the fall halting that suddenly would’ve dislocated his shoulder. There’s no possible way this gadget actually works…even if it did in the film.

 

#2. The TurboMan Rocketpack(Jingle all the way)

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OMG…..not even Arnold Schwartzenegger can convince me this thing was real…At least in Disney’s “The Rocketeer,” there was sufficient backstory and engineering behind the Hughes Cyrus III Rocket Pack to make it credible. This one is a film prop for a film superhero to sell dolls…oh, it’s also a real rocket pack and he flies it for several minutes in the film.

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And the most impossible gadget in a film is….

 

#1. “Weebo,” the floating sentient robot assistant(Flubber)

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Disney really threw reality out the window with this one. My theory is the scriptwriter got stoned while watching “The Black Hole” and thought VINcent was a real thing

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and came up with “Weebo .” She can float without visible signs of propulsion(No propellers, thrusters, etc….)-just a low hum hover. She has sentience and a personality. For a computer to have enough calculating power to achieve this would require greater space for the CPU/Harddrive than her body encompassed. Sure, special effects made it work, but we’re easily 100 years away from being able to pull technology like this off.

 

And that’s my list of top 12 most impossible gadgets in films. Did I miss any of yours? I’d love to hear what film device had you going “NO F#$%NG WAY!!!,” my friends. Peace.

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