Friday, May 02, 2008

What is a better science movie: Gattaca or Jurassic Park?

At Seed magazine's Page 3.14 Blog Virginia Hughes has put up a poll up that asks "what is the best science movie?".
About a week ago, ScienceBlogger Randy Olson (documentary filmmaker of "Flock of Dodos" fame) left a comment on Shifting Baselines suggesting that the best way to combat anti-science propaganda like "Expelled" is with a pro-science film festival.
[. . .]
The issue got us thinking about the best (most accurate, highest impact, most compelling) pro-science movies. A quick survey around the Seed offices got us down to a short list of four.
What's a little surprising that three of the four choices - Gattaca, Jurassic Park and Contact - are science fiction. That puts the fourth choice, Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, in an odd position, since it's the only movie on the list that is actually meant to be about science rather than story.

I also think that Jurassic Park - and to a lesser extent Gattaca - are terrible choices since I wouldn't consider either of them to be particularly "pro science". In Jurassic Park the scientists recreated the dinosaurs without thinking through the possibly deadly outcomes of their project. Gattaca is focused on the potential social consequences of human genetic engineering. Neither movie would make me think "science and scientists are a good thing." On the other hand, I think the portrayal of Jody Foster's scientist character in Contact is mostly positive, so that was my vote.

I was trying to think of other movies that would be good additions to the list, and I'm having trouble. Scientists are so often portrayed as arrogant and streetdumb (the opposite of streetwise), and when science is the focus of the movie - particularly bioscience - it's often portrayed as dangerous.

So, readers, do you have any suggestions for movies that portray biologists and bioscience (including genetic engineering, cloning, and biotechnology) both positively and accurately?

You can add your vote to the poll at Page 3.14 blog.

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1 comment:

RFord said...

If you want another bad movie, how about the film version of Cannery Row? Why would a marine biologist live near the ocean? Because he's an former baseball player hiding from his past, of course.