Neil deGrasse Tyson has taken a look at three of Summer 2017’s biggest films and broken down their questionable science. It’s not exactly a secret that Hollywood filmmakers sometimes play fast-and-loose with the laws of physics in big-budget popcorn films. Now that we’ve hit the summer movie season, the cinematic action will only be getting bigger and more spectacular – and more out-of-tune with what is actually possible in the more limited real world.
Thankfully, when Hollywood begins taking too many liberties with the facts of reality, we have scientist and TV personality Neil deGrasse Tyson to step in and act as a referee. Tyson may be a movie fan, but he’s also a guy who holds the movie industry to account when they stretch credulity beyond the breaking point. For instance, when James Cameron got the constellations wrong in Titanic, Tyson was there to set the filmmaker straight; Cameron was so chastened by the criticism that when Titanic came out on Blu-Ray he made sure to rectify the film’s cosmic inconsistencies.
In a new clip posted on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, the ever-vigilant Tyson takes on a trio of movies hitting theaters this summer: Alien: Covenant, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Baywatch. Not surprisingly, Tyson finds plenty to take issue with in the two sci-fi titles. Somewhat surprisingly, he actually doesn’t have that big an issue with arguably the most ridiculous of the three movies, the one about sexy lifeguards running up the beach in slow-motion.
First Tyson goes after Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant, a film that depicts a small group of potential planetary colonists venturing into the far reaches of space in search of a new home. You might think Tyson would have something to say about the Engineers and their mysterious black goo, but instead he goes after the movie’s general premise, arguing that in real-life no mission would ever send humans to a new planet without first dispatching robots to check the place out.
Next up, Tyson turns his probing scientific eye on a movie based on a comic book that isn’t even trying to be remotely true-to-life, the blockbuster action-adventure sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Tyson’s objection to the movie is a pretty common one from science people: you can hear explosions in the movie’s space battles, and that’s not realistic because space is a vacuum and therefore sound can’t travel. However, Tyson does concede that since the rest of the movie features utterly silly things like talking trees and sassy raccoons, it’s probably okay if the rest of the science isn’t entirely on-point.
Lastly, Tyson tackles the action-comedy film Baywatch. The specific scene he addresses is one featured in the trailer where Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron engage in a test-of-strength where they race each other up the beach while carrying refrigerators. Though this scene might look silly and impossible, Tyson argues that an empty fridge isn’t really that heavy and says that given Johnson’s demonstrated strength, it’s not at all a stretch to think he could lug a pair of refrigerators in such a fashion. On the question of whether Johnson’s co-star Zac Efron could conceivably perform such a feat, Tyson remains silent.