So yeah! I saw the first showing yesterday, I was so excited. And yes, it’s a five star movie. I’d read the book and I remember being more than occasionally baffled by the science, TBH, being a Humanities guy myself.
But the way they handled it in the script, I mean, perfecto: they didn’t dumb anything down, and yet, I understood what was going on at all times. They didn’t convert meters to feet for an American audience, and as long as you know a meter’s three feet or so, and a kilometer’s half a mile or so, well…in the vast depths of space, close enough.
It was really a master class for me, when I think about my WIP. How to balance technical accuracy with comprehensibility. For instance, they had a dude place people around a room as if they were planets, and use a stapler and a pen to represent ship and rocket, to visualize a solution to a problem. They didn’t get deep into the math of how a slingshot effect works or anything like that. They didn’t need to.
Popularizing science is a toughie. You don’t want that Michael Crichton “Gee, Mr. Wizard, how does that work exactly?” scene, with The Professor/Expert explaining to a table full of students/bureaucrats How It Works. That scene that stops the action dead in its tracks. This movie handled it perfectly.
Recently, Aaron Sorkin talked about writing movies about Facebook or Steve Jobs, and he said that sometimes he’s writing things into his scripts that experts tell him is correct, that he doesn’t understand himself. But, I think he doth protest too much – you may not understand the coding that “Mark” is doing in The Social Network, but you know what’s going on. You know what he’s up to when he hacks the face book databases around campus, even if you’re not clear exactly how…which is fine. Because you don’t need to know exactly how. You just have to know that someone who wrote this knows, and that they’re not snowing you.
And Sorkin knows, I’d say intuitively, just how much of the content that the experts give him needs to go into the script. It makes me feel better about the crypto/Bitcoin stuff in my book – my experts are, of course, The Whole Interweb, not a paid consultant, but…I think I can figure it out 🙂