Astronomer Andy Howell on the Science of Science Fiction Image

Readers of Film Threat may know me from my regular movie reviews — I tend to cover festivals.  But I’m also a professional astronomer, and where I can, I love to bring the two worlds together.  Sometimes I act as a scientific consultant on books, comics, TV shows, and movies.  Sometimes I write articles taking a deeper dive into the science in movies, as I did for Black Panther or Ad Astra.  And I have a video series called Science Vs. Cinema, where I often interview both scientists and filmmakers about what went both right and wrong in portraying science accurately in movies and TV.  So I was thrilled when Vanity Fair came to me to ask me to be a part of their series where they talk to experts and filmmakers about specific movies.  For example, they asked Astronaut Chris Hadfield about space movies.  Or they had Rian Johnson breaking down a scene from Knives Out.  This is terrific company to be in, so it was a real honor to participate.  

Since I have a foot in each of the movie and scientific worlds, my approach isn’t just what most people assume — that scientific accuracy has to trump all else.  Good storytelling is the most important thing in a movie, but getting the science right can almost always help with that.  The universe is full of more wondrous things than most people know, and scientists can help filmmakers bring that to a wider audience.

Anyway the Vanity Fair producers asked me about scenes from Armageddon, Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, ET, Black Panther, Hidden Figures, Avatar, Interstellar, The Martian, and Rogue One. Some of those I love, some I hate, and some are real missed opportunities.  I hope you enjoy it!

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