With the computer market exploding into success the last 20 years more and more movies are featuring people using computers. Being a computer geek myself, I expect a level of “technological reality” for the movies that are not in the realm of “sci-fi”, but directors usually are feeding their movies with superficial scenes about computers just for the happy clapping from the computer-illiterate audience.One of the worst movies I have seen lacking this technological reality, is “Hackers”, with Angelina Jolie, a teen movie from 1995. In the movie, a virus is to attack, and the director is feeding us with a cheaply-rendered city with a virus traveling through it.
On other movies, like “The Net” of 1995 with Sandra Bullock, the main character is able to hack and login into secure systems in a matter of moments without extra tools.
In movies like “You’ve got Mail” with Tom Hanks or “Office Space” we see a desktop made of many different… OSes. For example, you get a MacOS bar, but all widgets of the main app could be Windows-like (like the progress bar and window the main character of “Office Space” gets when copies a floppy disk). “Jurassic Park” also features a terrible UI in its computer scene, despite the rest of the rendering work in the movie being outstanding for the early ’90s mark.
In the action movie “Swordfish” with John Travolta and Halle Berry, we also see Hugh Jackman (‘Wolverine’ in X-Men) login into a secure system “just like that”, while when he gets his multi-monitor computer to hack on, we see cool-looking interfaces that don’t exist today.
Please note that most of the user interfaces seen on movies are nothing but Macromedia Director movies with limited user (actor) interaction. Most of the recent Star Trek series and movies are running Mac OS and Director too.
There are of course interfaces that are “acceptable” because they either do make sense(!) or because the movie in question falls under the sci-fi/fantasy category in which case anything is possible and acceptable.
My favorite computer scene can be seen in 2003’s “Matrix Reloaded”: just after Morpheus’ ship enters Zion. People in white, in a big white room are using a finger-draggable system to manipulate objects in their transparent screens. Similar to this idea is what Tom Cruise is using in 2002’s “Minority Report”. His interface is a bit more loaded with video than the plainer Matrix scene, but works equally well. Microsoft has already a prototype of a similar technology in its labs, as it was unveiled a few months ago.
Another good point of “Matrix Reloaded” was when Trinity gets into the electricity building and uses the computer, the screen is a simple Unix terminal. The fact that the directors could distinguish the difference between the Matrix future world and “our world” and offer two different interfaces, but still appropriate to each timeline, is to their credit.
One of my favorite interfaces on movies is Star Trek’s LCARS. It was designed in 1986 and the fact that it was designed for a TV series (as opposed to high-cost movies) made it look and feel really innovative, and even today still looks good, so it is continued to be used on all Star Trek:TNG, VOY and DS9 series/movies. Attention to detail and out of the box thinking made Michael Okuda one of the best creative designers in Hollywood.
Getting the issue further, I have heard people complaining that this or that movie was not correct about this physics law, or astronomy or biology law etc. It is difficult for directors and script writers to get all details right when themselves are not professional biologists or computer users, but as time goes by and as general knowledge spreads more among their audience, the need for more technically-correct movies is increasing.
For example, can someone please explain to me why ALL sci-fi movies/series have super-clear video when the movie heroes communicate via their starship’s viewscreen, while the accompanied sound sounds like 11Khz Mono telephone-quality garbage? It’s the video that costs sheer amounts of bandwidth, not the sound!