Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Incredible movie biology

Some time ago, Amar talked about the Giant Rat of Sumatra, er New Guinea. Well, islands are conducive for things like Giant Rats, and other odd-sized animals. Islands typically don’t have large carnivores — not enough food supply for their survival. So, in the absence of large carnivores, smaller carnivores and herbivores grow bigger than their mainland counterparts. And at the same time, large herbivores tend to shrink over time. That’s why islands could have Dwarf Elephants. These phenomena are called island gigantism and insular dwarfism respectively.

Could something like this have happened in Skul Island? The wiki link says that the island has an unstable ecosystem. What does that mean? Those dinosaurs have survived 65 million years in the island, how unstable could the ecosystem really be then? And how the hell did those insect grow so big?

And what about Kong himself? How did his kind get to grow so big? The wiki says it was the last of its species. How did it get to the island?

And what about the human inhabitants? I thought the scene where they came to get Ann was genuinely cool. Obviously their religion is a cult of Kong. But what is Kong meant to do with Ann? Gorillas don’t eat meat (they eat insects if occasionally). Does Kong eat meat?
I watched King Kong in the plane few weeks ago, and started wondering these. You see, one really can’t enjoy the grandeur of King Kong in the tiny screen that one gets in the economy class in a Boeing 777. This is one big screen movie.

I watched I am Legend in the big screen. I was looking forward to it eagerly. Will Smith is cool. The idea of the original novel seemed cool. A deserted New York City could have been cool. And I happened to be there when they were shooting it. How could it go wrong?

Well, it did go wrong. Neville, Smith’s character, was hunting the mutants. But the mutants were also hunting Neville. They were watching him. They laid traps for him. I’m sure New York’s concrete jungle could have been exploited for some really spine tingling cat and mouse spooky scenes. Shame nothing like that happened.

And since it wasn’t thrilling enough, I started wondering about the mutants’ biology. So the virus that was supposed cure cancer had terrible side effects — it killed most of the humanity, and resulted in rabies, hair loss, loss of resistance to the UV ray and extreme aggression among most of the survivors. Only a very small number of people were resistant to the mutated virus.

Okay, so far so good. But why the hell do all the mutants look similar? Surely CGI doesn’t have to mean that. These creatures only come out at night because of their problem with the UV ray. But does a problem with the UV ray give them night vision? Does the virus affect their optic nerves? And how did the creatures get to be so powerful? And how did they develop spiderman-like climbing abilities?

You see, if you start thinking about this stuff, the movie is obviously not going so well for you. But I’m still curious enough about the book to read it. Perhaps I’ll write about it some other time. Meanwhile, if you want more such stuff (physics, not biology), check this out.