When I’m not wandering the coast looking for fossils, stitching up a mean quilt or just generally musing about how awesome geology is (and it is. Seriously.), I like to watch the odd film. Or two, or many. In fact it was a standing joke with an old housemate that I could start my own DVD rental if I wanted to. In fact I had to join a DVD postal rental service (which shall remain nameless) just to curb my addiction. It does mean that I have a rather nerdy knowledge of films and am quite often asked which is my favourite geology film. THERE ARE SO MANY!! But The Core has to win hands down for sheer absurdity and comedy value. You want to see someone actually destroy a TV through frustration at the scientific inaccuracies? Watch The Core with a geologist. It’s like watching Avatar with a zoologist – brilliant.
But the Core, although being amazing (ly terrible) is quite obviously a geology film. So what about those hidden gems that you didn’t know have great geology in them?
Here are my top five:
5. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
So apart from the totally awesome fact that J.R.R. Tolkein based the structure of Middle Earth on modern (at the time) theories of contiental drift, let’s not forget that the One Ring that ruled them all was forged in the fires of Mount Doom – not a really badly named forge, but a kick-ass volcano, brilliantly visualised erupting in a strombolian style at the end of the movie, with fantastic volcanic bombs flying all around the outcrop of basalt that Frodo and Sam lay on until they got rescued by the eagles (and did anyone else think ‘why didn’t the eagles just fy them there in the first place?’).
So no volcano, no Ring, no movie.
The original version here not any of the reboots, though I was pleasantly surprised by Man of Steel. One of my favourite recent discoveries was that of actual Kryptonite (OK technically described in Superman Returns, but we see it first in Superman). Yes Kryptonite, or sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide, is an actual mineral. Unfortunately it isn’t green, but white and it doesn’t come from the planet Krypton, but still…. cool huh?!
3. Billy Elliot
Another film where the geology is in the background, and yet a central part of the whole film. Billy lives in Everington (a fictional town) in the north east of England and he wants to dance, but his coal miner Dad doesn’t like the idea of it. The film is set during the Coal Miner Strikes of the mid 80’s and actually depicts what happens to a town when the mineral wealth runs out. The coal miner storyline is integral to the emotional plot and you wouldn’t get that without the mine. Plus facing a little of the realities of coal mining in the 80’s is a little scary – it was not a fun job.
‘Oh, Andy loved geology. I imagine it appealed to his meticulous nature. An ice age here, million years of mountain building there. Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes really, pressure, and time.’
Basic motto of this story, if you want to escape from jail – make friends with the geologist. If Andy Dufresne had been a taxidermy enthusiast instead of a geology enthusaist, the story would’t have ended in quite the same way me’thinks.
‘From the seismographic station in Athens, sir…..Subsea earthquake, 7.8 on the Richter Scale, epicentre 130miles northwest of Crete…’
So begins one of the best disaster movies of all time. And it HAS to be the original – the modern one doesn’t hold a candle in comparison. For one thing, given the fact that right up until the Asian tsunami of Boxing Day 2004, tsunamis were called tidal waves and were depicted as waves crashing on the beach, this film has a lot of good information in it. From the seismographic station giving details such as the epicentre of the quake as well as it’s magnitude, to the way the wave behaves as it approaches the ship, this is a classic hidden geology film. Plus you get to see Gene Hackman playing the PERVIEST preacher ever and Leslie Nielsen, as Captain Harrison, gets one of the best conversations of the whole film…
Captain Harrison: [about the oncoming tsunami] It seems to be piling up in those shallows… By the way, Happy New Year.
First Officer Larsen: Thank you, sir. Same to you.
Harrison: [back to business] What’s its speed?
Larsen: 60 knots, sir.
Harrison: It must be mountainous…
Tsunami, what tsunami?! He is so cool!!!!
Anyway, those are my favourite ‘not so obvious’ geology films, what are yours?!
The Soviet film “Letter Never Sent” surprised me as the most geology related movie I’ve ever watched to date. Produced around 1960, it’s a dramatic reference to the discovery of the Mirny diamond mine. It has a little melodrama and patriotic sentimentalism characteristic of American films of that era. The geologists are heroes, and the cinematography is beautiful. I’d like to see a geologist’s critique of it.