Friday, September 16, 2016

Hollywood tactics

Sitting in an aeroplane yesterday evening I watched a bit of the original 1996 movie Independence Day. It was always cheesy, but I never before appreciated how utterly stupid the battle scenes are. This has made me think about what the three worst examples of Hollywood tactics are that I can currently remember having seen.

1. Cavalry charge at a castle wall

Snow White and the Huntsman is another movie that I watched during a flight, and I was underwhelmed on several different levels. Neither the actors nor the story nor the weird love triangle rally worked for me, with the exception of the villain, the evil queen, who I found well acted.

The two large scale battle scenes that appear in the movie are just the icing on the cake. In the first, near the beginning, Show White's father's army charges at an enemy army, and it charges, and it charges, and it charges, and by the time the horses would be so tired that they'd have to slow down the enemy army actually appears on the horizon. And that army just stands there, all infantry, with a few very very short pikes that are totally unsuitable for fighting cavalry, and let themselves be slaughtered. Okay, they were only supposed to be a pretend invasion if I remember correctly, but still, if the good guys are never in any danger where is the point?

Much worse is the final battle, depicted above. The forces of good, led into battle by that girl with the abusive vampire boyfriend, make a cavalry charge at a castle wall. Again there is an "okay, they were", in this case hoping for the seven dwarves to sneak inside and open the gates for them, but seriously, have they never heard of siege equipment? And what if the dwarves had not succeeded? Even as it was, with the plot on their side, half of the good guys were slaughtered just approaching the castle, and then they stood in front of the gate looking stupid and being showered with arrows until the dwarves finally got their act together. And let's not even mention the conspicious absence of helmets.

2. Cavalry charge at massed heavy infantry carrying 10 m pikes

The weird thing is that in the movie Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the Uruk Hai are actually equipped and trained in exactly the right way to neutralise Medieval cavalry. Nonetheless the Rohirrim are depicted as charging them down when they arrive to relieve the siege of Helm's Deep.

Just no. See that picture above? Anybody who cavalry charges those guys is toast, even if they have superior numbers, which the relief force clearly doesn't. There is a limit to how far my willing suspension of disbelief will go, and this is a few hundred kilometres too far. Sorry.

3. If we poke the hippo with enough pins, it will die

Okay, back to Independence Day. Warfare in that movie is really so unbelievably idiotic that it is near-incomprehensible.

The understanding appears to be this. The United States military, the best equipped in the world, has exactly two types of weapons at its disposal: fighter planes carrying four air-to-air guided missiles each, and nuclear weapons. They are concerned about using nuclear weapons because it might irradiate the planet, fair enough. So the only choice left is to attack an Alien spaceship as large as several cities stacked on top of each other with c. two dozen fighter jets optimised for dogfighting other small fighter jets.

The flaw in that plan should be immediately obvious to anybody except apparently the entire team involved in producing that movie. Let's assume that the Aliens did not have that likely physical impossibility so beloved by science fiction authors, a force field that all weapons just bounce off, and that all 4 x 24 air-to-air missiles had connected and done their worst. Judging from the explosions in the screenshot, how much of the alien ship would have been damaged? Maybe 5% of its outermost walls? Yeah, that'll make a difference.

I really have no idea whatsoever why the movie never shows a bomber fleet, the kind of weapon that one would realistically use to flatten a city sized object without causing nuclear fallout. Would that not have been cool enough or something?

I am sure there are worse offenders, but these are the ones that have offended me the most. Again, no problem with some playing along, but there are limits. And especially when the flaw would be so easily rectified.

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