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The New Batman Movies Dabble in Real Science Just Like Pi and Jurassic Park

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We scifi geeks all know that science fiction connotes spaceships and time travel, giant robots and alien planets. But we often forget the “science” part of the equation when we’re conjuring images of future worlds. Well, not all of us forget: These directors have shown a rare ability to twist real-world concepts just beyond reality. They are the Masters of Science Fact.

5. Darren Aronofsky
Darren-Aronofsky-125x125.jpgUp until he embraced the sports movie genre with 2008’s The Wrestler, Aronofsky stayed firmly within the realm of science fact. His first hit, 1998’s Pi , stars a mathematician searching for the universal connection between numbers. Though it eventually enters the realm of fantasy (we assume), the math in the flick is sound, and the story is riddled with strange numerical connections throughout science and religion. 2006’s The Fountain also seems like it should be in the realm of fantasy, with issues of eternal life, the fountain of youth and fantastic spaceships. But at its core is a man searching for a cancer cure using science from three different eras. Though it’s up in the air what Aronofsky’s upcoming reinvention of Robocop will be like, chances are it will be grounded in actual robotics — much less reflective of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 version .

4. Richard Kelly
richard-kelly-125x125.jpgHis output may be limited (only two major films so far), but Kelly manages to stretch science to fantastic extremes while still keeping it disturbingly close to home. 2001’s cult classic Donnie Darko is basically a realistic deconstruction of the time travel movie. Presenting a link between schizophrenia, time travel and the coincidences that surround us every day, Donnie Darko has an ambiguity that allows Kelly to skirt the line between fantasy and fact. Then, in 2006’s highly misunderstood Southland Tales , Kelly presents the apocalyptic future of 2008, which is about one step removed from where we are now. No flying cars or alien beings here: Just economic crisis, porn star television personalities and a rapidly growing energy shortage. Sound familiar?

3. Andrew Niccol
andrewniccol-125x125.jpgBefore he disappeared off the face of the Earth, Andrew Niccol was the go-to guy for scarily accurate science fact. 1997’s Gattaca posited the very real idea of a geneocracy, where genetic selection allows parents to weed out unsavory characteristics and raise the perfect child. With “octo-mom” still in the news,and debates about human cloning raging around the world, Gattaca is even more relevant than it was a decade ago. Though he only wrote 1998’s The Truman Show , the idea of watching a person on television twenty four hours a day proved awfully prescient. With reality television reaching new depths every day, Niccol’s concept has become the shape of modern entertainment. And finally, there’s 2002’s S1m0ne , which created a virtual star in the real world. Again, we’re not quite there yet, but when George Lucas can replace actors’ heads and Fred Astaire is posthumously plugging Swiffer, we’re closer than you might think.

2. Christopher Nolan
chris-nolan-125x125.jpgYou wouldn’t necessarily think of Memento (2000) as science fiction — and its not, necessarily. But by taking real anterograde amnesia and stretching its possibilities to the breaking point, Nolan was hailed by scientists for making a “close to perfect” exploration of a crippling disorder. Then there’s 2005’s Batman Begins and 2008’s The Dark Knight: As probably every moviegoer in America knows, Nolan takes the most fantastic figure possible (a superhero) and grounds him in a hyper-realistic world. Everything from the Batmobile to Batman’s 3-D Sonar are based on slightly exaggerated real world devices. Nolan’s upcoming flick Inception seems to continue this trend, by being “”a contemporary scifi actioner set within the architecture of the mind.”

1. Steven Spielberg
steven_spielberg-125x125.jpgYou didn’t think we’d forget about the Grandmaster of Science Fact, did you? Though he often pushes his movies further into science fiction, let’s start with 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind , which takes as realistic a look as you can get at aliens in America. In 1993, he teamed up with the Authorial Grandmaster of Science Fact, Michael Crichton to present Jurassic Park , which stretches cloning technology to its logical conclusion. Finally there’s 2001’s Minority Report, which depicts technology that, in the age of iPhones and Microsoft Surface, is not too far-fetched. Though he often engages in flights of fancy, Spielberg continues to lay the groundwork for every Master of Science Fact that follows.

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