This weekend, I rented an old favorite spook flick of mine, John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. I noticed something I had never noticed before.
There are several scenes that take place in daylight in which a character looks up, squinting, into the sky, and sees a waning crescent moon near the sun in the sky. Yet, in scenes that take place during the night on those same days, the characters see a full moon.
Gah! Three seconds’ thought would tell them how impossible this is. I suppose an argument could be made that it’s all the supernatural goings-on that are causing the moon to orbit at a super-accelerated speed every day, but given that no catastrophic effects are seen, the only reasonable conclusion is that it’s a massive continuity error.
The same sort of thing happens in Wild Wild West. West and Gordon take off in their little flying machine, in broad daylight, across the face of a full moon. That one, IMO, is even more stupid.
Then I got to thinking how rarely one sees anything except a full moon in the movies. I understand the mystical and romantic connotations of a full moon, but it makes things a little less real when we never see a crescent or gibbous moon.
For those of you who work in the film industry, does shooting exteriors at night somehow require a full moon? I can’t imagine so; unless you’re Stanley Kubrick and trying to shoot with natural light, you’re lighting the location anyway, so the moon phase should be irrelevant. When there is an insert of the moon needed, is the second unit just shooting full moon footage because it’s brighter, or something?
Sorta. I get a lot of email from people complaining about astronomy in movies, but of course that’s nothing compared to the real teeming millions who go see movies.
Still, Moon phases in movies are almost always wrong. Usually it’s having the Moon being the wrong phase for the time of night, or having it be the same phase three nights in a row. The other of course is having the crescent facing the wrong way.
It bugs me too. Just makes me cringe as it thrusts me into the realization that this never happened and it’s just a moving picture on a screen grumble
But I think art often looks at science and says ‘feh’ it’s just too much work to do it right. And it might just push them over budget.
The one that struck me the most was Stargate. The get to this planet with 3 moons. And they all look exactly the same, just tilted to different angles. All I could think for the rest of the movie was “Wow! What are the odds?”
Um … no. What I meant was they took a picture of our moon when it was full. Pasted it into the scene three times in a nice tight pattern. Then they resized them to different sizes. And then they turned them to different directions. So in this one we had The Man in the Moon looking left, over here he’s smaller and looking down. And just over there he’s smaller still and looking in a third direction.
I figured the least they could do was nab some pics of say Ganymede and Mercury or some other heavily cratered surface … like the back of our moon and doctor them up and put them in there. This way just seemed really lazy. But I’m sure it saved them money.
Filmmakers generally don’t care, as long as it “looks cool.”
Two examples: In the current Planet of the Apes, Monkey Mark is on Apeworld for many, many days. As far as is possible to discern, he never has an opportunity to shave. Yet his face remains baby-smooth throughout the film.
Second: In Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the mothership appears behind Devil’s Tower, from below, moving upward. Where the hell did it come from? A hole in the ground? Did it fly at an altitude of fifty feet up behind the tower? …In an interview on the DVD, Spielberg cops to the implausibility. He says something to the effect of, “Yeah, I know, what did they do, dig a pit? But the image occurred to me pretty early in the process, and I liked it, so I decided to go with it.”
Ergo: Filmmakers will choose the version of the moon that looks prettiest for the scene in question, regardless of whether or not it makes sense, because 99% of the audience isn’t paying attention.
For some reason, what bothers me more are the paintings and drawings where the crescent moon looks like a disk occulted by a slightly smaller disc. You know, almost a complete annulus, with a break at one place. Yes I know they are stylized and aren’t meant to be realistic, but they still look alien to me.