The Net (1995)
Let’s do this chronologically, starting off with The Net, starring Sandra Bullock. Unfortunately, nasty hackers are after her! I can just picture the boardroom now, discussing the script:
“But, Mr. screenwriter, what’s a hacker anyway?” “Oh, you know, hackers! Those futuristic looking balaclava-hooded latex clad sunglasses-at-night wearing bad guys, after your e-stuff.”
Try doing a Google image search for hackers and the results won’t be much different. In all actuality, hackers are more likely to look like the kid from high school that’s still eating (exclusively) mini-pizzas, in his mother’s basement, wearing an X-Files t-shirt.
In The Net, however, these hackers are all-powerful and are after Angela Bennet (Bullock) and want to turn her public image from quirky (and surprisingly female) coding expert into that of a drug addict prostitute convict. Stop to consider now that she is a person who has certainly met other persons, and that anyone who knew her could confirm to the relevant authorities that she was not, in fact, a convicted drug-addicted prostitute. Now everyone thinks she is, because internet. She spends the rest of the film running from the hackers and the police, trying to code her way out of the problem, no matter where she is.
Understandably, this was written at a time when not many people had actually used the internet, so it’s only natural that it was way off the mark.
You’ve Got Mail (1998)
Remakes can be done tastefully, and could even be considered humble homages to classics of days past. A movie like You’ve Got Mail, however, does NOT fit this category. The original which it closely reflects, a 1940 film The Shop Around The Corner, starred two people who hated each other in real life, but had a budding relationship via their pen-pal correspondences.
The idea is quaint and cute enough that rebooting it in the 20thcentury, replacing the postal service with emails, probably seemed like a pretty good idea. Heck, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are on board, what could go wrong!? Unfortunately, this movie was so jam packed with product placement that it’s almost hard to concentrate on the movie once you start picking up on each time AOL is shown or mentioned. Even the title is a direct reference to ye olde AOL email client.
To get an idea of what the screenwriters of this gem thought the internet was capable of, you need look no further than the tagline: “Log on. Hack in. Go anywhere. Steal Everything.” Before we continue – if you’ve logged on, what are you hacking into, anyway?
The story is this – Gabriel Shear (John Travolta) wants to steal $9.5 billion from the US government. His logic, or rather, the logic of the screenwriter, is that given the vast expanse of information on the internet, no would really notice a little nine and a half billion dollars going missing. Of course.
The reality is that whoever in the world has that much money, they’re definitely going to notice if it goes missing. In a world with incredibly skilled real-life hackers that may actually try pull something like this off, it doesn’t happen because there are just as incredibly skilled people working on the other side.
What makes Shear’s plan all the more ridiculous (besides that he expected Wolverine to be able to hack) was that he planned to start his own underground anti-terrorism organization. Surely a noble cause like that means he could just write a letter to a congressman, or a bank, asking for a loan? No, hacking it is. “Because no one will know enough about this tech stuff to know we’re totally thumb-sucking.” Wrong!
This one was just asking to be ripped on. Seriously, Warner Brothers, you didn’t think people would ‘get it’ if you called it “Fear.com”? Or did turning it into an onomatopoeic mush really seem like the best option? Never mind.
Just like countless Asian horror movies, this one revolves around not a video or a song that kills you, but a website. I bet the light bulbs popping up above the screenwriter’s head were so bright he couldn’t see what he was writing. That would explain a lot. The movie explains that visiting this website will kill you, or at the very least, result in someone coming to kill you. Good thing his website wasn’t trending on Twitter: he’d have a lot of travelling to do!
The website in the movie, not the promotional website for the film, but the actual address of the lethal website in the movie is feardotcom.com. With a $42 million budget, they couldn’t afford a better domain name? Something must be seriously wrong here. Maybe the inevitable sequel/s will do a better job of making the story even slightly convincing.
Maybe it’s the incredible underestimation on the part of the Numb3r5 screenwriters of their viewers that makes this one so funny. It’s a series, and sure, it’s only one episode, but come on! It’s a show revolving around a math genius; you probably have some ‘nerdy’ viewers – cater to them!
Instead of doing about five minutes research into the intricacies of one the world’s oldest and most simple chat clients, the writers here go on a ridiculous tirade. You see, the goodies in Numb3r5 are after some baddies who, on IRC, go by “The_Fist” and “00zemeister”. See how I used zero’s instead of o’s there? Try keep up.
To keep these two baddies from communicating with each other, one of the brains decides to set up an “alarm” that will go off should anyone log into IRC with either of those two nicknames. Given the thousands of channels and millions of IRC users, chances are someone is going to log in with one of those two names every five minutes.
Later in the episode, while tracking a conversation between The_Fist and 00zemeister, they are struck by some kind of weird code they can’t decrypt. But don’t worry! The sassy young girl in the crew can “speak leet”, which means she possesses the incredible ability to decrypt a word that uses numbers instead of some letters – like Numb3r5, for example.
In reality, chances are the actors don’t know much about technology at all, or else they’d probably find it too hard to act through their laughter.
Author Bio: Jeff is a blogger concerned with all things web, and strongly believes in the power of internet marketing. He sleeps with one eye open, keeping a sharp lookout for hackers.