The ending of the film has been subjected to Fridge Logic, with the unanswered question of what exactly happens next. The military can still build more lasers now that their prototype was proven successful, right? Except that the whole scheme was exposed to public scrutiny, with a congressman directly witnessing it, ensuring that there will be subpoenas and indictments aplenty going around. And if nothing else, Hathaway's ruined.
Not to mention that, as far as the military is concerned, the only 100% successful laser test was done by Chris and Mitch in the lab. The aerial test laser, in addition to hitting the wrong target, also burst into flames. Even without the added public scrutiny, there is no way the military would risk using a weapon that potentially unstable on a plane or spacecraft. (Of course, the laser's self-destruction was engineered by Chris and Mitch, but the military doesn't know that.)
At no point does any of the protagonists bother to exposit why it's so wrong to build a laser capable of vaporizing ground targets from space. They simply state flatly that it is, and act on that basis. But Fridge Logic suggests that unless the assassination laser was fired willy-nilly at innocent people (at which point the problem would not be the existence of the laser, but the murderous insanity of whoever's firing it), it would actually pose much less risk to innocent bystanders and less general destruction to simply vaporize a hostile dictator from space than, oh, declare war on his entire nation. And there is no plausible deniability involved when you're talking about giant glowing laser beams from space. Only one nation in the world at that time could be credibly suspected of owning laser satellites, and a scenario that posits a conspiracy of agents acting without sanction from National Command Authority is an even bigger plot hole, because National Command Authority is going to be the first person to ask "Why the hell did one of our own 'weather satellites' just vaporize someone with a giant laser beam? Who is responsible for this?" as soon as said satellite is actually seen firing.
Although there is the fact that the man in charge of building it made his students work on it, without their knowledge, with only the shaky promise of a job or graduate study as potential payment.
Wrong! The opening scenes exposit in detail why the whole concept is bad, bad, bad. All you can do with it is kill unsuspecting targets; it would be useless in open warfare, against enemies who are either unknown or in hiding. "It's the perfect peacetime weapon." All it's good for is deniable assassinations. And ones without space capabilities at that.
In it's prototype form, perhaps. But Science Marches On, and this laser bears a remarkable resemblance to the powerguns from Hammer's Slammers, which occupy weaponry niches from heavy artillery to small arms and everywhere in between.
Furthermore, it would be by far the most effective ABM system yet invented, and mightn't mitigating the megadeaths of a possible nuclear exchange during the Cold War perhaps be a good thing?
"Unsuspecting" is not the same as "innocent". Besides, you're taking the movie as a given that it would only be used as a tool of assassination. The opening video shows a single zap-and-done, but the actual test shows it as able to drag a fairly destructive line... it would be an amazing weapon for taking out enemy fortifications or battle lines that were keeping forces from advancing or keeping them pinned down, or taking out strategic targets like missile silos, runways, and storage facilities. It has plenty of applications on the actual battlefield, ones that could probably save numerous American soldiers' lives.
Also, the opening credits spell out the point of the film pretty clearly: the song "you took advantage of me" playing over schematics of Little Boy.
You mean kind of like they take advantage of the college giving them a free ride on their education and research and getting them a job post-graduation? This makes about as much sense as someone joining the armed forces just to get the "free" money for college, and then throwing a fit when their commanding officer actually had the audacity to deploy them as if they were an actual soldier. But then, people do that, so maybe it's just being realistic about how shortsighted and entitled some people can be.
That's not a valid comparison. With the military and the GI Bill, yes, you know that you might be deployed to combat—you expect it because that's what you signed up for. However, Chris, Mitch, and co. don't know that they're working on a military death ray. The protagonists are pacifistic science students who are coerced/manipulated into making a working assassination ray. As far as they knew, it was going to be purely a scientific endeavour with unlimited applications. (Except the most obvious one, granted...) Remember the story Chris told about Laslo having a Heroic BSOD in The Seventies after finding out his research project would be hurting people? Same type of thing with our protagonists and their laser.
They've been invited to work on a laser with the express goal of making it more powerful and therefore more destructive. At that point their blinding themselves to the reasons anyone would want such a thing isn't anyone's fault but their own. "I was too dumb to know that my genius could be weaponized even though I was blatantly building a weapon" isn't exactly a heroic excuse.
That's just the characters' hubris at work. Hubris is a subtle recurring theme in the film. Chris and Mitch make the exact same mistake that Chris said happened to Laslo: they got so caught up in their work that it blinded them to what the final outcome was. However, when they are alerted to their shortsightedness, their morals instantly come into focus, and they react as they see fit. I expect that Laslo got involved purely because he doesn't want Chris and Mitch to suffer the same Heroic BSOD that he himself suffered after he finished his project.
That's exactly what happened. Mitch is happily stating that others can figure out what to do with what they've done, and it has countless applications, when Laslo points out that with the fuel they devised there's only one real plausibly useful purpose. Chris even suffers a minor BSOD once their fears are confirmed, because he feels he should have seen it coming. Laslo snaps him out of that, too, telling him that he obviously relates, but they've got time to change their outcomes while he didn't.
Assuming that there are blueprints and detailed notes and knowing that the concepts behind it are sound,wouldn't the DoD just be able to build another laser? They know it works... and they still maintain the rationale for building it...so why wouldn't they just build another one?
They don't know it works. They know it missed its target and burst into flame. They don't know that this was intentional, and probably assume it's just a piece of junk.
No, they know it had a failure. The next step would be to put together another one, have someone go over it to try and find the problem, and then do another test to see if the problem could be reproduced or was just some sort of fluke or human error. Having one unexplained failure and scrapping the project forever is pure Hollywoodism.
Again, the point that people seem to be missing is the added public scrutiny. The Congressman, the college dean, and a few passersby saw a laser beam hit Hathaway's house. Eventually, a Congressional oversight committee and an interested public are going to start asking questions. I expect that the laser project would be buried underneath red tape for YEARS to come.
Congressman and others go to Congress. The Congresspeople that actually approved the project in the first place say "It's classified" and send them on their way, to gripe to the college newspaper and whatever publications will listen to them about "a giant space laser". Red tape cut.
Or, the congressman goes public with the information for political reasons, leading to public outcries and, yes, public scrutiny. Read up on how much the SDI was criticized and you might get a better understanding about why John Q. Public in the '80s would be interested in solid proofnote And yes, I'm sure that Chris, Mitch, and co. would have ensured that there was solid proof that the government was testing death rays in a time of peace.
Truthfully, without Word of God to confirm it one way or anothernote Someone should look up Neal Israel and/or Pat Proft (or even Martha Coolidge) to ask them, or with the present lack of a sequel, the final outcome remains strictly in the realm of Wild Mass Guessing. I like to think that, at the very end, when it's all said and done, that the project was a flop. Definitely not thrown out altogether, but put aside for a while (maybe boxed up and stashed away in Hangar 51, haha).
What age is Mitch when Sherry Nugil vamps on him? Her dialogue states that she waited three years for him to be legal, and I thought that age of consent in California is 18. Since he comes to "Pacific Tech" at 15, that means that one of several things must be the case:
The film covers three years rather than single year it implies. This makes no sense, as Chris is already a senior when Mitch arrives and Hathaway is clearly under pressure to complete the laser that same year.
The age of consent is actually sixteen for purposes of the film, and Sherry's been stalking Mitch since he was thirteen.
Alternately the film assumes Mitch to be some form of emancipated minor now that he is attending university, which could leave him still fifteen and her stalking him since he was twelve.
She wasn't necessarily "stalking" him. She may simply follow scientific journals or news about geniuses discovered. She read about Mitch at some point, went "Wow, he's super smart. Better wait for him to grow up a little." and then made a note on her calendar or something.