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Technobabble / Film

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Technobabble in film.


  • Sev Trek: Pus in Boots (an Australian CGI spoof of Star Trek: The Next Generation). Having found itself outgunned by an alien vessel, the crew of the Enterforaprize resort to their final option — technobabble!
    Lt. Regurge: If we manoeuvre around the Makular ship while firing simultaneous blasts of UV radiation and enhanced zeno-treknoan beams, we should take out the pustular emitters and disable their Disbelief Suspension field!
    [Captain Pinchhard beckons Commander Piker closer]
    Pinchhard: [quietly] I didn't understand a word of that.
    Piker: [enthusiastically] Sounds good to me!


  • Airport: Capt. Vernon Demerest, played by Dean Martin, stops a know-it-all kid from broadcasting the fact that the plane is turning around: "You have a young navigator here! Well, I'll tell you son... Due to a Cetcil wind, Dystor's vectored us into a 360-tarson of slow air traffic. Now we'll maintain this Borden hold until we get the Forta Magnus clearance from Melnics."
  • In The Avengers (2012), there's a scene where the titular team are discussing where Loki is keeping the Tesseract. When Tony Stark joins the conversation, he and Banner almost immediately fall into this.
    Rogers: Does Loki need any particular kind of power source?
    Banner: He'd have to heat the cube to 120,000,000 Kelvin just to break through the Coulomb barrier.
    Stark: Unless Selvig has figured out how to stabilize the quantum tunneling effect.
    Banner: Well, if he could do that, he could achieve heavy-ion fusion at any reactor on the planet.
    Stark: Finally! Someone who speaks English.
    Rogers: [mumbling to himself] Is that what just happened?
    • Later, after one of the Helicarrier's engines is damaged, Tony and Steve have to repair, with Tony needed to push the turbine's blades to start it back up:
      Rogers: But if that thing gets up to speed you'll get shredded!
      Stark: That standard control unit can reverse the polarity long enough to disengage maglev, and that should—
      Rogers: Speak English!
      Stark: [beat] ...see that red lever?
  • The infamous "flux capacitor" from Back to the Future. A capacitor is a circuit component that maintains a voltage through a charge differential: most simply, two plates of metal separated at a small distance by an electrical insulator. Flux is the integral of a vector field over a surface. Unless the doctor is making up terms and the name itself means nothing, no amount of Fan Wank could possibly reconcile the two concepts.note 
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  • Blade Runner: Roy Batty's meeting with his "father" Tyrell has them segueing into a back-and-forth of genetic theory babble and fatal rejective mutation counter-babble, which in the end boils down to one issue: Roy (desperate to live longer than the four years that are standard to his Replicant model) hopes that Tyrell can help him, and Tyrell tries (as kindly as he can, because he sees Roy as one of his "children") to explain to him that this is something that is beyond him.
  • Desperate Journey: Baumeister the Gestapo officer is trying to get RAF pilot Hammond (Ronald Reagan!) to share classified info on how RAF engines work. Hammond unleashes some epic technobabble.
    "There's three things you gotta understand. As I said before, the daligonitor is amfilated by the thermotrockle. It's made by its connection with the franicoupling of dernadyne. Even at cruising speed the kinutaspel hepulace is prenulated by the amsometer."
  • Event Horizon gives us this memorable exchange:
    Weir: Well, using Layman's Terms, you use an immensely powerful rotating magnetic field to focus a narrow beam of gravitons, which in turn fold-space time consistent with Weyl tensor dynamics until the space curvature becomes infinitely large and you produce a singularity. Now, the singularity...
    Miller: (exasperated) "Layman's terms"?...
    Cooper: Fuck "layman's terms", do you speak English?!
    • Weir then uses a convenient piece of (very attractive) paper to physically demonstrate folding two points of space together — once again making us wonder why he didn't just start with that one.
      • It was nice to give Hermann Weyl a Shout-Out. Technobabble doesn't usually mention the name of a real mathematician. In fact, the Weyl tensor is a description of spacetime curvature used in general relativity, so its mention is entirely appropriate (even if what comes before and after it is impossible).
  • Forbidden Planet is full of this. Lots of technical-sounding terms and explanations are mixed in with the frequently-wooden dialogue. Some of these might even seem vaguely reasonable in the context of the story, especially if you don't think about it too hard, but much of it seems unnecessary (Morbius might have sought a less dramatic way of assuring Commander Adams that Robby was a Three Laws Safe robot; talk about making a poor first impression).
  • The Ghostbusters films have some of the best techno-babble ever.
    • They lampshade it occasionally with the mayor remarking, "Does anybody here speak English?" in Ghostbusters II or with Venkman's "important safety tip" line in the first movie.
      Stantz: Tell him about the Twinkie.
    • Dan Aykroyd, who developed the concept, strove to keep the paranormal jargon accurate, as his father and grandfather were both heavily interested in the supernatural/paranormal.
  • Terrible 90's family film Invisible Dad features a kid who spouts out techno-talk that is obviously inaccurate, in an example of this trope being used to disguise incompetence of the writer. Despite this, the kid also seems to think being able to plug things into the right slots is impressive.
  • I, Robot had Susan Calvin talk about how robotic brains work using a lot of this.
  • Jurassic Park went to town with this, especially with Grant and Sattler's biology jargon and Mr. Arnold's Hollywood Hacking. A lot of this was a result of taking lines from the book, but not the paragraphs of explanation that surrounded them.
  • Primer elevated this to an art (it won the grand jury prize at Sundance). About 90% of the movie involved people having impenetrable conversations to each other.
  • The low-budget sci-fi movie R.O.T.O.R. is filled with this, and it's all worse than you can imagine. "Is there some good vibration to its molecular tonality that you can utilize?" and "I can’t run a sequential circuitry test without the impulse feed chain." are just two examples.
  • Played with in Spaceballs when President Skroob is beamed out of his office, and a "microconverter malfunction" causes him to be rematerialized with his head on backwards. President Skroob is restored when Snotty reverses the beam, theorizing that the problem could have been the "interlocking system". This is the only bit of technobabble in the film, executed cleverly with one of the few Star Trek jokes of the film.
  • Star Trek (2009), according to Word of God, deliberately tries to avoid the technobabble tendencies of its predecessors, in order to make it more accessible for newcomers. On the other hand, we have also learned that Scotty was often using technobabble to intentionally confuse Kirk, and Bones once used medical technobabble to bluff his way past a security guard.
    "What'd you say she had?"
    • And Sulu gets confused when Captain Pike doesn't use technobabble:
      Pike: Is the parking brake on?
      Sulu: Uh, no... I'll figure it out, I'm just...
      Spock: Have you disengaged the external inertial dampener?
  • Star Wars movies tend to mostly avoid this, in part because the franchise is already filled with a lot of internal jargon regarding things like Toshi Station, the Kessel Run, ray shields, and as such a lot of the more technical stuff is left vague rather than load bearing the plot, like asking for a hydrospanner tool or describing a bad motivator. Some stuff is paired with a Layman explanation, like Han explaining that Hyperspace travel isn't like "dusting crops" and gives some technobabble about calculations and navi-computers.
    • The sequel trilogy started to bleed more genuine technobabble into the story. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has talk about stuff involving anti-matter and such during the big exposition on the Resistance Base concerning how the Starkiller weapon works. Han and Rey also get into a long conversation about the internal components and modifications of the Millennium Falcon.
      Han: What'd you do?
      Rey: I bypassed the compressor.
      Han: ... Huh.
    • The Last Jedi features talk about a new technology letting one track ships through hyperspace, and start leapfrogging into all the different tech they need to bypass in order to shut it down.
  • Subverted in the Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. When Elliot Carver comes in to ask his tech guy, Henry Gupta about Bond, he stops him before he can go into a longwinded explanation. He even uses the trope name.
    Elliot Carver: What did you find?
    Henry Gupta: I hacked into the mainframe at the bank, they're using an SSL 2 encryption, a hundred and tw-
    Elliot Carver: Spare me the technobabble, please.
  • The Wild World of Batwoman: "Free the others. Use your magnetic electron device." (Judging by what happened immediately afterward, "magnetic electron device" is Batwoman-speak for "hands".)
  • In The Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow does this after receiving his "TH.D" diploma near the movie's end. It appears he's attempting to say the Pythagorean Theorem, but it does not come out right.note 


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