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Krakatoa WEST of Java or Krakatoa EAST of Java ?!


There is the famous active volcano Krakatoa, and it's between Java and Sumatra, but sometimes you hear the expression "Krakatoa East of Java". This is a baffling expression, as a quick glance at a map of the region reveals (from left to right) Sumatra, Krakatoa, Java. So, there is no question of doubt about the geographical fact that Krakatoa is WEST of Java, not East of Java! It's a bit like saying "New York in the West of the United States".

So, where does the flawed expression "Krakatoa East of Java" come from? It comes from a movie title. Someone made a film with the title "Krakatoa East of Java" and the notion has stuck, in a confusing way, and completely counter to the physical geography of Indonesia. Later, the people in the movie business changed the title on later releases, and without risk of any confusion it's now under the title "Volcano"

The mystery is, considering how much money it costs to make a movie, how did they make such a mistake? Surely someone would have pointed it out quite early on?

This highlights a general problem of mistakes in movies. Many science fiction movies have severe mistakes in them regarding the laws of physics. The problem exists in other movies with a historical backdrop, a notorious example of which is "The Mummy" which is so bad that most Egyptologists cringe at it so much they can't watch it. Sometimes even fantasy movies can have glaring mistakes in them, for example where they have inconsistencies.

The general problem with movie plot mistakes may be something to do with a misunderstanding of the concept of "fiction". From a naive perspective, it might seem that if a story is Fictional, then you can just make it up and anything will do. But this is not so. For example, if you made up a story in which people could fly, you couldn't have the same people in peril of falling off a building, at least not without thinking up some good reason why they couldn't save themselves by just flying. Good creative fiction is road-tested to make sure everything is consistent, and refined to iron out any tricky bits.

With stories based on history or written around events in the factual world, the problem of mistakes is much easier to spot and to repair, as the whole subject can be researched, and the fictional story made reasonably consistent with the known historical facts. So, for example, if you were making a fictional film about astronauts in the first moon landing encountering aliens and then the whole thing being hushed-up, you'd have a free hand with the design of your aliens, but you'd have to make sure the moon landing in the movie occurred in 1969 and at the Sea of Tranquillity, so as to avoid introducing unnecessary conflict with the known historical facts. I think it is just a matter of having a modest budget put aside for research to get things right, a bit like the way there is a movie-making job description of "continuity" and in The Archers (UK radio soap opera about farmers), one of the credits is for "agricultural story editor", ie it is someone's job to make sure the fictional story is consistent with agricultural facts and practices.

Asteroid movies could benefit from having a consultant physicist on the staff early on, and stories involving an ancient civilisation which actually existed could have a historian specialising in that field of knowledge. In comparison to the special effects budget, the continuity/accuracy budget would be modest and yet the movies could be much better.

One financing model would be to have movie geeks involved behind the scenes during the making of a new movie and to pay them commission for each mistake they spot. I am convinced that the movie "Sleepy Hollow" could have been saved the embarrassment of the problem surrounding the matter of the teeth of the headless horseman, just by having a few freelance sticklers for detail inspecting the goings-on during the making of the movie.

I've also wondered about Scooby Doo, and how much it costs to make all those animated frames, and yet no-one has considered hiring an imaginative plot-writer for a sensible fee to write a variety of actual stories with different plots, so each episode has different turns of event and different outcomes. It seems a shame that for all the work that's gone into making all those Scooby Doo cartoons, they seem to all have the same plot.

If you are in the Movie Business, please consider my comments. A new movie deserves accuracy and consistency advisors, in the same kind of way that a new great bridge or building deserves painters, rather than just leaving the structure to rust.


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