Debunking the Transformers 3 movie trailer

While recently in the theater to watch True Grit (perhaps to be reviewed later though I am not well versed in either Westerns or Coen Brother’s films), I saw the new trailer for Transformers 3. The trailer takes some liberties with an important moment of history and is debunked by ESPN’s TMQ:

Philip Torbett of Knoxville, Tenn., writes, “In the just-released trailer for the third Transformers movie, the premise is that the Apollo missions were a cover to explore a downed alien spacecraft. When the moon spins and the Apollo landing area is no longer facing Earth, the astronauts climb a ridge and explore the massive alien craft which is mere feet away from the Lunar Module. When the moon spins back, the astronauts quickly return to the lander and pretend to be collecting rocks. But the moon revolves such that we always see the same side. This makes the opening premise of the movie impossible, because any alien craft that landed in the Sea of Tranquility would have been continuously observable from Earth with a decent telescope.”

TMQ’s rule of sci-fi is that I will accept the premise — enormous instantly transforming living organisms made of metal that require no fuel or other energy and can fly without lift or propulsion, hey, why not? — so long as action makes sense within the premise, while laws of physics are observed. The moon is turning on its axis, but the same side always faces Earth. If the moon did not turn on its axis, as it revolved around the Earth, we’d see the dark side just as often as the familiar light side. The moon is “tidally locked” with Earth — its gravity creates tides in the oceans, while Earth’s gravity locks the light side of the moon facing us. That the moon is tidally locked — rotating on its axis, but the same side always facing Earth — is the reason we see the same surface features whenever we look up at the moon but never see the dark side.

The entire time the Apollo landers were on the moon, they were visible from Earth. Hollywood assumes that with science literacy being what it is, most moviegoers won’t know this. Did the scriptwriters know it?

A good question. When I first saw the trailer, I was torn between thinking it was absurd (quite the hulking alien spacecraft) and thinking it was clever (by being tied to an iconic moment in history).

Pointing out the issues with this backstory leads to a larger question: should we be willing to overlook historical or scientific impossibilities for the sake of having an entertaining movie trailer or film? Should a movie like The Social Network be truthful or be entertaining? I tend to dislike such changes though they can be done better in some movies than others.

We could also ask about how many viewers of the Transformers trailer or film would even think about this issue of the moon rotating.