Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Biologist Point-of-view-review: Amazing Spider-man

As you may have gathered from some of my other posts I'm a bit of a comic-geek. I thought this would be a good place to do some reviews of films with "biology" in them and the "amazing spider-man" is a good place to start.

The film is good, solid fun. It makes some welcome changes to the previous films and Andrew Garfield is inspired casting. My main focus is on the biology presented in the film and in order to discuss that there will be some spoilers with regards to the film's plot. So I wouldn't read any further if you don't like spoilers.

This installment, more than any others, really embraces the science and in particular the biology. You maybe wouldn't believe me but "RNA degradtion rate" is in many ways the inciting incident of the entire film. Without it, you don't get the villain and probably (although this is something I suspect will be explored in sequels) wouldn't get Spider-man either. Now, I'm not entirely sure how this allows you to create spider/lizard - human/mouse hybrids but it's nice of them to pick something other than DNA for a change. It also makes me wonder whether RNAi-man could become Spider-man's arch nemesis in future film installments as I imagine RNAi would really screw up that all-important degradation rate. The nice thing about this formula is that Peter Parker solves it (or more accurately pinches it from his dad's satchel) and by handing it over to Curt Connors (more on him in a minute) he essentially becomes responsible for the film's villain and we all know how Spider-man feels about great responsibility. The interesting thing about Parker being responsible for the villain is the fact that it looks as though it will be used to generate future villains - Green Goblin is heavily hinted but considering how animal-related Spidey's rogues gallery is, I think this could make a nice genesis to tie other villains such as the Scorpion, Rhino, Vulture, Jackal etc together and give Spider-man an additional reason for taking them down.

Back to the science though. The most impressive science was the computer simulation technology which seems to be Stark-tech in the way it is controlled. Basically, you can change a DNA sequence (or RNA degradation rate) put it into your virtual mouse and you then get a 3D animation of what it would do. My life would be so much more easy/fun if this is how I could determine if a gene had a function in flies. The reality is that to have such amazing predictive power you'd probably already need to know what the mutation did in vivo. I can still dream of this in silico wet dream though.

The other piece of lab kit is a smoking Chekhov's gun in the form of a machine that can spread a retrovirus (because it's all about the RNA degradation folks) cloud that could infect approximately all of Manhattan. Ohs nos - the film is set in manhattan and there's a mad scientist with lizard-mutating virus! What's quite impressive is how little security such technology, which was abandoned for being "too dangerous" has. For instance a student, no older than 18 can get access to it. Now, Emma Stone makes for a damn tempting 18-year old, especially in the short skirt/knee high boots combo and it wouldn't be the first time a PI (Principal Investigator/Pervously Inappropiate) scientist has been tempted but the health and safety officer would never allow her access to all this important and dangerous equipment.
Speaking of Health and Safety - Osborn industries clearly doesn't bother with one or the amazing spider-man would have been the "average high school-kid". How on earth a kid can just wander into a room where a bunch of bite-happy genetically (RNA degration controlled) soiders is beyond me. Yes, he copied a 3D smartphone keycode to get in the room but even so those spiders should have been kept in a dehind a barrier. With that level of security people must have been bitten at an alarming rate? So why aren't there a whole bunch of Spider-men? Well, I think this will be followed up in the sequel as it seems Peter's parents may have altered him in some way so that he was receptive to this kind of thing.

Hopefully, we'll get some more interesting formulas in a sequel as well as some more RNA degradation stable hybrids as villains. I'm growing increasingly tempted to create a super-villain/hero who keeps lab safety standards up to scratch,

No comments:

Post a Comment