Teenage geniuses deal with their abilities while developing a high-powered laser for a university project. When their professor intends to turn their work into a military weapon, they decide to ruin his plans.
Mitch Taylor is one of the youngest students ever accepted to a university known for its programs for geniuses. He partners up with his roommate, science club legend Chris Knight, on a project to develop a high-powered laser. Together with their hyperkinetic friends, they employ their intellects in the pursuit of bigger blasts, practical jokes, and a deeper understanding of what real genius means. When they find out that their professor intends to turn their work over to the military for use as a weapon, they decide to get even.Written by
All of the laser technology in Real Genius (1985) was the real thing, sponsored by Professor Martin Gundersen of the University of Southern California (USC). Gundersen's credentials included a stint with the Los Alamos National Laboratory where he attempted to develop an infrared laser which would separate uranium without conventional problems of "nuclear waste". A laser, explains Gundersen, is a mechanism in which light waves are focused through gaseous or other matter, then emitted as a narrow, intense beam. Starting with the invention of the "maser" (an early microwave version) at Columbia University in the 1950s, for which Professor Charles Townes would win the Nobel Prize, "laser technology went off in several different directions," Gundersen added. At the time this film was made, lasers were being used in medicine to weld detached retinas; in communications, coupled with fibreoptics to carry information over telephone lines; in video recordings with laser discs (later to evolve into DVDs); in energy conservation, and in other fields. Their military application, anticipated by science fiction, as has often been the case, had recently become the subject of intense study, and controversy. The lab scenes in Real Genius (1985) employ two sophisticated lasers, a blue-green argon laser and a tuneable dye laser which work in tandem. "The dye is mixed with liquid and flowed in front of the Argon laser, which in technical terms, 'excites' it," said Gundersen. The dye laser then emits a beam of light which can be turned to virtually any color by turning a knob, like fine tuning a television set. See more »
In the scene where Chris is cutting dry ice coins for the vending machine, a fire extinguisher on the wall behind Mitch is seen in some shots but not others. However, a student can been seen removing the extinguisher, but it happens very quickly. See more »
You know, um, something strange happened to me this morning...
Was it a dream where you see yourself standing in sort of sun-god robes on a pyramid with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at you?
Why am I the only one who has that dream?
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In one pan-and-scan version, when Jordan looks through the hole the laser made through a tree, the camera stays on her while another pan-and-scan version cuts aside to Chris for his line and to catch him turning his head when she says, "Look!" See more »
Siskel and Ebert once ran a special show entitled "Movies I'm Embarrassed to Admit I Liked." I suppose that if I composed such a list of guilty pleasures, this one would be one of them . . . but upon reflection, it's really a lot better than that. Fifteen year-old science prodigy Mitch (Gabe Jarret) is recruited by ambitious college professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton, in yet another of his patented roles as a loathsome character) to work on the professor's prize laser project, not knowing that Hathaway is really developing a government weapon. Along the way, Mitch is mentored by Chris (Val Kilmer), another prodigy a few years his senior who teaches Mitch how to loosen up.
This could have degenerated into nothing more than just another teen revenge comedy, but there's so much more: the dialogue is laced with sharp wit; there are some lovely scenes that have nothing to do with the story yet are carefully set up, almost as blackouts (e.g., Mitch goes to a lecture at which a few students have left tape recorders instead of attending; later, at another lecture there are more tape recorders than students; and, in a final scene, one large tape recorder gives the lecture to a room populated by nothing but other small recorders!); and throw-away scenes that make you want to stop and back up the story to watch again (e.g., Chris off-handedly cutting a slice off a bar of dry ice to make a slug for the coffee machine).
It's also one of the few movies to boast the presence of the memorable Michelle Meyrink -- as Jordan, the "girl-nerd" who made being smart and female (and still quite sexy) something to emulate. And there's Tears for Fears' great song, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" providing the perfect coda as the closing credits begin to roll . . . . Yes: really now, what's there to be embarrassed about?
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