Dr. Clifford V. Johnson, a physics professor at the University of Southern California, started his work in the entertainment business by offering knowledge of black holes and large energy masses film and TV. Soon after, the Science and Entertainment Exchange was formed, offering a connection between Hollywood and the genius scientist minds, and Johnson is inundated with requests to consult various projects.
While movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok, or even Rogue One: A Star Wars Story don't exactly base their mythology in our reality, the sciences applied to their worlds are rooted in people like Johnson's real-world expertise. His mind has been applied to each of those films and more, including the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War and TV series such as Agent Carter and Star Trek: Discovery. While they are not always grounded and real-to-our-world approaches, Johnson can justify his work on the projects.
“Even colleagues of mine go, ‘I heard you worked on some superhero thing, but how could you even be talking to them about scientific accuracy when they have spaceships going faster than light and people flying?’” Johnson said. “What I spend most of my time doing involves scientific believability and consistency,” Johnson says. “I study how our existing universe works, and my job is to study those rules so I can help [creators] build a different universe with its own rules, where all your crazy stuff can happen. But then they have to allow me to help make it consistent.”
In today's world of entertainment, consistency is key. Fans are constantly hitting pause on their ultra-HD to get a closer look, which is where Johnson comes in. He is adding important details to the film or TV show's story, just as the writers and directors are.
“I see physics as storytelling,” Johnson says. “To some extent, all of science is. Not just in communicating the idea but the whole business of finding out why a thing is the way it is and how that thing gets to be the way it is. These are the same sets of questions we ask when we’re telling stories. We just replace mechanism with motivation, and you’ve got the same structures and the same things you need to care about.”
A lifelong fan of comics, working on blockbuster titles within the Marvel Cinematic Universe is as much of a dream as it sounds like. In fact, it offers Johnson the opportunity to create nods to his favorite moments and stories. "I grew up reading comic books as well, so I know a lot of the older material that a lot of the team might not know, especially with Thor," Johnson said. "I was giving them some physics that would wink at some of the classic old stuff. Over the years, people threw around ideas for how these pieces of magical tech — like Thor’s hammer — worked. And they’ve changed over time, so it’s fun for me to wink at some of those older ideas.”
Working within the films which have become such icons on a global scale, Johnson sees the opportunity to persuade young minds into a field similar to his own. “It’s hard to say ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and ‘It’s good for society’ in the same sentence,” Johnson says with a laugh. “But I actually do believe that.”
MORE MARVEL NEWS: First Black Panther Footage Revealed / Iconic Planet Hulk Characters Confirmed For Thor: Ragnarok / Kevin Feige Comments On Josh Brolin's Thanos & Cable Roles / Spider-Man: Homecoming's Ultron & Civil War Ties Revealed / Marvel Unveils First Look At Brie Larson As Captain Marvel
(via Houston Press)