It’s no secret that movies sell magic. Or magic sells movies? It’s safe to say that without a slight bit of embellishment on behalf of Hollywood, the grain of truth surrounding everyday objects embedded within the folds of movie mystery wouldn’t be nearly as captivating. Take HVAC, for instance. Ordinary ducting that we take for granted receives a new level of intrigue in these action-packed movies.
One of the most iconic HVAC duct scenes in cinematic history takes place when an intrepid John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, hops into a rooftop air-handling unit in Die Hard (1988). By some miracle, the ducting happily supports his couple hundred pounds of body weight without so much as bowing. Two years later McClane returns to his ventilation antics in the next installment of the Die Hard saga. He once again defeats the laws of gravity by monkeying around inside some ducting before springing through a vent cover apparently held in place by hopes and dreams.
In Mission Impossible (1996), Tom Cruise undertakes a similar tactic as Ethan Hunt in his infamous entry into Langley’s white control room. The front door is clearly not an option given the facility’s tight security, so Hunt is left relying on an impressively strong air duct to make his subtle entry.
Have you ever experienced the frustration of wandering, hopelessly lost, only to realize that you’ve been going in circles? Try adding to that being on a foreign planet and stuck in a ventilation shaft. The Fifth Element features an alien transformed into a human female. Bewildered, confused and scared, she leaps head first into an air duct. At the climax of the film, this earthly newcomer attempts an escape through an air vent only to realize that it is circular and that she has trapped herself. HVAC = 1, Alien = 0. Bonus points because this film also features Bruce Willis.
Speaking of extraterrestrials, Alien offers a unique approach to the antagonist – prey dichotomy. Whereas in most movies, and all that we have seen on this list, the good guy typically uses the ventilation system to escape the harrowing grasp of its enemy, the makers of Alien chose to have their predator use it to stalk its prey. Despite stretching the bonds of reality slightly by having a huge, acid-spitting alien navigate a ventilation system seemingly weightlessly, framing the film this way definitely adds a level of intrigue and suspense.
Finally, in the least believable instance of use of HVAC in a movie yet, we are met with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Reach deep into the souvenirs of your childhood. Do you remember the scene where Charlie and Grandpa Joe sneak a sip of a strange soda and are then drawn into a ventilation shaft full of bubbles? As our heroines are pulled helplessly toward a menacing propeller fan, the realization dawns on them that the only solution is to start burping. The more that the couple belches, the further they are let down into safety.
Whether Hollywood is creating something that is a complete stretch of the imagination or whether they are just toeing the line of reality, it makes for great entertainment. It is almost a relief to know that whatever the predicament, there will always be a slightly over-sized, abnormally strong vent shaft available just when our hero needs one.
Have some real questions about heating, air conditioning and ventilation? Feel free to reach out to Legacy Heating and Cooling – we promise to have real answers to any question you may have.