Thursday, July 26, 2007

Total Destruction

Movies are kind of my thing, in case you hadn't noticed. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine pointed out to me the widely-held notion that nearly all of the world's most devastating problems can be solved by blowing something up, or that blowing something up should at least be on the list of things to try first. We proceeded to list all the movies we can think of that adhere to this doctrine (you shouldn't read anything into the fact that I own most of these movies):

  • Armageddon (giant asteroid approaching the Earth, blown up by nuclear bombs)
  • The Core (the Earth's core has stopped spinning, blown up by nuclear bombs)
  • Deep Impact (giant asteroid approaching the Earth, blown up by nuclear bombs)
  • Independence Day (aliens invading the Earth, blown up by nuclear bombs)
  • Paycheck (machine forsees Armageddon, blown up Hindenburg-style)
  • Reign of Fire (dragons invading the Earth, various sizes of bombs utilized with varying degrees of success)
  • Stargate (aliens threatening the Earth, blown up by nuclear bombs)
  • Sunshine (the Sun is burning out, blown up by nuclear bombs)
  • War of the Worlds (aliens invading the Earth, various sizes of bombs utilized with varying degrees of success)
  • ....

The list goes on and on. (Feel free to suggest additions in the comments.) Reacting to the increasing severity of the various dilemmas the Earth has subjected to — first aliens, then asteroids, then the core stops spinning, then the sun dies — my friend came up with the obvious next step: head on collision with another planet. The irony? It's already been done. (Or very nearly so, anyway.) Upon hearing that When Worlds Collide was made in 1951, he sadly concluded that there are no original ideas left. Need more proof? They're attempting to remake it. As a consolation, I rented it and we watched it this week.

The fact that this movie was nominated for an Oscar for "Best Cinematography, Color" (it also won one for Best Special Effects) speaks volumes and is part of the reason why I can't bring myself to critique anything about it: it's easy to laugh when a scientist proclaims the impossibility of a ship leaving the Earth and landing on another planet until you remember that, at that time, no one had. I expected to enjoy the movie just as much as any other old sci-fi movie, Swiss plot (cheesy, with holes), wooden dialogue and all; however, I was surprised to find that it had some very interesting theological parallels.

At the beginning of the movie, a star and its orbiting planet have been discovered approaching Earth. In less than a year the planet will pass close by Earth causing massive devastation, and then, days later, Earth will be completely consumed by the star. The scientists who discovers this attempts to warn the world. Some of his fellow scientists agree with his findings; however, many, experts in the laws of physics, fail to correctly interpret the signs of the time and attempt to discredit him. Undaunted, a community forms (along with others across the world) to prepare for the coming destruction, with the hope of starting a new life on the new world that is coming. I wish I could remember the exact quotes, but when a detractor scoffs, "You really believe you can reach this new world?" the scientist answers, "We hope to God that we can." The new world does indeed come, and a small group leave Earth (on a rocket) and land on the new world. And then the sun comes and destroys the old world by fire... (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

So, cheesily entertaining (and possibly interesting) sci-fi, or just more proof that there is nothing new under the sun? It's a little of both for me, but you can check it out and decide for yourself.

[On a somewhat related topic, Sunshine, mentioned earlier in this post and also in this previous one, will be released in theaters tomorrow. As I wrote before, I was cautiously interested. Even so, Fox Searchlight threw me a curve this week (most would call what I am about to say spoilers, so consider yourself warned): they have apparently abandoned any and all attempts to advertise the plot, let alone conceal it, because they put out an ad with the tag line, "No one survives." In case that wasn't clear enough, they followed it with a list of all the cast members who die and a link to clips of the death scenes on the movie's official website. All I have to say is, "Hrrmmm..."]



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