“The first step to a concept becoming reality begins with individuals envisioning it. The final step involves people responding to it.”
Lately more and more movies are dealing with the destruction of humanity. The script is exciting but bleak, marking either the end of the line or a new beginning in a post-apocalyptic and devastated world. Examples include The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and Knowing – and we watch them and the mass destruction they introduce to our lives with awe that borders on the bizarre.
In addition to disaster movies there are also a number of movies dealing with something alien assaulting humanity. The concept is not new, alien invasion scenarios have been popular for years, but the rise in special FX has raised the spectacle to a whole new level. From Independence Day to War Of The Worlds and The Day The Earth Stood Still, the level of bang delivers thrills in a way that glues us to our chairs and has us begging for more explosions and excitement.
As far as the general gist of the stories, it is simple and straightforward. It involves fighting and defeating something sinister and inhuman. Take Independence Day. The aliens are hostile creatures here to exterminate us. They invade us, we take a hit, stand our ground and fight back, claiming our right to live and be free. Same goes for Signs in a more claustrophobic, country-shack kind of way. In the Terminator series the invaders are vicious machines sent back through time to kill us. In the Matrix series they are vicious machines working in tandem with sinister computer programs, controlling our minds to harvest us like crops.
Over the last decade the formula has gotten slightly more intriguing and complicated. Humanity no longer holds the keys to virtue and aliens are not evil by default. Some of them seem to possess good qualities, on the individual level. Take Transformers for example. Good aliens, here to our rescue. We join forces with them to confront and defeat the evil aliens.
Same goes for X-Men. Good mutants make a stand and try to stop bad ones in a battle that embroils humanity – or is it humanity’s battle that entangles them in the first place?
Then there’s the Lord Of The Rings. Men gather up and join forces with elves, dwarves and hobbits to defeat the powers of darkness. In the process we are counseled by these new, non-human allies of ours, who, on the whole and as species in themselves, are admirable. They are in fact wise, able, and akin to realities we have yet to embrace.
It seems that we, in our effort to entertain ourselves, are flirting more and more with the idea of arcane friends coming to our aid, pointing the way ahead, reminding us of values we once held dear but have duly forgotten. Values we are eager to deem human.
No longer so. Our insights have caught up with us, hurting our self-esteem as we view ourselves in the mirror of the silver screen. There seems to be a growing realization that human values, the ones we consider the cornerstone to civilization, may not be necessarily human after all. They are just values, classic and irreducible and not limited to humanity. They transcend time and space. They used to be human when humans were wise and in touch with life around them. Now they are just dreams we project on beings coming to our rescue.
It wouldn’t be so bad if it ended there. But it doesn’t. We have recently introduced a new factor to the formula. The concept of the defeat of our species due to the ills of our ways. It has suddenly emerged as a major theme in our social narratives, critical, unforgiving, almost pathological in nature, painting our fall from grace in darker and more elaborate ways. Regarding ourselves as the cause of the problem. Stripping our noble human values from ourselves and assigning them to non-human beings.
Beings rising up against us, fighting us, defeating us.
We are in fact entertaining the notion on a wide and popular basis that we may be the villains after all, challenged by those non-humans we persecute and oppress, put in our place and shown the way forward – or defeated and taken over in a bid for life on earth to survive and move on. Their revolution now more than an uprising. Now an evolution.