One by one the staple crops are dying, a dust storm ferociously approaches, a skyscraper sized wave unapologetically crashes forward, time ticks on…so much of Christopher Nolan’s much talked about, scientifically thick space odyssey, “Interstellar,” seems to be communicating that there are forces in this world that cannot be stopped. No matter how hard we try to patch things up and find new solutions to chronic problems, this world as we know it is coming to an end. Throughout the year in film, it seems like today’s storytellers are staring in the face of an unstoppable future. Joon-ho Bong, director of the very fun monster movie “The Host,” also added a possible future into the narrative with his post-apocalyptic ode to the railways, “Snowpiercer.” In this cold, dark look into the lives of what’s left of civilization in the midst of a second ice age surviving aboard a perpetually moving train, Bong sees our destruction of the atmosphere to be our downfall. While we can’t deny that there is something interesting about the near end of humanity that is fun to watch play out, I’ve got to wonder why it is that we have so many ideas on what inevitable demise is in humanity’s future? Why is it so easy to write about the end as if that is where we are already headed? And where does hope hang its hat in this race to the end of the world?
What may be a contributing factor to the current culture of cinema may be the culture itself. We are currently in a media environment that is relying heavily on the origin story and the prequel. I remember when “Titanic” came out and everyone jokingly requested no spoilers but this year alone we saw another prequel in the “Planet of the Apes” franchise and a new installment of back story-retelling-prequel-sequel to the “X-Men” saga. Does the experience watching “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” change knowing that there is no hope for humans and apes to work together in that particular film? We know we are headed to a beach punching Charlton Heston bellowing at a deteriorated Statue of Liberty. We even have another “Terminator” film coming next year and for awhile now this franchise has been dangling a carrot of, “Can we really change the future or not?” in front of its audiences. I’m sure we all have theories of how (I personally do side in the Terminator camp of self-aware technology), but are we locked in to worldwide destruction of some type? Are we meant to survive as a species, and if so, here on Earth? Should we be holding on to this world or not? These are big questions explored in science fiction in “Interstellar,” but practically where can we find comfort in the days to come. How should we be approaching the future?
The appeal of a giant wave, an encompassing ice age, a new government regime led by apes, etc. is same appeal of a movie like “Live, Die, Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow,” a reset button. Constantly looking for a reset button, though, may be extinguishing hope. We see glimmers of hope in our stories: a new civilization on another planet, the deep snow melting away, Caesar having sympathy for and a relationship with a human, but these still feel like patches to the problems for me. Why? Because they are based on things we can do and if our future rests on our shoulders alone, we will surly fall. Our Old Testament prophets always told tale of intense destruction. “Your rich men are full of violence; your inhabitants speak lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth. Therefore I strike you with a grievous blow, making you desolate because of your sins (Micah 6:12, 13).” It was coupled, however, with repentance over self-reliance and a hope that points to the Messiah. “He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love (Micah 7:18).” Some of these stories are right, leaning on our own devices we probably will bring ruin to the world, but leaning on God we are headed for something bigger and brighter. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:1-4).” This should be the narrative we long for, the future we look toward, but to do that we must join in what God is doing in the here and now bringing restoration to this Earth.