What is making Hollywood so focussed on the end of the world themes in films like Man of Steele, This is the End, Pacific Rim and World War Z?
Throughout history apocalyptic themes tend to emerge from the imagination of artists in periods of great social upheaval., oppression and unrestrained injustices. It was just such a time, following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, during the Domitian persecution in the late first century that the Bible’s Book of Revelation was written by St. John.
In literature and in the films there are some common elements. First, a crisis emerges, precipitated by some force that has been hidden, or ignored except by a few prophetic figures. These prophets have a hard time convincing a distracted, tepid society of the looming danger. The hidden force gains strength, threatening to destroy the world and humanity.
Once the crisis hits, then the hero must fight off the disaster, stall the enemy for long enough to come up with a solution. In the process the hero, reluctant at first, discovers his/her true self and must commit to using his gifts for others, even to the point of risking death. In saving his family or friends, he saves the world. In saving the world he leads the way to rebuild with new insight and purpose.
Why are these films being made in such numbers now? It could be the residual effects of apocalyptic events of the last fifteen years: 9-11, Katrina, the banking crisis, the wars in the Middle East. It also could be a looming sense that something earth shaking is about to happen, combined with the growing cry of people saying things need to change.
Sometimes it takes a disaster in our life, an event that threatens our “world as we know it,” before we really look at the issues that we ignore or neglect. If we wait till the crisis, we risk total collapse of everything.
The aspects of ourselves or our society that remain neglected and unreconciled are precisely the parts that potentially lead to chaos and destruction. Unconscious forces like prejudice, anger, narcissism or greed may gestate into Godzillas or infect a culture like an pandemic flu virus.
A life of faith, offers a growth alternative to the apocalyptic model. Through prayer we listen for the Holy Spirit to remind us of the truths and issues that most need attention. We have practices such as study, meditation, confession, retreats, spiritual direction and spiritual reading which hopefully help prevent serious issues or forces from going too far underground. As the summer films show, individuals committed to a higher purpose, working with others can save the world.
Ultimately God saves. By connecting one’s life to God, one becomes part of the larger force of good in the universe that always triumphs over evil, in reality if not always in Hollywood blockbuster films.