After the Easter Vigil this year, I watched parts of the Japanese classic Evil Brain from Outer Space. Though never a big fan of reading science fiction, I must admit that this genera makes fantastic movies. I especially enjoy dystopia-themed salvation stories (you know the kind: the world is almost destroyed, yet there remain a few survivors with a mission to restore some sanity to a society of collective psychosis). I would put some of the following movies among my favorites in this vein: The Book of Eli; The Hunger Games (Mockingjay); The Matrix (the 1st); Tron; and, of course, The Empire Strikes Back.
Why is this genera so appealing to so many? Steven Greydanus of the Catholic Digest recently wrote on this in a convincing way, dealing with the Culture of Death. In his words, “Sometimes a dystopian story can point the way to a better world—not by depicting the realization of such a world, but by depicting its doom.” More than just good against evil, it’s the restorative effort, the virtue and the beautiful breaking through the official crust of ugliness and disaster that hooks me every time. I like the action and the battle scenes (though you can keep much of the graphic violence), however, the parts I like the most have to do with the conversations, like “You are the One” or “You are our only hope, whether you realize it not” or “I never asked for this (to save the world)!” This kind of dialogue intrigues me because it is unlike the blatant Superhero genera, which is fantasy and everyone knows it. Somehow, the dystopian heroes and heroines tend to be more like us, and they seem to discover, or “fall into” the role of savior.
Considered from a Christian perspective, it’s our role as well to discover the salvation-oriented purpose of our lives; we follow Christ, The Savior, The One, The Hope, but we also cooperate with him, called by him to carry out the Redemption in the Salvation History that is our lives, our history. Happy Easter, now save the world!