Revenge of the Earth

On a planet ravaged by destruction, Mother Nature fights back—coming soon to a theater near you. According to an article in today’s New York Times, many upcoming feature films will have a new menacing character: Earth.

Dumping Hollywood villains of the past—drug lords, aliens, North Korean dictators, even the news media—for an environmental bete noir carries risks for studios that don’t mind frightening viewers, as long as it’s all in fun.

Movies ranging from a new M. Night Shyamalan thriller recently picked up by 20th Century Fox to the Simpsons movie, set to be released this summer, all have an environmental theme incorporated into the plot. The article attributes this, in part, to a recent documentary on global warming that you might have heard about.

That an environmental consciousness should be slipping into the film industry’s prospective blockbusters is not surprising in an era when Al Gore and friends have picked up an Oscar (and hefty box-office returns) for their global warming documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” and when the debate it fed has largely slipped its partisan moorings.  

Thankfully, the article does give credit to older films, like Erin Brockovich, that helped illuminate environmental issues, but it omits other important movies like A Civil Action, Medicine Man, and the Day After Tomorrow.

It’s great that the Times is giving a nod to the increasing trend of environmental issues surfacing in movies. Yet we’re not quite convinced that this is such a new tendency. Just last year the industry saw two other important environmental movies, Who Killed the Electric Car and Hoot, in addition to An Inconvenient Truth. Maybe it’s really that the people are finally coming out in larger numbers to see these flicks and the studios are just reacting to public interest.


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