By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Then again, there’s little point in trotting out a message about overfishing if nobody hears it, and for all that Happy Feetsaves penguins only because they dance like Savion Glover, it nevertheless grossed $200 million at the U.S. box office even before winning the Oscar. But there might be a way to cut to the heart of our doom without having to make so nice: Invent a monster.
Back in the 1950s, when the world was in the grip of another scare, this time brought on by the invention of atomic weapons, filmmakers created monsters mutated by radiation to serve as metaphors for our fears and the scientists and governments who stoked them. To restore society to order, the monster had to be destroyed, often by the same powers that made it. Watching the 2006 enviro-movie parade, it was possible to feel the time had come for a pollution-mutated Godzilla(or, as the Japanese first named it, Gojira) — a beast to stand in for the bureaucrats and hack scientists who’ve led us down this path, like the Gill-Man that emerges from the Amazon in the 1954 film Creature From the Black Lagoon, which Universal reportedly plans to remake sometime next year. Only this time, we can’t rely on the authorities to kill it.
South Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho’s The Host(currently in release in American theaters) is such a purely pro-planet movie that it tempts you to declare it the only real environmental movie ever. It connects common values like clean water with individual freedom and official stupidity about toxins with government-sanctioned hysteria over imagined contagions, and makes the very real point that the people who suffer most from pollution work petty jobs in factories and stores. It is not a call for the better technological solutions and responsible corporate management that An Inconvenient Truth insinuated, nor does it imagine a grand corporate conspiracy in the way of Who Killed the Electric Car? Its only computer-generated creature is the one that emerges from the Han River, near where our protagonist family runs a little snack shop, after the river has been polluted with formaldehyde by careless lackeys in a U.S. government-run lab.
Ironically, although many people die within its boundaries (including, unlike The Day After Tomorrow, people you actually care about), The Hosthas a slapstick friendliness about it that hooks you deeply into the fate of its somewhat feckless lead character, a dyed-blond single dad named Gang-du (Song Kang-ho), who fights the official powers for his right to pursue the creature that has abducted his daughter. It breaks your heart in the end, as well any movie about an ailing Earth should, but not before it offers a solution to the mess we’re in. To sum it up without spoiling the movie, that solution has nothing to do with the cooperation of DuPont and Chevron, with boardroom pep talks or the batting of animated eyelashes. It has much more in common with the vigorous protest movements led by college-age war resisters throughout the generations.
In other words, The Hostdares to suggest that bringing down the monster of environmental collapse, whether it’s caused by carbon dioxide or human avarice, will take more than a plan drawn up in a European sanctuary by an intergovernmental panel. It might mean subverting those pokey governments and their authority altogether. If we get scared enough, it might even mean we need to riot in the streets. Gore will not be leading that riot, and Melissa Etheridge will not be singing its theme song. But in the end, it may be the only way to get the job done.
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