New Trend In Movie Villians: Corporations And Eco-'Bad Guys'

March 15th, 2007 9:28 PM

Gone are the days of Rambo fighting off Russian baddies in Vietnam, The Mighty Ducks kicking Swedish hockey team booty or even a geek destroying a red and white 1958 Plymouth Fury to a George Thorogood soundtrack. In the March 12 New York Times, Michael Cieply reports those days are on their way out in Hollywood. The new industry trend is for the movie villains to be enemies of the environment, not the United States. The NYT briefly touches on the old-style bad guys’ evolution to the new model and the possible resulting influence:

Dumping popular Hollywood villains of the past — drug lords, aliens, North Korean dictators, even the news media — for an environmental bête noire carries risks for studios that don’t mind frightening viewers, as long as it’s all in fun. But it also hints at the possibility of more sophisticated entertainment, and perhaps even the kind of impact that “The China Syndrome,” with Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas, exerted on the nuclear power industry when it came out in 1979.

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.

If by saying the debate has “largely slipped its partisan moorings,” Cieply means that there are skeptics of the anthropogenic global warming premise and specifically, critics of Gore’s fantastical “documentary” that run the gamut from left to right, then he’s right. His own paper wrote about "An Inconvenient Truth's" inaccuracies, but Cieply clearly means that the debate is settled and now people on both sides of the political spectrum agree. He ignores the scientific and political rebellion surrounding the anthropogenic climate change gospel.

Surprisingly, the Times then admits something that conservatives have known for a long time; Hollywood targets the eeevil corporate world:

The source of that change hews closely to Hollywood convention: the exploiter is often a big corporation wreaking havoc by its greed. In “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” the remake that may be shot by Universal Pictures later this year, the murderous fish-man of the Amazon is spawned by the sins of a pharmaceutical giant. “It’s about the rain forest being exploited for profit,” explained Gary Ross, a writer and producer of the film, whose previous movies include “Seabiscuit.”

In one form or another, the corporate executive as environmental predator has worked in movies including “Silkwood,” the 1983 Meryl Streep drama about damage from plutonium processing; “Erin Brockovich,” the 2000 Julia Roberts vehicle about power-plant pollution; and “Fire Down Below,” the 1997 thriller in which the action star Steven Seagal turns unlikely environmental activist by tearing into the dumpers of toxic waste.

More recently, “The Children of Men,” about post-apocalyptic infertility, and the forthcoming “28 Weeks Later...,” which features an unstoppable virus, have chosen to dwell in a morose future reminiscent of “Waterworld” or the “Mad Max” series.

As with other forms of today’s new generation of ecological and anti-business indoctrination, the message is becoming less obvious and more insidious. The entertainment industry now admits their ulterior motives of creating movies like these with the goal of driving public opinion to their point of view:

Yet some pictures in the next wave are driven by evil of a subtler kind. Among the more daring gambits is that of “Avatar,” another Fox project that promises to become Mr. Cameron’s first studio feature since “Titanic” was released nearly a decade ago. This science-fiction thriller posits a time when humans have exhausted their resources and resort to raiding other planets to survive. The inhabitants of one such world fight back, led by a human who has seen the light and chooses to help the oppressed…

While acknowledging the delicacy of making all of us somehow responsible for villainy — will viewers squirm at the notion of humanity as a monster? — Jon Landau, who is producing the film with Mr. Cameron, described the twist as a natural one. “Good science fiction plays as a metaphor for our current world,” he said.

At the same time, Mr. Landau stressed that Mr. Cameron’s lifelong approach has been to treat social lessons as secondary to entertainment. “People who see the theme will get an important message” as something of a bonus, he said.

This subliminal delivery of the anti-business eco-brainwashing, even seeps into more light-hearted fare, such as the upcoming “The Simpson’s Movie”:

… Homer Simpson, Hollywood’s favorite doofus Everyman, is said by the table talk here to threaten Springfield by unleashing environmental catastrophe. As the film’s trailer warns: “The fate of the world hangs in the balance.”

Expect more of the same.