Thursday, August 2, 2012

On (a lack of) Patience and Judgement

This has been a fantastic summer for superhero movies. But you don't need me to tell you that, do you? Posters are plastered everywhere with colourful images of some of our favourite comic book characters brought to the big screen.

I went to see The Amazing Spiderman for a second time since its theatrical release, and I must say, the themes rung even deeper after more careful analysis. What I picked up on was the main villain, Dr. Curt Connors, a visionary doctor who wants to see "a world without weakness" and dedicates his life's work in finding a pathway to this endearing destination.

But we've seen this before, haven't we? Well-intentional character strives to accomplish something good for the rest of humanity, see that good show promise for something greater, then lose it completely and see it spiral downwards to chaos. The simple flow seems to be create something new, control it to do something better, then watch it crash (chaos) in front of you. I will look at three films that use this model throughout the theme: The Amazing Spider Man, Rise of Planet of the Apes, and my personal favourite, Jurassic Park. There may be spoilers so if you haven't seen these films yet, I welcome you to return once you have (honestly, they are worth the watch!).

In The Amazing Spiderman we meet a dedicated scientist's desire to create a way in which the body can repair itself using cross-species integration. The implication is the standard of normalcy that rejects anything less than what is expected (if we are anything less than what we should be, five fingers and five toes, then we are a biological failure). In this case, he is missing an arm. Instead of accepting this fact and learning new and creative ways of living without it, Dr. Connors is consumed with how to create something new. Of course there is nothing wrong with creating, but the danger lies in taking it further...

Will Rodman of Rise of Planet of the Apes is also inspired to create his "fantasy drug" due to his father's early Alzheimer's. A drug that allows the brain to repair itself? It would be a cure that could save millions of lives, so of course there is nothing wrong with creating, but the danger lies in taking it further...

And then there is my favourite old man, John Hammond, a talented communicator and skillful entrepreneur. His charisma can certainly swoon a room of weary investors, which makes him the ideal idealist for what he envisions: a theme park that brings you back in time to experience what every child grew up loving: living dinosaurs! Between reading the book and watching the movie, Hammond's vision for Jurassic Park has been to create a park for every family in the world to enjoy - while making a few billion dollars on the side. And he does it!  Of course there is nothing wrong with creating, but the danger lies in taking it further...

Connors succeeds, with the help of Peter Parker, in creating a formula that allows the body to repair itself. This is good news! What is not good news is that, apparently, that is not good enough. It is not good enough to allow humans to live in a world without weakness because, according to Connors' crazy self, humans are inherently weak. The solution is to take this new formulaic gift and create even better beings; stronger, faster smarter. How long from the point of discovering the formula to this new idea happen?

We root for John Lithgow's character as we see him return to his "normal" self, a life void of disease. Don't get me wrong, this is good news! A cure has been found, but very soon after we see that Will's miracle cure not only repairs the brain - it also enhances it. Imagine what a drug that promises increased intelligence be worth? And, how long from the point of discovering the cure to this new idea happen?

Hammond has had enough with lawyers and investors trying to shut his dream down. He has done everything he could; most up-to-date systems, security procedures followed to the letter, not cutting corners and sparing no expense. But, as Dr. Malcolm rightly points out, "life finds a way" and the need to improve and genetically manufacture (no longer just creating) extinct species takes a turn for the worst. Let's remember that the premise of this movie plot is that these visitors are on the island as a response to assess already existing problems. And, how long from the point of creating extinct dinosaurs to the problems facing this new idea happen?

We come back to the issue of trying to quickly improve upon something that still hasn't been fleshed out. What I mean is that as soon as the formula is discovered, the need to run human trials is immediately felt. This, of course, is where the rabbit hole eventually leads to. In pursuit of greater achievement, Oscorp has no problem with testing the formula on seniors at a veteran hospital. Connors is against the thought, but breaks at the point of true resistance. Instead of waiting, he sees his window of opportunity closing and decides to take a chance on himself. His sacrifice is a selfish one, and the result is a self-created monster that has great difficulty in returning to his caring self.

In Rise of Planet of the Apes it is clear that the drug needs more testing, but there isn't enough time for that; not when there are billions of dollars to be made, of course. In trying to achieve something greater than they have stumbled upon, they've forgotten to take a step back and reflect "not whether or not we could, but whether or not we should," (another nod to Dr. Malcolm).  What results is not the saving drug they were hoping for, but a virus that weakens them to the near point of extinction.

Chaos theory was first introduced to me through Jurassic Park, and no better a place to communicate the reality of choices leading up to catastrophes. In a short enough time, John Hammond's vision comes to a crashing halt, to a point where he himself comes to the realization that even he decides to not endorse the park. The film was more forgiving than the book, where we see Hammond dying to the claws of his own creations.

What we see in all three films is that what starts as a common good, quickly turns into selfish ambition in pursuit of fame, riches, or flawed view of attainable perfection. I leave these three movies thinking that the cause of all these issues starts with control. The characters want too much, too quickly. The wide road to chaos is accompanied with a lack of patience and a lack in judgement.

There are great lessons to be taken away from films like these. Unfortunately, not everyone will learn this lesson the first time.

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