Let me say first that I love these movies. I use each one in some format for a summer school class I teach to young people called ALIEN WORLDS. They’re powerful, well done, visually exciting and well-acted. In each one, it’s clear that Humanity is pushing into space, bent on going as far is it can go and finding whatever is out there. Despite the words of Buzz Aldrin, former Apollo astronaut that TV (and movie, I imagine) science fiction has killed the interest of young people in the space program (http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/index.php?id=57491), I can attest that when I use these DVDs in my classroom, I get INTEREST rather than boredom.
But in addition to having the obvious Alien Worlds message, for me these three movies also have another meaning: we can’t find anything worth “worshipping” here, so it must be Out There.
In “2010”, we find that Humanity has been guided to intelligence from apehood, by the unknown builders of the black monolith and that our next step in evolution is just around the metaphysical corner. In “Contact”, mysterious aliens send plans to construct a machine that has unknown potential whose sole purpose is to bring one human out to speak with a super-powerful alien who encourages her and all Humanity in our evolution to become part of a vast, intergalactic union. “Mission To Mars” proves that the “fringe element” is right – the Face on Mars was left by aliens – or are they aliens? The key to opening the Face is human DNA and one person is invited to come visit the super-powerful ancestors of Humanity to find out what’s in store for us.
For me, all three movies assume that God is no longer a viable source of motivation, comfort, and guidance for Humanity. In short, God is dead. HOWEVER, there is also a belief that secular Humanity needs something more than its local “self”. We need to know that we have been purposefully evolved by advanced aliens; we are almost evolved enough to join everyone else; our ancestors lie “out there”. If only we can contact someone else, we’ll find our true selves.
We can find ourselves Out There. While you won’t find this purpose stated in the American, Russian, European or Chinese space mission books, it seems to me that it is a small element in our fascination with space.
As a Christian science fiction reader and watcher, I’d just like to say that I have already found my “self” in God. Deuteronomy 4:29 – “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Scripture is pretty clear – He’s here. All we need to do is look and we’ll find Him. Right here.