In SCIFI, “Saving the World” can mean preventing cosmic Destruction (like asteroid collision), future Doom (like genetic extinction) or Conquest (by Aliens or Artificial Intelligence). The key question: How will Humanity respond? The best examples tell stories about people believing in one another, choosing the right priorities, and casting differences aside.
Independence Day — (1996)
Independence Day, (also promoted as ID4) brings us a very real threat in the form of a hostile Alien takeover. The film focuses on disparate groups of people who converge in the Nevada desert in the aftermath of a worldwide attack by a powerful Alien race. With people from other nations around the world, they launch a counterattack on July 4 — Independence Day in the United States.
It’s one thing for cities to be leveled by a series of gravitational shifts, and uncontrollable fault lines beneath the Earth’s crust, but there’s just something about Will Smith saying “welcome to Earth” before punching an Alien in the face that simply has mass appeal.
Unlike most films of its kind, ID4 offers a healthy amount of comedic relief with great-looking special effects — like the White House getting blown up by an Alien Destroyer — that show us how devastating an attack of this scale would be if it were to ever happen in real life.
Deep Impact — (1998)
Deep Impact is an American SCI-FI Disaster film, described by astronomers as being scientifically accurate. It deals with global catastrophe on the government level, and the individual level. When planet Earth is threatened with an Extinction Level Event (E.L.E.) in the form of a newly discovered comet, there isn’t a lot of time to figure out how to save humanity from doom.
Determined to prevent social chaos, U.S. President Tom Beck (Morgan Freeman) freezes all wages and all prices, invoking martial law. An ambitious space mission to knock the comet out of Earth’s path is only partially successful and a lottery is used to choose the small number of humans who are expected to survive.
The film shines in its depiction of key characters who willingly sacrifice their own safety for the sake of others — including a selfless reporter who gives up her seat on an evacuation helicopter to a colleague and her young daughter, and a brave group of astronauts who make all the difference.
The Last Mimzy — (2007)
The Last Mimzy, loosely based upon the 1943 SCI-FI short story “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” by Lewis Padgett, tells the story of a scientist in the distant future — who sets out to avert an ecological disaster (that dooms mankind to extinction) by sending a small number of high tech devices that resemble toys back in time to modern day Seattle — where they are discovered by two children: Noah and Emma Wilder.
Emma relates a dire message from Mimzy: Many Mimzys were sent into the past before her, but none of the others were able to return to their home time, because they lacked an “engineer” like Noah, and now Mimzy, the last one the scientist was able to send back, is beginning to disintegrate.
To save the future, Mimzy must acquire a sample of uncorrupted human DNA to correct the damage done to DNA by ecological catastrophes. The FBI do not believe them, so Noah and Emma use their powers to escape. Mimzy absorbs a tear from Emma, which contains her DNA. Via the time portal which Noah constructs using the toys, Mimzy returns to the future.
2012 — (2009)
In 2012, an impending disaster threatens humanity from the inside of planet Earth’s core — inspired by the Maya Long Count Calendar, which suggests a series of earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions will destroy the Earth.
Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) is a self-published author who works during the day as a chauffeur. Upon taking his children, Noah and Lily, to Yellowstone National Park, they find that the location has not only been dried up, but also blocked off by government officials.
It doesn’t take long for a series of catastrophic events to throw the entire world into a state of turmoil, and Earth’s inhabitants to desperately seek out safety in the form of massive Arks that can withstand the natural disasters that are destroying the planet from inside out.
In one dramatic scene, American geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), part of the U.S. government’s team on one of the Arks (and a fan of Jackson’s optimistic view of humanity in his book Farewell Atlantis) convinces world leaders NOT to abandon throngs of people on the dock before their departure — bringing them on board.
Interstellar — (2014)
In Interstellar, the name of the game isn’t necessarily saving Earth, but rather finding a new planet for humans to live on if it can’t be saved. This Christopher Nolan film bends time and space as Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his team of astronauts seek out a new home planet by traveling through a wormhole near Saturn.
What separates it from other films: its ability to bend time and space without ever losing the plot. In some instances, years pass in a matter of minutes. In other words, even though Cooper and his crew only experience a short passage of time on their mission, decades are passing on Earth’s surface.
The story raises a number of questions about our perception of Time and Space … and our Fate. In the end, the most powerful Force in the universe — the one that enables Cooper to connect with his daughter (Jessica Chastain) far away and communicate the all-important data needed to complete vital calculations that make it possible to save humanity — is LOVE.
Save the World SCI-FI tells stories about how we might respond to threats like cosmic Destruction, impending Doom or Alien Conquest. It offers, at its best, HOPE for the Future — through shining examples of people believing in one another, choosing the right priorities, and casting differences aside — to save Humanity.
We need to believe that somehow, in the face of impossible circumstances … Someone will find the Courage to do what is Right.
Take heart. That person could be YOU.