Sam Raimi is making yet another alien movie, this one distinguished from its in-production fellows only by the fact that there’s a lead-in involving a skirmish with the Chinese. I was somewhat young for the era when all action movies were defined either by direct conflicts between the West and the Soviet Union or conflicts between the West and the Soviet Union as a proxy for something else. In other words, I can’t imagine a time when there was a societal security concern that translated neatly and conveniently into almost any potential movie scenario. Aliens can be secret agents, the threat of world-annihilating catastrophe is real and present in the form of nuclear war and standoff, an invasion can mobilize a few people or a society, spying is most definitely going on.It’s hard to find a substitute for a world that is both militarily and economically bipolar, at least when it comes to the movies. Terrorism involves far fewer people, and though we speculate about the possibility of nuclear, biological or chemical terrorist attack, the consequences of the attacks we have experienced have killed thousands at most, not millions. Terrorists aren’t everywhere: of course, there are Americans who go off and join terrorist groups or militant movements, but they are aberrations, we find the prospect of our friends or neighbors headed off to join them or turning out to be them generally unfathomable. I don’t think most Americans, or even very large numbers, believe in the possibility that there is an alien society or a brigade of terrorists forming in our midst as folks who meant to root out Communism did. Plots that deal with terrorism are necessarily fairly small-scale and personal: one man against one man, small groups against small groups, simply because of how terrorism is planned and carried out. That makes for tense, interesting movies but not necessarily grand action sequences or scenes of societal mobilization.And economic competition and expansion alone aren’t really a substitute for Communism in the movies. The reasons military clashes with China don’t seem that realistic or gripping in the movies is because they’re not a real possibility, nor a fear that’s taken deep hold in American movie-goers minds. America and China need each other too much, economically, for a real clash to occur. Aliens aren’t going to shoot down skirmishing Chinese and American planes because such skirmishes aren’t going to happen. Media moguls aren’t going to be able to manipulate world events by sparking war between China and the UK because the strategic interests are too important to be shaken by careless deceptionWhether the current balances of power in our uni-polar world are a good thing for geopolitics is a question above this blog’s pay grade. But it certainly does leave movie-makers flailing a bit for enemies.
The New Red Menace?