After striking meme gold with the popular-yet-ludicrous scifi/thriller Bird Box, Netflix is back with more speculative shenanigans. While the title of Bird Box refers to a one-second scene in the movie (I haven’t read the book so I can speak to the title’s relevance in that regard), it’s a good bet that the writer chose it because it sounds cool. In the case of the end-of-the-world slow burner Io, the title is a blatant bait-and-switch. The film takes place entirely on Earth with characters hoping to reach a colony orbiting around Jupiter’s second most popular moon (Europa already has its own movie). The location of the colony is inconsequential to the film; it might as well have been Mars, or the moon, or even a low Earth orbit space station. But the writers/producers/directors probably realized that they had a dud on their hands so they decided to catch the eyes of unsuspecting movie watchers like me who are easily roped in with promises of science fiction fun.
Suffice it to say, I hated this film. I didn’t even watch the last forty minutes; I simply fast-forwarded and watched at intermittent moments. The movie does have some cool concepts and a few good scenes, but overall, it’s a snoozefest. Not to mention how wildly incongruous the technology is. We apparently have the capability to put a sustainable colony in orbit around a moon next to Jupiter, and we learn from radio transmissions between characters that a mission to Alpha Centauri will launch from that colony, but the technology on Earth looks just like what we have today. I would think that some of the leaps and bounds in space travel technology would have rubbed off on everyday life, but that would ruin the dystopian-punk aesthetic. That’s a minor gripe compared to the problems with pacing, acting, chemistry, plot, etc., as well as flagrant trespasses against science.
The gist of the movie is that the Earth has turned hostile against us because we are dumping too many plastic straws in the ocean (I seem to recall another movie where this was Happening…) and transformed the world into an inhospitable wasteland, kind of like how the body develops a fever to battle an illness. I’m not a climate change alarmist but it is obvious that mankind is hurting the environment in numerous ways. As this issue becomes more and more prominent in the news and in our conversations, it will inevitably show up in our entertainment.
So how does speculative entertainment treat the problem of these supposed human pests? Get rid of ’em. Everyone knows Agent Smith’s famous proclamation in The Matrix: “Human beings are a disease. A cancer of this planet. You’re a plague.” M. Night Shyamalan had Mark Wahlberg running around trying to find out what was Happening (see, I did it again) when the wind carried suicide-inducing pathogens. In the movie Avatar, Eywa, the spirit of Pandora, mobilized its animal kingdoms to fight back against the evil Americans – I mean pillaging humans. And now here is Io, carrying on the tired trope of “Mother Earth fights back against the human infection.”
Why all the hate for the human race? From a Christian perspective, the answer is simple: the world hates what God loves. Jesus did not die for animals, or the biosphere, or “Mother Earth.” He died for people. But in a fallen, sinful world, the darkness does not comprehend the Light that shines in its midst. People cheer on animal rescues but march for the “right” to kill unborn babies. They get outraged at the mountains of filth in landfills but think nothing of the filth coming into their homes through the media. God told mankind to subdue and dominate the Earth and everything in it, but in a corrupt world ruled by sin, humanity is reduced and the Earth is elevated. This doesn’t mean that we are wrong to be concerned about animal extinction or environmental pollution; as stewards of this planet, it is our duty to care for it. But to consider the people that Jesus bled and died for to be a “virus” is a lie that Satan is only too glad to propagate. Thinking of people as a disease dehumanizes humanity, and that makes it easier to justify transgressions against God’s most precious creation.