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More books and movies: the lighter side of green
I ignited a small-scale internal revolt last week when I suggested that Star Trek episodes didn’t belong in our
list of reading and viewing recommendations. So this week we follow up with some fun pop culture goodies that contain green themes.
Reviews by Erin Craig
The several Star Trek series commonly featured light social and political commentary buried in the safe territory of “strange new worlds” with no overt relationship to our own. Several have relevant environmental themes and are great conversation starters on the DVD shelf. First is “Force of Nature,” an episode from the seventh and final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. One of the series’ best works, the episode is a crystal clear allegory of climate change that ends on a message of hope. It’s available as part of the series’ DVD sets.
Second, the unfailingly popular film “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” features the original cast on a journey back through time to 20th-century Earth to hijack a humpback whale. In the future, you see, the humpbacks are extinct, and they’re needed to communicate with an alien probe. The environmental theme is both pervasive and subtle, and this movie is so funny it’s perfect for the uninitiated. Share it with your children.
Native Tongue , by Carl Hiassen
Review by Erin Craig
About 15 years ago, a good friend introduced me to Carl Hiassen’s writing with the novel Native Tongue. Like all Hiassen’s works, Native Tongue is a hilarious adventure set in south Florida and populated with a collection of weirdos out to either destroy the world or save it. This story features an unethical real estate developer, steadfast environmentalists, a rat (or is it?) in a rental car, and most of all, Florida. Always funny, tightly written and inventive, Hiassen’s works are the best I know at weaving environmental themes into entertaining stories that stick with you.
Never Cry Wolf, by Farley Mowat
Review by Erik Blachford
I grew up in Canada, and like all kids in school there eventually read Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf. I suppose it was the first “environmental” book I ever read, and I should be able to wax lyrical about it, but it’s been entirely replaced in my memory by the film. The story of an idealistic young scientist shipped by the Canadian government to the far north to determine whether wolves are killing off the great caribou herds, it’s a film that effortlessly combines adventure and environmentalism, taking care not to leave out a dollop of good humor and fun. In the end, we’re left sharing the narrator’s wonder at the natural world, and his regret at having exposed a fragile part of it to the world outside.
Review by Adam Stein
I spent a good chunk of my childhood watching the Creature Double Feature* on Saturday afternoons, and I maintain a nostalgia for monster movies that rivals the love earlier generations have for Westerns. Monster movies have always traded heavily on environmental themes, sometimes subtly (Godzilla was said to have embodied Japan’s nuclear anxieties) and more often not-so-subtly (in Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, Godzilla battles a huge sentient blob of flying pollution).
Released in the U.S. in 2007, The Host follows the script: environmental sins, rampaging monster, terrified Asian crowds. But it also added a few new tricks in the form of credible special effects and genre-bending characters you actually care about. Critics went nuts for the oddly touching story of dysfunctional family vs. mutant tadpole, and you will too.
Children of Men
Review by Adam Stein
What needs to be said about this movie? One of the best in 2006 in any genre, and one of the best sci-fi flicks ever. The environmental subtext is understated, but the movie’s portrayal of a dystopian world in which humans are unable to procreate is a harrowingly realistic vision of nature out of whack.
* Apparently I’m not the only one who fondly remembers the Creature Double Feature on Boston’s WLVI, Channel 56: “To this day WLVI staffers report that they still receive more e-mail and phone calls about Creature Double Feature than anything else.”