Friday, March 28, 2014

Sci-fi fairy tale: 'Jupiter Ascending'

 


The first full-length trailer for Jupiter Ascending--the latest from the Wachowskis (Matrix, Cloud Atlas)--unpacks the teaser trailer from a few months back, giving us a meatier glimpse at this science fiction fairy tale. The film's blend of these two genres has an intriguing potential that's piqued my interest.

Fairy tales speak to deeper truths, the best of which, says J.R.R. Tolkien, make simple but fundamental things "all the more luminous by their settings." C.S. Lewis writes of the power of fairy tales to communicate profound truths by "stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations" so that "one could make them for the first time appear in their potency." They even give us, says Tolkien, a taste of the deepest truth: the gospel, a story with the happiest of endings.

Science fiction is one of today's most thought-provoking genres with the potential to tell good stories--the kind that explore the reality in which we live, why we believe what we do, what it means to be human, and why we are the way we are and do the things we do. In addition, the nature of science fiction invites us to consider things beyond the here and now. It confronts us with the unknown, potential, mystery, and exploration beyond the comfortable--things that push us to consider greater truths to our existence.

A story that combines these two genres? Well, let's just say there is quite a bit of potential there.

Jupiter Ascending comes pretty close to what C.S. Lewis defines as a "sub-species of science fiction" that combines fantasy and science fiction--a sub-species of which he is particularly fond. In his essay "On Science Fiction," Lewis writes:
The last sub-species of science fiction represents simply an imaginative impulse as old as the human race working under the special conditions of our own time. It is not difficult to see why those who wish to visit strange regions in search of such beauty, awe, or terror as the actual world does not supply have increasingly been driven to other planets or other stars. It is the result of increasing geographical knowledge. The less known the real world is, the more plausibly your marvels can be located near at hand. As the area of knowledge spreads, you need to go further afield: like a man moving his house further and further out into the country as the new building estates catch him up.
Later in the essay, Lewis writes of this sub species of science fiction, "If good novels are comments on life, good stories of this sort ... are actual additions to life; they give, like certain rare dreams, sensations we never had before, and enlarge our conception of the range of possible experience."  

Maybe with Jupiter Ascending the Wachowskis are going, as Lewis puts it, further afield to give us one of those rare dreams. Maybe not. We'll see.

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