Friday night my movie-watching sensibilities were fully realized. We saw Iron Man 3, in the big theater (I often watch films so long after their release that I see it in one of the smaller rooms at the end – which is so not the same as this), to a packed house. And at the end, the whole room sat for all the credits. And they didn’t sit there doubtfully like, “I don’t know, do you think maybe there will be another scene?” They sat there confidently like they knew something I didn’t. I’m pretty sure they’d googled. We all know I like to sit at the end. And if it takes the last quirky scene at the end of an action flick (and a few important words on the screen) to get the room to wait there with me, then so be it. I was so happy to be having one of those moments where a big group of people shares the same experience at once that I was almost able to suspend my recent fear of being somewhere where so many people also are. You know?
But it took a great film and the thrilling experience of seeing an entire room full of people literally hush at the sound of Robert Downey Jr.’s voice returning to the screen to get me away from thinking about the previews.
Every movie I have been to lately is preceded by at least, and usually more than, one preview for a film about the end of the world. Or at least the end of the earth, either due to the carelessness of humanity or the invasion of another species, obviously not just here to visit. The earth is formless and void, so to speak, there are only a handful of humans left on it (or returning to it) and definitely only one or two that are good.
And suddenly, I was disturbed. Does it disturb anyone else that this is such a prevalent theme? It’s like that line from Broken Arrow, paraphrased for my purposes: I don’t know what’s more disturbing – that we think this could happen, or that we’re so certain of it, we’re running out of any other story to tell.
I’ve realized that I subscribe to a view of human history that hopes – if not, assumes – that we are getting better. We learn so much, every generation. Even those of us who seem put here to imagine, even that contribution is helping us, I think, because we picture what could happen if, and so we adjust. And so when I see so many stories coming out in which we’re basically starting over, I feel concerned that the storytellers think there might be nothing left to give. As if perhaps we have told all the stories and now we need a reset so we can tell them again. I.e., “I got nothin’. Let’s wipe out the planet and start with a handful of humans and see what we can do with that.”
You know we all see everything through our filter. And my filter these days is a bit of a fear that I am done. That I have survived three times for goodness sake, and that’s the most that any one person can ask, and I’m probably at the end of me. It was a good run – it had love and dreams and really handsome children. No money to speak of, but definitely shelter and warmth and a really pretty street. It had crisis and heartache, redemption, humor, ambition – the works, really. I fight it every day right now, the feeling that maybe my story is told.
But I do fight it. And I don’t believe it. And so when the storytellers send the message in droves that perhaps the story of all of humanity has pretty much been told and we may as well start over again, I get a little edgy. I don’t think it’s true. And I think we should dig deeper to see what’s left to say about here and now and where we go from here and how we do it together.
Tell me that story? And I will sit all the way through the credits just to watch them roll. No quirky last scene required.