Iraq: the sequel
All this is to say that history readily gives way to fantasy, but so what? The facts, as recent history has proven, aren’t as important as what we believe or imagine. Millions have more belief in the invented history of the Star Wars universe or of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, for example, than in any of the ambiguities of the real world, and for these people Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy didn’t come a moment too soon.
Released three months after 9/11, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring offered a version of events and a world order that mirrored the one described by President George W. Bush. In it, a coalition of Western powers battles the evil Easterners who seek their undoing. Ultimately, they must venture into the heart of enemy territory to destroy their weapon of mass destruction, the Ring of Power.
A nice story while it lasted. But the official point of view would get no support from the author of another vastly popular alternative universe. “How does a democracy turn into a dictatorship?” asked George Lucas while promoting Star Wars: Episode III — The Revenge of the Sith (2005). “How does a good person turn into a bad person?” The answer, as demonstrated in this concluding chapter in the series, sounds suspiciously similar to what’s going on today. Slippery Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, a Dick Cheney clone in a robe, has manipulated fears of interstellar terrorism into an unnecessary war and the downfall of freedom. Worse, he’s also taken the brightest light among the Jedi knights and turned him over to the dark side, transforming him into the evil one himself, Darth Vader.
The horror, the horror
THERAPEUTIC TORTURE: do the co-eds featured in Hostel 2 want — even need — to be tortured?
So that’s how democracies turn into dictatorships, and good people become bad. Or, they can contract a mystery plague that turns folks into juiced up, cannibalistic killing machines. As was the case during the Vietnam War, the horror films of today are as close to the heart of darkness as the screen gets. Hence the resurrection of the zombie movie.
They’ve proliferated like the undead themselves, but perhaps the 28 films have the most life. In the first, Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002), good intentions pave the way to hell as animal-rights activists break into a research facility to release test animals. Unfortunately, the sprung primates are infected with the “rage” virus, which turns them into pissed-off, ravenous, unrelenting carnivores operating at fast-forward speed. The disease passes to humans and spreads through bodily fluids (no end to that), and soon everyone either suffers from rage or, if un-infected, fear — the two basic emotional responses to the 9/11 attack.