The Imagination of Disaster in Science Fiction Films

Introduction

            In the article “The Imagination of Disaster”, Susan Sontag discusses the differences that exist between science fiction films and science fiction novels, placing emphasis on the unique features of science fiction films, which help to better understand the key message and draw relevant conclusions. According to Sontag, the strengths of science fiction films are multiple, including “the immediate representation of the extraordinary, physical deformity and mutation, missile and rocket combat, toppling sky-scrapers” (41). There is a close connection between Sontag’s argument and the film Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which is presented in the form of science fiction themes, such as disaster, destruction and violence caused by monsters and invaders from the outer space.

Summary of the argument presented in the reading

            In her article, Sontag argues that science fiction films produce the imagination of disaster because the viewers have an opportunity to develop the fantasy of passing through destruction of cities, society and even humanity. Many science fiction films are not about new technological developments and scientific projects, but these films are about havoc and mess generated by destruction of cities, deaths of people and so on. She writes, “we may, if we are lucky, be treated to a panorama of melting tanks, flying bodies, crashing walls, awesome craters and fissures in the earth, plummeting spacecraft, colourful deadly rays …” (Sontag 42). Hence, the author links the key goal of science fiction films to strengthening of the viewer’s imagination of disaster.

Brief summary of the thesis statement of the article

            The author’s thesis statement is strong enough to direct the reader’s thoughts. She argues that science fiction films are not aimed at telling more about science as these films tell about disaster in details. Sontag suggests that disaster is “one of the oldest subjects of art” (41). Due to intensive depiction of disaster, the viewer has an opportunity to imagine the large scale of disaster, explore “the aesthetics of destruction” and its consequences. Thus, the author’s statement is that “it is in the imagery of destruction that the core of a good science fiction film lies” (Sontag 41).

Discussion of the main points used by the author to support the thesis statement

            In the article, there are several main points used by the author to support her thesis statement.    First of all, Sontag compares science fiction films with other types of films in order to prove the fact that destruction is depicted on a “colossally magnificent scale” (Sontag 42). She states that one of the key features of science fiction films is high degree of visual credibility. This fact means that the imagination of disaster is enlarged due to inclusion of contemporary historical events.

            Secondly, Sontag suggests that science fiction films provide “extreme moral simplification” (42). In other words, the viewer has a chance to use a fantasy that is consistent with morality or that teaches morality. This is a unique feature of science fiction films because it differentiates these films from horror films. The viewer assesses the behaviour of the monsters from the outer space and concludes that disaster is unavoidable. According to the author, “science fiction films are one of the purest forms of spectacle; that is, we are rarely inside anyone’s feelings” (Sontag 43). 

            Thirdly, the author states that any scientific film has a “steady, inexorable plot” which make sit possible to utilize technology in order to observe a detailed depiction of destruction and violence (43).Special attention is paid to depiction of technological innovations, such as new machinery, equipments and objects associated with the outer space. The author mentions that “a greater range of ethical values in embodied in the décor of these films than in the people” (Sontag 43). In other words, the viewer can experience the feelings of machinery and various objects, as well as the feelings of people. In these films, people need artefacts to protect themselves and their planet from alien invaders.

            Fourthly, Sontag believes that science fiction films are aimed at teaching people to use science with good intentions. She assumes that “the standard message is the one about the proper, or human, use of science, versus the mad, obsessional use of science” (Sontag 43). This unique feature of science fiction films allows drawing relevant conclusions on the role of technological progress in human life. 

Discussion of the conclusion made by the author

            The conclusion made by the author in her article incorporates the key ideas about science fiction films. Sontag is focused on evaluation of these films from a moral point of view. She states that “these films perpetuate cliches about identity, volition, power, knowledge, happiness, social consensus, guilt, responsibility, which are, to say the least, not serviceable in our present extremity” (47). What is more important is that the author concludes that the nightmares generated by science fiction films are close to    reality, namely to real events that occur in modern society.

Identification of connection between the argument and the film Godzilla: King of the Monsters

            There is a close connection that exists between the author’s argument and the film Godzilla: King of the Monsters. In this film, American reporter Steve Martin is engaged in investigation of a large number of strange disasters that occurred off the coast of Japan. He has to encounter with a powerful ancient monster which terrifies everyone. This science fiction film is designed to make people think about disaster and destruction. Due attention is paid to the discussion of the negative effects of nuclear testing. Godzilla destructs Tokyo and leaves deaths of people. Conventional weapons cannot be used to stop the monster. Due to the scientist Dr. Serizawa, it becomes possible to discover the appropriate weapon to destroy Godzilla. The problem is that the monster’s violent response to this new weapon could lead to the destruction of Tokyo Bay. Actually, the plot of the film intensifies the anxiety about the fate of humanity. This theme is similar to the ones discussed by Sontag in her article. Sontag states that “the theme of dehumanization is perhaps the most fascinating” (46). The same can be said about the film Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which provides a detailed description of the creatures  that arouse fear in the viewer. These dehumanized monsters require developing the proper weapons to stop violence and destruction.

            In fact, the science fiction film that has been paired with Sontag’s article “The Imagination of Disaster” can be  used as an example of the author’s ideas. It reflects the author’s ideas about the power of science and technology in human society. For example, the plot of the film is developed in a way that makes the viewer acknowledge the need to struggle for peace through the use of scientific innovations with good intentions. Depiction of the scale of destruction terrifies the main characters and they come to conclusion that science could help to stop the monster’s violence. Sontag assumes that “science is magic, and man has always known that there is black magic as well as white” (44). The film Godzilla: King of the Monsters depicts how science is used to create white magic and kill the monster whose plans are to destroy Tokyo and the whole world.

Conclusion

            Thus, it is necessary to conclude that the imagination of disaster is the basis of science fiction films, according to Sontag. The key features of the film Godzilla: King of the Monsters are relevant to the information presented in Sontag’s article. In general, the article is worth reading and analysing because it helps to better understand the key message presented in science fiction films.  

Works Cited

Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Dir. by Terry Morse and Ishiro Honda. Perf. by Raymond  Burr, Takeshi Shimura, Momoko Kochi, etc. Toho Jewel Enterprises.  1956.

Sontag, Susan. “The Imagination of Disaster,” in Liquid Metal: The Science Fiction Film Reader, ed. by Sean Redmond.Wallflower Press, 2004.

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[Accessed: September 29, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: September 29, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: September 29, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: September 29, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: September 29, 2020]