The James Clayton Column: ‘The Start of the Universe’ according to the cinema

Is Nanny McPhee 2 reason enough to send James into fits of worry?

The future is bleak. Kyle Reese materialised in a flash of blue electric energy and told me so. With global crises guaranteed to get worse and the machines making war, the people of the future are in for a really depressing ride. They’ll then send back Terminator cyborgs to take our clothes, our money and our motorcycles which means the bleak future does collateral damage to the present day as well. The space-time-continuum collapses, androids humiliate naked Hell’s Angels and a concept that should have probably ended after two Arnie flicks just carries on when no one wants it to.

The doomed humans of the future are, of course, the children of today. Kids, one day this overpopulated, polluted planet torn apart by Terminators will all be yours. Lucky you.

Knowing that older generations have done nothing but set the scene for scenarios straight out of Soylent Green or The Matrix, society should try and make up and do something positive for those who shall inherit the sick Earth. If they can’t promise Soylent Purple (blueberry flavour with no suspect ingredients) or Sarah Connor to lead the resistance/have saviour babies, then the least they could do is ensure that their progenitors have a decent education.

Because school only teaches you basic maths, college only teaches you about unrequited love and university only teaches you how to get in debt, it’s up to media like films and books to fill in the gaps. We learn everything from the flicks, from how to behave like a normal person in public to how survive a holocaust.

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If I’d relied purely on the national curriculum, I’d have no idea how to run a pan-American drug cartel, break out of prison and beat off alien invasions. It is only through the movies that I’ve developed these crucial life skills. Come Judgement Day (Terminator 2) the first humans to be incinerated will be the after-school homework help club. Mark my words: the final human survivor colonies will be full of film geeks.

Knowing the importance of movies as bearers of knowledge, it’s upsetting when you come across films that spread falsities and misinformation. For example, Braveheart is historically anachronistic and The Seventh Seal suggests that Death plays chess (how insulting to suggest that death has such a pedestrian hobby. Death likes drag-racing and roller derby.). As these flicks fill kids’ minds with lies, myths are perpetuated and the machines’ victory is made all the more likely.

Pitched as it is a pre-teen cinemagoers, the movie of the moment that’s worrying me is Nanny McPhee And The Big Bang. A sequel is bad enough, but if it brainwashes fragile young minds into accepting some warped creationist outlook, then I fear for future generations. The idea that a second-rate Mary Poppins with warts is the all-powerful, omniscient architect of the Universe is absurd and deeply unsettling.

We’ve seen the future (thanks for the tip, Kyle) so what we really need to know is how the seeds of civilisation were sown and life on Earth began. If they are going to offer an alternative to the scientific hard fact of the Big Bang and add a fictional, fantastical flourish to proceedings, they can at least try and make it imaginatively appealing.

The proposition that Emma Thompson’s ugly matron is Master of the Universe isn’t going to impress or convince anyone. Luckily enough, other explanations as to ‘how we got here’ can be found if you quickly skim through cinema history.

Thanks to the movies, the murky void of prehistory has been illuminated and we can finally appreciate where we’ve come from. If the immensity of the Universe and the whole ‘Big Bang of 13 billion years ago’ thing is too overwhelming for you, the origin theories presented in the flicks are easier to digest and are less likely to send you into existential crisis.

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If it wasn’t the Big Bang – whether brought about by God, coincidence or a nightmare nanny – semi-viable alternatives can be found in the following films…

Planet Of The Apes

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is essentially accurate but upside-down. We’re evolving into primates and those humans that don’t adapt will be enslaved by the apes much to the chagrin of Charlton Heston.

Jurassic Park

Dinosaurs did exist, but only after Dickie Attenborough created them so that creationists could buy their kids T-rex pyjamas and explain why there wasn’t a pterodactyl on Noah’s Ark.

2001: A Space Odyssey

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It all began when a primordial ape touched a sentient black monolith which, in turn, kick-started the evolution of civilisation. Somewhere along the way the totalitarian red-light computer got shut down and, freed from the technological overlord’s control, humankind was cast through a star-gate to be born anew as children of the Universe after a multicoloured mega-trip.

The Matrix

The entire Universe is actually a simulated artificial reality overseen by a paranoid elderly gentleman with an expansive vocabulary and a room full of television screens.

The Science Of Sleep

Our entire existence is all a dream, stitched together by yarns of wool, cardboard boxes and bits of paper as crafted in the imagination of Gael García Bernal.

Being John Malkovich

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The Universe was created when someone opened a door in actor John Malkovich’s head. Because Malkovich played a confused drunk in Burn After Reading the whole thing became befuddled and is now more baffling than a Charlie Kaufman movie.

The Fountain

A new Universe and state of being was created when Conquistador Hugh Jackman chewed on mythical Mayan plants and discovered the Tree of Life growing out of his torso. It’s either that or everything was created afresh when he crashed the tree and his cosmic meditation orb into a nebula. Affected as he is by his wife’s terminal cancer and the fact he’s living three lives simultaneously, he can’t quite be certain of anything except that he can’t beat death (neither in drag races nor in roller derby).

Men In Black

Our Universe is actually just one of many gathered together in a marble. This marble is only one in a cosmological marble collection bag belonging to a couple of aliens. This proves that life really is a game, places the birth of the Universe on a production line and means that Doomsday is the moment when one of the aliens accidentally swallows the marble. Our Universe is obliterated during the digestion process and our existence is erased by stomach acid.

How do we deal with that, eh, Kyle?

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