BLOCKBUSTER BEASTS Nature fights back in summer movies
Films feed a fear that is growing in modern society.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
The sharks, snakes and space beasts of summer cinema have one message for human audiences: Nature will not nurture you.
While some blockbusters posit that the biggest threat to mankind is technological innovation (think "I, Robot's" angry legions and "Spider-Man 2's" diabolical cyborg Doc Ock), several other films pinpoint organic adversaries and their treacherous environments as the most dangerous of all.
The recently released "Open Water" enlisted the help of live sharks to depict the terrors two scuba divers face when abandoned at sea.
"Our film is about the arrogance we've shown toward the planet, which without question we have raped and dominated," says Chris Kentis, who made "Open Water" with his wife, Laura Lau. They based the film's harrowing events on a true story.
"There's nothing like being stranded 20 miles out at sea with sharks to remind you that mother nature is in control," Kentis says.
"Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid," which opens Friday and is the sequel to 1997's "Anaconda," was shot in the jungles of Fiji and tells of horticulturists hunted by territorial, and hungry, snakes. Even the new "Alien vs. Predator" pits humans against "natural" beasts -- extraterrestrial monsters -- in the frozen wastelands of Antarctica.
The wrath of nature is not a new theme in cinema. "King Kong," Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" and the "Jaws" films are just a few examples of the wild-gone-wilder genre that has titillated and horrified audiences with narratives of humankind clashing with savage beasts.
"These creatures are bigger, more lethal and much scarier than people," says John Davis, a producer on "Alien vs. Predator." "What's satisfying is seeing how human intelligence and ingenuity work out in the end."
However, when set against a backdrop of global instability, stories of menace, fear and pursuit serve more than just the desire to see puny humans overcome the odds. "With this terrorist threat, people have an animalistic urge to want to track the dangerous elements down and fight them, do them harm, do what they can to defend themselves and their families," says Dwight H. Little, director of "Anacondas."
"The terrible impotence is that there is nothing you can do. It is creating unbelievable anxiety because there is no outlet. 'Anacondas' becomes a release, a catharsis, a placeholder for people's fear. The snake becomes the thing of which you are most afraid. Our heroes are able to attack it and kill it."
Moviegoers who find themselves sympathizing with the beasts instead of their human counterparts may be responding to what they represent psychologically.
"The beast often symbolizes the id, something that is out of control," says Peter Dowd, film curator at the American Museum of the Moving Image. "The modern urban human tries to escape and block out nature, but these animal, basic instincts are still there, poking around. Having a beast [on screen] is a way to give those urges a physical form."