Space. The final frontier. The place where Star Wars are fought, odysseys are traveled, and extra terrestrials must inevitably return. Space has fascinated filmmakers and audiences alike for generations. More than 50 years after the moon landing, it is still as much of an unknown to us now as it was to us then. Is there life beyond this world? Are we alone on the vast plane of existence? Or is there a threat still to come from above? What is it about space that is so enthralling and mystifying?
Despite our technological advancement over the past five decades, audiences are still as obsessed with space as they’ve ever been. This year alone, multiple major blockbusters have featured threats from above as their primary source of conflict.
“Avengers: Endgame” saw the entire universe come under threat from an ubervillain from another world, a being so powerful that us mortals could scarcely comprehend the force that he could wield. “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” saw a space-powered King Ghidorah who fell from the heavens in the time before time. “Captain Marvel,” “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” “Ad Astra” … all of these films prominently feature space as a central component of their narrative. Why is it that out of the probable five highest grossing films of the year, three of them will be about space?
Human beings are obsessed with the unknown. They fear it, they sometimes crave it, but most of all they don’t understand it. Besides death, space is the greatest unknown there is. In some ways it is the ultimate mystery. Despite decades of research, there is still so much we do not know. Chicken Little once said the sky was falling, and while no one believed him then, audiences can’t stop believing it now.
Besides the mystery of it all, space is just cool. Aliens, laser swords, spaceships, lightspeed, other worlds, strange encounters — I mean what’s not to like? Science fiction has everything that fantasy has, but with the moral ambiguity and difficult that comes with a more complicated setting. Not to say fantasy cannot be complicated, but over the course of genre history, it is science fiction that has been known as the more thought provoking of the two. “Star Trek,” “Dune,” “2001 A Space Odyssey,” … all of these pieces are centered around who we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going. By pitting humanity against the upper limits of what is possible and what is known, storytellers are able to use space to reflect back on what truly makes us human. Space allows us as a society to understand who we are by comparing us to what we are not. We are not super powered beings from other worlds, blowing up Death Stars and going where no man has ever gone before. But by taking a look at what the future could possibly hold, we give society something to strive towards and something to avoid.
If space is truly the final frontier, than it is the last and greatest challenge that mankind must face. I think there is a real possibility that deep down a lot of people on this planet inherently know that while our species was born on earth, we were never meant to die here. Space fascinates us because the definition of space is the absence of something else. That absence gives way to unlimited possibility. Unlimited possibility for telling stories, unlimited possibility for what is out there and unlimited possibility for a world that is seemingly growing smaller every day.