5 Movies That Sent the Opposite of Their Intended Message

#2. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: We Should Surrender to Evil Aliens

Paramount Pictures

The Message:

A giant alien probe shaped like a Twinkie starts vaporizing Earth's oceans and disrupting its electrical systems. As the planet's inhabitants struggle to recharge their communicators, Captain Kirk and his crew discover that the probe is trying to communicate with humpback whales, which had been killed off by humans 300 years earlier. It's clear that the Twinkie-probe will continue to microwave the Earth until it hears back from its whale friends, and so Kirk and company must travel back in time to find a non-extinct humpback. The lesson is clear: Stop killing whales, or you will be killed by a planetary-sized snack cake with a cetacean fetish (somewhere out there is a pornographic Tumblr devoted to just this scenario).

Jim Tierney/iStock/Getty Images
Awww yeah, baby. Get yourself all wet.

Why It Falls Flat:

Look, there's a name for the sort of person who can make an environmental message movie that doesn't suck. And that name is Hayao Miyazaki. Most "save the environment" movies are just as likely to make viewers walk out of the cinema and set fire to a pile of refrigerators soaked in dolphin blood, just to discourage the director from making any more.

20th Century Fox

And, unfortunately, The Voyage Home is no exception. Why? Because its message comes out as less "save the whales" and more "let's allow genocidal aliens to tell us what to do." The Twinkie aliens are either outright evil (they're willing to punish an advanced, peaceful society for the crimes committed 300 years earlier, which is a bit like beating up your neighbor because his great-great-great-great grandmother stole an alpaca in 1835) or they are just remarkably dumb (who tries to communicate with whales by vaporizing the ocean?), or both. And yet Captain Kirk, the most undefeatable badass in the Alpha Quadrant, decides after about 2.5 seconds that fighting these little space-Hitlers is "futile," and that the only option is to give them what they want.

CBS Television Distribution
Hey, it's not like time travel ever caused any complications in our universe. Let's go!

So, either Kirk has suffered tragic delta-ray-radiation brain damage, or the movie wants us to accept that this is the right thing to do, and that the aliens slapping Earth around like an abusive boyfriend somehow have the moral high ground. In the end, the probe sails off without so much as a polite explanation, ready to go off and destroy Vulcan for killing off gerbils in 10,000 B.C. or whatever.

#1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Scientific Hubris Is Bad (but Only if Everyone Involved Is Incredibly Stupid)

20th Century Fox

The Message:

In the near future, scientists are developing a virus that can erase brain aging and stop your grandma from forgetting her Facebook password forever. The virus escapes and turns out to be fatal to humans, while making other primates smarter, which leads to both a massive human die-off and a flourishing of macrobiotic banana recipes. Like a lot of science-fiction, the movie is about what happens when humans mess around too much with nature. Hell, it even has a background plot about an ill-fated Mars probe named "Icarus," a name that is shorthand for doomed scientific overambition, as well as being possibly the worst name for a Mars probe ever.

You might as well build a spaceship entirely out of black cats, broken mirrors, and the blood of angry Gypsies.

Why It Falls Flat:

Humanity doesn't die because scientists overstepped their boundaries and played God. They die because every scientist involved in the "brain virus" project apparently knows less about biology than a toddler who's been taught to wash his hands after he poops.

In one scene, an unsedated chimp is being gassed with the experimental virus. Unsurprisingly, because "experimental" and "unsedated chimp" go together about as well as "Thanksgiving dinner" and "nudity," things go wrong: The ape convulses, virus-gas gets everywhere, and one unlucky scientist's mask is briefly knocked askew. Everyone goes on like nothing happened, because apparently these scientists believe that airborne viruses follow the five-second rule. When the guy falls ill, the other scientists decide that it's just a coincidence, and go on with their work as the poor dude wanders around without so much as a Hello Kitty surgery mask. Eventually he sneezes blood on an airline pilot, who must think to himself, "Oh, just a blood-sneeze from a visibly dying man, nothing serious," because he then hops on a plane.

20th Century Fox
"Sir, the virus has gone- damn, what's the word I'm looking for? It has become popular
in the fast-spreading manner of a humorous cat picture."

The lesson here is not so much "don't fuck with Mother Nature" as "in the near future, every single person will suddenly decide that illnesses can be spread only by means of angry ghosts."

C. Coville's Twitter is here.

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