Jurassic Park, this class’s introductory movie, is a story about using science to bring entire species back to life.
Or is it? What’s really going on under the surface of this film? Looked at another way, Jurassic Park is a movie about scientific progress, when married with a certain lack of care, threatening the existence of human life on earth.
This theme, the threat science can pose to the human species is an incredibly prevalent theme in books and film. Just as often, though, these movies deliver hope. A thriving human civilization that spans the stars, an end to world hunger and disease, the elimination of crime – these are just some of the themes that we can examine through science fiction films.
Many of the movies we’ll watch and discuss in this course have used innovative science concepts and visions of the future to deliver award-winning drama. In doing so, they have also had a cultural impact far beyond their original goals, shaping thought on and fears about science for long after a movie’s initial release.
An example: Distrust GMO foods? You just might be feeling the same fear as the readers and viewers of Jurassic Park.
During each week of this high school course, students will view a selected movie at home and then critically examine the truths and fictionalizations (intentional or not) of science and societies presented by each film during moderated class-based discussions and in written discussion forums.
Through this class, students will gain a deeper appreciation for both the art of movie entertainment and the science and social science being mined (or even exploited) by the moviemakers. Weekly webinars are 50 minutes long. Recordings are available for students who must miss a session. Discussion topics will be posted in the forums to help guide the viewing of each film in its appropriate historical context.
Note: There are re-makes of more than one film that we will use in this class. Please be sure to view the version that is noted below (with lead actor and year of release noted).
Science Topics Examined (and associated films)
Genetic Engineering and Cloning
- Jurassic Park (1993)
- Gattaca (1997)
Humanity and Themes of First Contact
- The Day the Earth Stood Still (Michael Rennie, 1951)
- Contact (1997)
- Arrival (2016)
Manned Exploration of Space and Disasters
- The Martian
Ecological Disaster and Societies
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
- Gojira (1954)
- Soylent Green (1973)
- Interstellar (2014)
Fall of Civilizations
- Planet of the Apes (Charlton Heston, 1968)
- Forbidden Planet (1956)
Themes of Artificial Intelligence
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
- The Matrix (1999)
- Minority Report (2002)
Many of the selected movies are rated at least PG (a.k.a. ‘Parental Guidance’ suggested), although some are rated R. We strongly advise parents to be aware of the content that their children will be viewing before signing up for this course and we encourage families to view and discuss films together.