This article was first published in the Southern Evening Echo, 18 July 1998.
Apart from Godzilla the big splashes in the cinema this summer come from Deep Impact and Armageddon - quite literally in the case of Deep Impact. Both films find humanity under threat from a comet on a collision course with Earth.
In Deep Impact the only hope of rescue comes from sending a spacecraft to plant nuclear bombs deep inside the comet. All they succeed in doing is splitting it into two. One piece is set to land in the Atlantic and cause a massive tidal wave that will swamp vast areas of land. The larger fragment is predicted to cause an "Extinction Level Event" that will wipe out most life on the planet. There seems to be no hope - except for the million people in America's vast underground shelter.
It's not surprising that we have two films on this subject in the same year. It's only a year or so ago that there were announcements of a real comet apparently on a 'near-earth orbit'. Such things draw attention to our predicament as human beings. We feel so powerful yet we are really very vulnerable.
As the Millennium draws nearer there will be more and more people worrying that 'the end of the world is nigh' - and not just in extreme cults. Even many of those who don't expect imminent catastrophe don't hold out much hope for our long-term prospects. But then there doesn't seem to be much hope around at all. What hope people do have is confined to the short-term future.
Real life doesn't have Hollywood endings: sooner or later human history will come to an end. Do we have any grounds for hope then? Where does our ultimate salvation lie?
Deep Impact is full of Christian ideas. The place of safety in the midst of disaster - the underground shelter - is called 'The Ark'. The spacecraft with the mission to rescue Earth is 'The Messiah'. Eventually humanity's salvation comes from the self-sacrifice of The Messiah. The key crewmember (played by Robert Duvall) is a character known as 'Fish' (one of the great Christian symbols) whose first name, Spurgeon, is the surname of a famous Victorian preacher.
So where do we find hope? Surely not in the ability of governments to shelter us from disaster - whether global or personal. I can't help but think that Deep Impact gives hints that point us in the right direction.