(Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
There is this little fantasy that every once in a while we hear some physicist repeating.
You know the one I mean, where they talk about finding the Unified Field equation – that sentence-long bit of math which supposedly sums up the entire universe – and then showing it to a bunch of religious leaders from every faith while saying, “see, see?”
Now, aside from the problem that even if we should happen to find that equation we may not be able to prove it is the correct one, the confrontation they imagine simply isn’t going to work out the way they expect it to go.
Instead, what would probably happen would be that there would be some Catholic Thomistic Scholar who would say, “Yes, this is quite impressive, but you do realize that from our point of view, this is simply a detailed working out of one of St. Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God?”
And when the scientist spluttered on about how they’d explained the entire universe, the Thomist would shrug and say, “no, you just described it”.
The point here is that the people who dream that we can overturn all religious belief with some incontrovertible fact often have no real idea of what the people they are arguing against happen to believe.
And that, ultimately is the problem with Shockwave Darkside.
It was a ten year labor of love for its director, Jay Weisman, and benefits enormously from his choice to use professional actors. While it is a fairly familiar story – a transport is shot down by the enemy and the survivors must somehow manage to survive and evade their pursuers while trying to reach their rendezvous – he manages to build up his characters and science fictional world enough to keep it interesting.
In his world, all the religious believers have been exiled to the moon, while the atheists (the “Unlight”) stayed back on Earth and made a mess of the place.
The film looks quite good, particularly considering its low budget origins, although it is somewhat betrayed by its effects for quite different reasons. The soldiers helmets have HUD displays on what looks like clear glass from the outside and a lot of the film is displayed from the perspective of the soldiers. While this allows some clever bits – like showing their entertainment systems at work during the long march as they write texts, watch blue movies and play online casino games – unfortunately it covers far too much of the screen and the displays are relatively static – and thus, not very interesting visually. Other sequences – such as the displays of the enemy satellites tracking them, and the viewpoint of a set of underground borers – suffer from similar problems.
Curiously, while the story seems to favor the exiles, at the end the team make a discovery about the moon that they think will overturn all their religious beliefs. They think that this will put an end to the conflict – even though they know the Unlight really don’t care about the religious issue and that their real objective is to take the Moon’s resources!
But would it be such a fatal blow to belief? Considering the wide variety of imaginary religions on display, one has to question whether there are any that believe in endless recurrence.
However, a further physics question seems to make nonsense of the whole argument – while we’ve heard about nuclear blasts fusing earth into glass, what they seem to have ignored is that that is because of the temperatures involved and not some special property of nuclear blasts. However, the same thing happens with meteorites, which makes nonsense of their argument. The pattern they found could as easily have been caused by, say, the collision of two massive meteors above the moon’s surface. Or a massive coronal discharge from the sun.
But heck, they’re just a bunch of soldiers, what do you expect, expert physicists?
Oh, well. It’s a nicely made film, it does what it is trying to do quite well despite a few minor glitches – and yet, in the end, it’s let down by what it’s trying to do.