Greta Thunberg and Nick Sandmann: A Love Story
I pride myself a little as a heterodox thinker. I don’t like to follow the herd. Or mindlessly accept the declarations of “experts.” But when they are right, they are right. And the consensus of cinema critics is on the mark when it lays out as the three greatest films ever made:
- Zoolander (2001), starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.
- The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), starring Maria Falconetti and Antonin Artaud.
- Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
Here’s a powerful clip from the first film on that list. It’s a scene I’m sure you remember. You’ve probably seen it re-enacted in school productions of the classic.
I could write thousands of words about any one of these works of cinematic genius. But today it’s the third among these landmarks that demands our renewed attention. That’s because of Amazon Studio’s recent announcement* that it will remake the film with new cast members, to play off political divisions and provoke a more honest debate about current issues.
Just as each generation needs its own version of Hamlet, Richard III, and Romeo and Juliet, I think each new cohort of souls requires its own Joe Versus the Volcano. One rendering can’t do justice to all its implications, or answer all its questions.
And that’s why I’m glad Amazon is pairing off Nicholas “MAGA hat” Sandmann and Greta “How Dare You!” Thunberg as the stars for this bold re-imagining of the classic.
The Second Greatest Story Ever Told
While you’ve surely studied it in college as part of a rigorous core curriculum, let me refresh your memory about the plot of Joe Versus the Volcano. Not all of us did our reading, now did we?
Joe Banks (Tom Hanks) works at a miserable job in Queens. He’s timid, beaten-down, and plagued by hypochondria. At last a doctor gives him a conclusive diagnosis: He has a “brain cloud.” It’s a fatal illness that will claim his life within months. Stunned and set free by the news, he quits with a glorious flourish. The very next day, an eccentric billionaire, Samuel Graynamore (Lloyd Bridges) appears at his home. And makes him an offer.
Since Banks has little time left, why not go out “like a man”? Graynamore’s conglomerate produces superconductors, and the only source for a crucial ingredient is the tiny South Pacific island of Waponi Woo. (It means “little island with a big volcano.”) But the natives won’t trade with him unless he finds someone to appease the volcano, and stop it erupting, by jumping into it. Graynamore offers him all the money he wants, and luxurious perks, if at the end of his spree he will sail to Waponi Woo and save the island by sacrificing himself in the volcano.
Joe thinks for ten seconds and says, “Sure, I’ll do it.” So, after a lavish spree in Manhattan, Joe sets off on Graynamore’s yacht with the mogul’s disaffected daughter, Patricia (Meg Ryan). A series of sea adventures leads the couple to fall in love. The yacht wrecks, but Joe’s five-star luggage provides them a raft, and they wash up on Waponi Woo. The music greeting them is a South Pacific rendering of “Hava Negilah,” for excellent reasons: The island is populated by a mix of castaway ancient sailors, Celtic, Roman, Polynesian and Jewish. They are ruled by Abe Vigoda, and venerate orange soda.
The rest of the story turns on whether Joe will sacrifice himself, and his newfound love for Patricia, to save the island, the superconductor industry, and the Graynamore family fortune. On the small chance you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil the ending. I think you can see why such a story has timeless appeal, and captivates generations.
Sandmann and Thunberg, Together at Last
The new version, with Sandmann and Thunberg, will update the tale a bit. Instead of Wapuni Woo, they will sail to the Amazon, on Thunberg’s climate yacht. The Thunbergs don’t expect Sandmann to jump into a volcano. Instead, they need him to dive into the Amazon River itself. He must drown not just himself, but the economy of the whole developed world.
If he doesn’t, it won’t be the volcano but the Climate goddess that will enact her fiery vengeance on our planet. If he does, the Thunbergs and their wealthy sponsors (the U.N., the Ford Foundation, Pope Francis’ Vatican) will gain control of the Amazon’s vast resources. And they’ll get to lord their power over a planet where all the troublesome, “nationalistic” and “xenophobic” proles have been reduced to hunter-gatherer status. Minus the orange soda.
Through confidential sources, I’ve obtained a few pages from the script for the new edition of Joe Versus the Volcano. Let me share this exclusive with Stream readers.
A Snippet from the Script
Sandmann and Thunberg, despite their differences, have bonded while floating on Sandmann’s luggage. Now they stand on the brink of the largest rapids in the Amazon. George Soros, the native chieftain (replacing Abe Vigoda, RIP), waits anxiously to see if Sandmann indeed will jump in.
SOROS: The Climate is getting angry. Are you sure you can do this?
THUNBERG: He is. He honors future generations. He knows that he cannot deprive us all of hope!
SANDMANN: Er, yeah. Are you sure that this is absolutely necessary?
SOROS: Oh, boy. …
THUNBERG: Only if you don’t want to boil alive every living creature on the face of the earth! If you value harmony, balance, and biodiversity over vulgar creature comforts. Or maybe you’re too selfish for that.
SANDMANN: It’s just that I’m not sure of the science here. …
THUNBERG: The Science is unassailable! Every time some rich Westerner turns on a light bulb, another irreplaceable species goes extinct. With every Big Mac you Americans stuff into your fat bourgeois faces —
SANDMANN: Okay, okay. You said all that on the boat. My gosh, that was a long trip. We could have flown here.
THUNBERG: And spew filthy poisonous carbon into the atmosphere? Why don’t we just launch every thermonuclear bomb at once, and get the apocalypse over with? Or get married and have seven children, let their carbon footprints smother more amphibian species, rape more of the earth?
SANDMANN: Hey, that’s an idea. Get married. Have children. Not … the other stuff. Why don’t we think about that?
THUNBERG: How dare you? How dare you! How DARE. …
She keeps repeating this at an escalating volume until Sandmann can’t stand it anymore, and DROWNS HIMSELF IN THE AMAZON to escape the torment.
FADE TO BLACK.
* There was no such announcement. The author is kidding.