The Cinematic End of the World as We Know It

By: Daniel Reynolds

I think it was somewhere around the moment when John Cusack was driving a car along an exploding runway towards an airplane that I got to thinking about the end of days. Not the actual end of days per se, but that recurring cinematic version of Armageddon. It didn’t start with 2012, but then again Hollywood is a copycat town.

In the classic graphic novel, Watchmen, the character Ozymandias (“Look on my works, Ye Mighty, and despair!”), the smartest man in the world, is able to build himself up from nothing based on an educated ability to read and anticipate the currents of society. When he believes the people of the Watchmen world (a twisted version of our world where Nixon remains president, the Cold War marches on, and there are super heroes) long for an escape from their doomed present, he heavily invests in and develops a “Nostalgia” brand of products. As the plot unfolds and (spoiler alert for a 27 year old comic) it is revealed that Ozymandius is doing more than predicting future events but also shaping them via morally dubious means, a new world is eventually forged, and Ozy launches a new brand called “Millenium”. He figures the optimistic turn of events that he has orchestrated will drive people to consume this new line of hopeful products.

Are we preoccupied with the end of the world right now? Has Hollywood tapped into some underlying fear in the current human psyche? Or do movies that blow the earth up real good just end up drawing in the dollars? Using my own inner-Ozymandias, I realize that with a half a dozen or more movies about total ruination or the subsequent fallout coming out in 2013, it is definitely on someone’s mind. As such, enjoy the guide to the cinematic post-apocalypse of this year; the films and their potential for promised widespread devastation.

Even after the end of days, nepotism can still happen.

Even after the end of days, nepotism can still happen.

After Earth: First up, a big time science fiction movie with Will Smith! Is it me or does it feel like its been a long time since Smith was in something that felt new. I know he made MIB3 recently, but that’s part three to a tired franchise so it hardly counts. His last year with standalone films was back in 2008 (the hollowed out Hancock and the molasses-like Seven Pounds). There was a time when Smith was, of course, synonymous with movies about aliens, explosions, and aliens causing explosions. To that end, After Earth has got him playing a character named Cypher Raige who has to guide his son (played by his son, Jaden) across a totally remade future version of Earth. My favourite part about all of this? The director of After Earth is… M. Night Shyamalan! I feel like I’ve already ruined the twist for you. Somewhere, some poor schlub will be sitting down ready to watch a Will Smith movie, only to find out that M. Night directed it. He got you again!

Potential for Destruction: All things considered, probably pretty low. From the looks of the film glimpsed in the trailer, Earth is already a huge jungle planet overrun by all sorts of mutated creatures. Outside of a dramatic crash landing, I get the sense After Earth will be one long explosion-less jaunt through the wilderness. That being said, M. Night Shyamalan is involved; the destruction could turn out to be more career-oriented.

Oblivion: Speaking of gradual career destruction, Oblivion is the latest staring vehicle for the venerable institution known as Tom Cruise. He plays a guy (named Jack, obviously, because he always plays a guy named Jack. Seriously, look it up) who is a resource gatherer on a ruined Earth. Naturally, since this is Tom Cruise we’re talking about here, he’s the best he is at what he does until he starts to suspect, amidst the wreckage of the old Earth, that something is amiss. Then Morgan Freeman shows up wearing awesome goggles and we’re off to the races. Given that director Joseph Kosinski’s last movie was Tron: Legacy, I am expecting a beautifully staged sci-fi action movie with, unfortunately, terrible, stilted writing.

Potential for Destruction: The trailer shows us robot gun ships, menacing looking gangs of left behind humans, maybe an alien creature or two (?) and of course, of course, shots of Tom Cruise running. What is he running from? More destruction of the destruction. From the looks of it, there will be no phasers set to stun on this future hellscape.

Rapturepalooza: If you were wondering what happened to John Francis Daley, Rapturepalooza is here to put those Freaks and Geeks related questions to rest. It also looks to answer the question of what it would look like to have Jesus shot out of the sky by a howitzer. So there’s that going for it too, I guess. Can I just ask a question though: what does it feel like for all these talented comedic actors (Rob Huebel, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Anna Kendrick, etc.) to have to act out lines written by the guy who wrote Imagine That, Mr. Wrong and A Goofy movie.

Potential for Destruction: You’re asking me if a movie starring (starring!) John Francis Daley and Anna Kendrick is going to have a lot of insane action and devastation? I’m beginning to suspect that not even Robinson as the Antichrist and Ken Jeong (!) as God can save this one. Somebody get Rob Corddry a new agent.

The Ocean's 11 of the Apocalypse?

The Ocean’s 11 of the Apocalypse?

This is the End: A two-shot of Craig Robinson! Maybe the end of the world won’t be so bad. As bizarre as this sounds, I get a real Ocean’s Eleven vibe from this whole project. Now, only the onset of the end of the world would launch Seth Rogen ahead of George Clooney in leading man status (it’s right under “when pigs fly”), but what we’ve got here is a film casting a huge bunch of pals to basically play themselves and joke around for an hour and a half on film. To it’s credit, this definitely plays to the strengths of most of the people involved (Franco, Rogen, and definitely McBride), but if given too much leash, could end up in Your Highness territory (i.e. bad).

Potential for Destruction: Given the budget, the absurdity of the premise, and, let’s be honest, the diminishing returns from some of the last Seth Rogen/James Franco joints, I’d say we get a lot of slapstick violence and cracked drywall and not a lot in terms of widespread Armageddon. Though the trailer does suggest a few gory deaths. We shall see.

World War Z: I’d be remiss to not mention this film, the long gestating Brad Pitt picture, that is finally coming out this June. Based on the popular book by Max Brooks, it is clear right off the top that the film’s got some credibility. Marc Forster knows his way around the camera (even if he is at his best in small situations rather than big ones), and the cast after Pitt (including Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, David Morse and Matthew Fox) is solid. My only concern really is the constant news of script rewrites and reshoots. Plus, we can admit to each other that we giggled at the sight of CGI zombies piling over each other as they come barreling down some souk side street. Right?

Potential for Destruction: Definitely the current title holder for highest potential for ruination. Now, you may not be a fan of fast zombies. Lord knows, 28 Days Later jumped through enough plot hoops to assure everyone that the monsters of its story were not your typical zombie, but it appears that WW: Z is totally eschewing that. It’s zombies are fast and appear to operate on some sort of Leiningen Versus the Ants on mega-steroids principles. Yikes.

The World’s End: Here’s what we know so far: The World’s End is from the Simon Pegg-Edgar Wright-Nick Frost brain trust. These are the people that brought us the excellent and enduring Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, two films that thoroughly understood the milieu they worked in and how to tweak their respective established formulae. Apparently, the movie is going to send long time pals Frost and Pegg on the most epic of pub crawls of all time that may or may not result in the end of the world. I have no idea.

Potential for Destruction: I’ll have to assume that somewhere in the film, the exploits of our drunken heroes will either kick off some end of the world event or stop the onset of Apocalypse. And really, what more could we ask for? Maybe not high in the actual destruction department, but the film I have the highest hopes for. Hope we all make it to 2014!

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