Tag Archives: Hollywood

Popcorned: Coming this summer, it’s the End of the World!

Official-Oblivion-Movie-Poster-1-681x1000

-Casey Klekas

Why is “the end of the world” the lowest common denominator of Hollywood’s latest blockbusters? Probably because we have a healthy obsession with art’s apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian genre. This is not because we live in a so-called “culture of fear,” but because this genre allows us to view our society through retrospective lenses and, in so doing, we gain a unique understanding of the problems at present, illuminated by existential threats to humanity, or the eventual consequences of current practices. They offer a glimpse down the road which might prompt us to ask Siri to plot us a new destination.

After Earth is a film about a father and son (Will and Jaden Smith, no kidding) who crash land on a future, inhospitable mother Earth. For a while, I got this confused with Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise, which is also about the return to a has-been home for humans. Not to be mistaken for Elysium, where a super wealthy minority prospers in a remote community (a wheel-like space habitat known as a Stanford Torus, also known to many from the video game HALO) while the earth is overpopulated with poverty and crime.

Apocalypse movies, such as 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Terminator 3, and War of the Worlds all show the recognizable world coming to an end, either through natural (possibly human-induced) disaster, nuclear holocaust, the take over of machines, and/or alien invasion. This group actually shows the end of the world, even if humans eventually adapt and prevail. Two upcoming films that focus on Judgment Day are This is the End, starring comedy’s front men Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Michael Cera; the other is Pacific Rim about an alien invasion via a wormhole beneath the Pacific Ocean.

Post-apocalypse movies, on the other hand, may show some of the initial disaster, but are mostly focused on what comes after, how societies rebuild, adapt, or struggle to survive. Some are focused on the handful of isolated survivors, like I am Legend, The Postman, and The Road.  Others might show a revived humanity that has endured disasters and taken to rebuilding civilization or else has fled from the surface of the Earth completely (some go below, like the Eloi in The Time Machine, others take to the sky, like in WALL-E, After Earth, Oblivion, and Elysium).

A further category is the dystopian, where society undergoes a profound and often final transformation that we as viewers find morally repugnant. These “end of history” scenarios may come about by natural human progression, or are brought on by devastating wars or as the result of a novel political movement. Normally, some kind of resistance movement develops which we see quashed or succeed. I’d mention the Hunger Games, but I’ve neither seen the movie nor read the books. I should, I know.

So, why do we like this genre so much? Because it tells us about our own time much better than we often can see. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, don’t they say? Most dystopian/apocalypse/post-apocalypse movies, books, and TV shows mythologize the past (our present). They either show a lost paradise, or a reckless people who brought about the world’s end, or something of a combination.

At a very base level, this genre challenges our infinitude. Many suggest that humans cannot be stamped out, that we will evolve whatever the circumstances, such as Kevin “Gills” Costner in Waterworld. Others show simply that the future is up for grabs. You might be more persuaded by Aldous Huxley’s vision of the future, a world full of self-gratification and devoid of meaning. Or you could stick with Orwell and worry that humanity might end up enslaving itself, that “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face—forever.”

Here’s a list of major films that have, are, or will soon hit the theaters: Oblivion, released April 19; The Colony, April 26; M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth, on May 31; Some levity on June 12 with This is the End; On June 21, Brad Pitt fights zombies in World War Z; Find out what lies beneath the pacific on July 12 with Pacific Rim; Watch the undead be bloody bludgeoned by the incomprehensible west Londoners in Cockney’s vs. Zombies; on August 9 see Matt Damon take on the world’s super rich (including Jodie Foster) in their secluded, serene spacewheel in Elysium, directed by District 9’s Neill Blomkamp; and, on August 23, finish this summer with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as they push through zombies on the way to the pub in The World’s End. (This is the same duo that gave us Shaun of the Dead, quite easily my favorite zombie film, and certainly the best comedy on the undead).

Image from http://www.oblivionmovie2013.com/

Top 5 Movies I Can’t Wait For

-Sam Bouchat

5. Brave

Release date: June 22, 2012

This newest production of creative powerhouse Disney and the genius work of Pixar promises to be another superb hit; however this Pixar movie is slightly different from others. It boasts a female lead, Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), and will be released in 3D. In this story, Merida, an archer and daughter of the king, goes on a crazy and dangerous adventure to defy tradition and save the kingdom. Voicing talent includes Emma Thompson, Craig Ferguson, Billy Connolly and Julie Walters.

4. Men in Black III

Release date: May 25, 2012

I fell in love with the Men in Black franchise back in 1997 when the first of the trilogy was released. The unorthodox science fiction and humor reminded me of the original Star Trek series. Now, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are back in this new thriller comedy. Agent J (Smith) must go back in time in order to discover the whereabouts of Agent K (Jones) who mysteriously disappears. The most excellent part – Josh Brolin plays a young Agent K, and, if the trailer is anything to go by, he pulls off Tommy Lee Jones to a tee.

3. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Release date: June 22, 2012

I’m normally not a fan of Steve Carell flicks, but the originality of the plot makes this my number 3 movie for this year. A giant meteor heading towards Earth creates a panic as the world population realizes that they have only three weeks until they all perish. Dodge (Carell) teams up with his neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley) to find his childhood sweetheart before the world is destroyed. While I’m not a huge fan of romantic comedies, I look forward to seeing how director Lorene Scafaria envisions a world knowingly doomed to destruction.

2. The Avengers

Release date: May 4, 2012

I’ve already made it apparent how excited I am for the Avengers movie. The concept of characters that I’ve individually fallen in love with, in individual movies, with individual plots, all meeting together and teaming up sound more like a fanfiction than the plot of a big budget Hollywood film. But Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth will be returning to the big screen as their mechanically, chemically, and supernaturally enhanced characters. Also added to the cast is Mark Ruffalo, replacing Edward Norton as the Hulk. I honestly don’t care if this movie doesn’t have a plot – I’m going for the mindless action and eye-candy.

1. The Dark Knight Rises

Release date: July 20, 2012

Words cannot describe the effort it takes for me to go on living, day after day, without having seen this movie. The Dark Knight Rises, the epic conclusion of the Batman trilogy and brain-child of genius director Christopher Nolan (Memento, Inception), will truly be an event to behold. Christian Bale will be returning as an aloof, all-too-serious Bruce Wayne, Michael Caine as Alfred the butler, and (my favorite) Gary Oldman as the ever-concerned, adorable Commissioner Gordon. When we left the theaters of the Dark Knight back in 2008, we had no idea what was going to happen next. Batman has been blamed for the murders conducted by Harvey Dent, and Gordon has destroyed the Bat Signal. The whole of Gotham is against the Batman, and now here comes a new villain – Bane (performed by Tom Hardy, who gained about 28 pound of muscle for the role). Anne Hathaway will also be joining the cast as Selina Kile (Cat Woman). It is sure to be explosive, and a fitting end to such a fantastic series of films.

Follow Sam at @sambouchat