Generation X-tinct

War of the Worlds (2005) Paramount Pictures DreamWorks SKG Amblin Entertainment

Amy Roberts takes us on a whistle-stop tour of apocalyptic scenarios the movies wouldn’t want us to miss…

It seems with every new year comes another threat of impending apocalypse. It doesn’t take much for one barmy conspiracy theorist to read too much into the fruit he’s licking off the wallpaper to come to the conclusion that the apocalypse is nigh and for this to become a statement of fact circle-jerked across the internet.

Ah, but this year’s the big one! Good old 2012. In fairness it’d be easy to believe that the World is about to reach it’s grand finale – all the signs are there, after all. Socio-economic decline. Religious fundamentalists increasing in lunacy. A disconcerting over reliance on technology. A ‘doomed generation’ unable to find work and inciting riots. Totally insane weather. Desperate Scousewives. The World seems near-dystopian before it’s even had a chance to saunter into it’s sweatpants and called it quits.

If movies are to be believed, there are multiple joyful ways in which this can come to fruition, if that’s the word. The most obvious seems to be that Mother Nature will ‘do a Carrie’ on the World and wreak her sweet, undoubtedly deserved vengeance on everything.

“Dennis Quaid goes for a long walk and some preppy kids hide out in a library as the rest of the World freezes over”

Most recently we’ve had 2012 where John Cusack attempts to remain (abysmally) witty in the face of fierce tsunamis and LA splintering into a crumbly husk closely resembling his own diminishing career (sorry, John). Long story short, the American government piles the best of Wall Street onto a few freshly built arcs and the rich survive! Yay!

Prior to this, there was The Day After Tomorrow where Dennis Quaid goes for a long walk and some preppy kids hide out in a library as the rest of the World freezes over (should this come to pass any time under the current government, then hiding in a library will be a no-go what with all those closures). Not to mention the forgettable Nicholas Cage turkey, Knowing, in which the only scene worth watching is the Earth getting nommed up by a feverish sun.

Most triumphant though, surely, was The Happening, in which plants conspired against humanity by sweet talking people into committing self-made final destination-esque suicides. Mowed down by your own lawn mower? You betcha!

“It’d be a real shame if our well made plans of what we’d do in a zombie attack failed to see the light of day”

Frankly though, humanity needs no helping hand in destroying itself. Most right-wing party wives probably introduce the ‘riding an A-bomb’ scene from Dr. Strangelove into some kinky role play with their candidate husbands just to get them excited, for Chrissakes. In Threads, a.k.a the bleakest movie ever made, a nuclear blast is relentless in making sure that everyone suffers painful, miserable deaths – and not in LA, either, but our own back yard.

A little more uplifting are 80’s cult classic Miracle Mile, in which a man has 50 minutes to hunt down the love of his life before a nuclear blast goes off, and everyone has a good chuckle on the road in, and New Zealand’s apocalyptic The Quiet Earth in which the lead character wanders in solitude around a vanquished Earth in a woman’s slip, squaring up to God and announcing himself President of the World.

And then we have bio-weapons or bio-hazardous experimentations gone wrong, like in 2011’s terrifyingly plausible Contagion, which offered a handy step-by-step guide as to how plausible it’d be for a deadly infection to spread, sending hypochondriacs the World over on daily trips to the A&E for the foreseeable future.

Planet Terror 2007 (Netherlands) by Robert Rodriguez

In the event of this though, it wouldn’t be all doom and gloom. There’s always the chance that horrific zombifications and mutations might take place, like in 28 Days Later or Planet Terror, and we can all finally live out our dreams of picking off the infected with a machine gun for a leg. After all, it’d be a real shame if our well made plans of what we’d do in a zombie attack (after repeat viewings of George A Romero and Lucio Fulci films) failed to see the light of day.

Christian extremists, on the other hand, would love to have us believe that the end will come in the shape of God, The Devil or some of their best henchmen. Poor old Robin Tunney got faced with this idea when the Devil wanted to impregnate her to open the gates of hell in End Of Days (something tells me all the protesters outside of abortion clinics would soon change their stance if faced with this conundrum. Quite the catch-22, eh?, and laugh-a-minute The Rapture showed an ex-swinger finding God, going a bit mad, proclaiming the end was nigh, killing her daughter and then, more fool us, she was right all along!

Which is just as believable to some as the idea of aliens invading and having their wicked way with our planet as in War Of The Worlds, Independence Day and Plan 9 From Outer Space. Although what Vampira had to do with the whole shebang, is anyone’s guess.

“It’s legendary 8 minute tracking shot of a never ending traffic jam giving us a fresh interpretation of Hell”

Leaving us with films in which the end of the World is essentially overshadowed and or caused by the hedonism, consumerism, and lack of foresight of humanity or the feeling that the World is over already.

Lars Von Trier did this exceptionally well in Melancholia, in which an apocalyptic depression seemed just as catastrophic and destructive as the planet that eventually plowed into the Earth in it’s impressive finale. At times it even felt as though Kirsten Dunst’s forlorn bride deliberately made it crash into the planet with the power of her will alone.

Gregg Araki, too, seems to have built his career on this idea. The Doom Generation set the impression that a pre-apocalypse was taking place right under the main characters noses, but they were too indulged in their hedonism to even notice or realise that they may play a major part in it. Nowhere saw privileged Beverly Hills kids getting zapped by a reptile from outer space as a precursor to their eventual invasion. The main problems everyone deals with in the film, however, are the world ending in their own way – from the superficial (needing a date for the party) to the heavyweight (drug addiction, rape). Araki returned to his 90’s apocalypse obsession in 2011’s Kaboom.

Jean-Luc Godard’s underrated dark comedy Weekend despaired of humanity in it’s own way, showing the bourgeois money grubbing concerns of the upper classes reaching murderous, obsessive pinnacles of one-upmanship that essentially leads to a civil war. Its legendary 8 minute tracking shot of a never ending traffic jam giving us a fresh interpretation of Hell.

And finally, we have Terminator 2 (and 3, but let’s not dignify that one with a write up) which provided us with the horrors of machines outsmarting the people who made them, and wiping out humanity. Best apocalypse film ever? Damn right, and for a multitude of reasons I don’t think I need to go into. Luckily for us the advancement in technology akin to something like Skynet seems a few years off, so the only way technology could take over is if our Facebook profiles start fraping us independent of human use, or if Siri suddenly learns to grow a backbone and starts giving iPhone users the World over snarky back talk at every demand and insolent question. Which I think most people would celebrate.

The end is nigh. Just don’t tell Peter Venkman we say so.

Amy Roberts

Images courtesy War of the Worlds (2005) Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks SKG, Amblin Entertainment, and Planet Terror (2007) (Netherlands) by Robert Rodriguez

Posted on 23/01/2012 by thedoublenegative