Ways the World Might End According to the Movies

Nafissa Jeetoo gets ready for the apocalypse by looking at ways the world might end according to the movies…

December 21st 2012, the last day on the Mayan calendar. It seems the apocalypse is now. But what is an apocalypse meant to be? We live our lives in fear of death, danger and doomsday, but when D-day has allegedly arrived what are we actually meant to expect? I haven’t seen anybody from the Mayan civilisation recently, or ever, so why are we waiting for something many of us do not understand? Surely if the end of a calendar means it is the end of the world, then why have we survived so many New Year’s Eves?

As I hold my breath, ponder these unanswered questions, and look out for spaceships, giant creatures and cyborgs, it has come to my attention that I cannot provide a short list of ultimate ‘End of the World’ movies. There are simply too many to choose from, not to mention the sub-categories they fall under as cinema is no stranger to an apocalypse.

In 1931, Abel Gance’s French sci-fi film The End of the World (La Fin du Monde) focused on the idea of scientist Martial Novalic (Victor Francen) discovering the unfortunate possibility of a disastrous comet collision on Earth. Unfortunately the film received terrible critical reviews as the concept was seen as unrealistic… Yet nearly 80 years later we have been accustomed to a fair share of ‘unrealistic’ plots ourselves, which make Abel Gance’s film seem like a documentary on the Discovery Channel.

Cinema has always been associated as being a form of socialisation. Watching a film is a moment in time spent by being engrossed in an imagined space as a means of escapism from the harsh social concerns of the real world. In cinema’s new age of a Millennial Hollywood the relationship between time and space is significant, especially with regards to how films act as a means of social commentary and metaphorical reflection of the times we currently live in, and making them more identifiable. It has to be understood that society (and film genre) is always in transition. Therefore, cinema has to focus on new dreams to be projected on screen; or in this case, nightmares!

So here are five typical disaster subgenres that have entertained us and suggested how the world might end, and may or may not continue to do so…

ANIMAL UPRISING

The fascination of wild giant monsters, both on and off screen, continues to intrigue us mere Homo-sapiens. Since 1925, Harry Hoyt’s silent but deadly adventure The Lost World is the first of many adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic novel The Lost World (1912), whereby dinosaurs still roamed and ruled the Earth. Similarly, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park in 1993 tampers with genetics and allows us to relive history with cloned dinosaurs that end up developing a mind of their own. Following The Lost World, Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack introduced us to the giant gorilla infamously known as King Kong in 1933. This movingly monstrous adventure has been remade and relived in 1976 by John Guillermin (starring Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin and Jessica Lange), and more recently in 2005 by Peter Jackson (starring Naomi Watts, Andy Serkis and Adrien Brody). Another primate-related movie mutiny includes Franklin J. Schaffner’s Planet of The Apes (1968), which was initially based on Pierre Boulle’s French novel La Planetète des Singes (1963). The franchise has also included a remake directed by Tim Burton in 2001, and a reboot in 2011 directed by Rupert Wyatt. We have read, seen and told tales relating to these mythical monsters (and those who are more realistic). What if these animals assemble and unite with the likes of Godzilla, Anaconda, Hitchcock’s The Birds, and yes… Sharktopus! A post-apocalyptic world will find zoos filled with a dying breed of helpless humans without any means of electricity or basic skills to survive…

NATURAL DISASTERS

Natural disaster movies scare me, simply because certain geological events occur on a daily basis and numerous have cost the lives of millions of people. With regards to natural disasters as a genre, there are various categories such as:

Geological:

Dante’s Peak (1997), 2012 (2009), Melancholia (2011), Armageddon (1998), Earthquake (1974), When Worlds Collide (1951), Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012). 

Hydrological:

A View To A Kill (1985), Flood (2007), Hard Rain (1998), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), Deep Impact (1998), Tidal Wave (2009).

Climate:

The Perfect Storm (2000), Tornado! (1996), Hurricane (1979), Waterworld (1995).

Epidemics:

Children of Men (2006), The Happening (2008), I Am Legend (2007), The Last Man On Earth (1964), Doomsday (2008).

It is uncanny how watching these films is similar to watching some of the natural disaster footage we see broadcasted worldwide on the news channels. Such deadliest disasters within the last decade include: Haiti earthquake (2010), Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004), Cyclone Nargis (2008), Hurricane Katrina (2005) and the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami (2011). These unfortunately disasters illustrate how powerful and uncontrollable nature is in comparison to humanity.

ALIEN INVASION

Apocalyptic films involving alien invasion are the most fun as there is no limit to our expectations; the weirder, the better. I feel aliens shouldn’t just be restricted to extra terrestrial beings from outer space; man-made monsters are just as ‘alien-like’ and destructive in the world of science fiction. If the end of the world will occur with an alien invasion, here are some films that show you what to expect: Mars Attacks! (1996), Megamind (2010), Signs (2002), Ghostbusters (1984), Transformers (2007), Independence Day (1996), Starship Troopers (1997), Cloverfield (2008), The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Fifth Element (1997), The Thing (1982), The Terminator (1984) and War of the Worlds (2005).

RELIVING HISTORY

Influenced by the written words of religion, philosophy, anthology, history, and so forth, many films have relived historical events revolving round disasters and apocalyptic situations. Whether they are adaptations, loosely based on certain events or (in most cases) curious research gone wrong… Here are some films that allow you to either relive history or see history being written: The Matrix (1999), Battlefield Earth (2000), Evan Almighty (2007), Wall-E (2008), The Mummy (1999), National Treasure (2004), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Left Behind (2001), Judgement (2001), The Omega Code (1999) and The Book Of Eli (2010).

SUPERHEROES

2012 has been the year with the most superhero film releases in a year to date. Although there have been previous cycles of U.S superhero films, the recent surge of revisions and remaking of renowned superhero films could be read as post-millennium social commentary and as a cinematic reaction to the global tragedy of 9/11 (along with other current global conflicts, such as the war against Iraq and natural disasters worldwide). Therefore U.S. superhero films serves as a fantastical solution to the current crisis of our present world order, whereby the strong thematic issues of social anxieties, crisis of national identity, and media manipulation are also very much post-millennial concerns in reality as well as on screen.

I am intrigued by the comparative and contrasting worlds where the superhero inhabits in relation to the world we live in. Additionally, the evident dark twist of the imperfect and insecure super-anti-hero also reflects the changing values of our modern society; thus indicating that the role of the superhero character is to embody the corrupt society he/she is protecting. This highlights why the need for heroes is evidently in high demand. Or perhaps the mass of movies released this year was in light of needing superheroes to save us from the apocalypse? So let’s have a look and celebrate the three major superhero films released in 2012:

The Avengers (Dir: Joss Whedon): We saw Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) of S.H.I.E.L.D united the superheroes Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner))  to defeat Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his invasive army.

The Dark Knight Rises (Dir: Christopher Nolan):  The end of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy sees Batman (Christian Bale) rise to the challenge of protecting Gotham City from ultimate militant terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy). With the help of trusted allies Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine), James Gordon (Gary Oldman), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), and new acquaintance Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), the superhero saga reaches a climactically twisted end.

The Amazing Spider-Man (Dir: Marc Webb): This is a reboot of the Spider-Man series we associated with Sam Raimi. Andrew Garfield takes on the role as Peter Parker (Spider-Man) and is on a quest to find out more about his parents. As his story unfolds his relationship with sweetheart Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) blossoms as he encounters trouble with Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) transmorphing into The Lizard.

Although his suit is tailored and not made of lycra… A special mention goes to…

Skyfall (Dir: Sam Mendes): Daniel Craig reprises his role as agent 007 (James Bond) in the 50th anniversary of the James Bond series. A marriage of old and new Bond traits enabled this masterpiece to leave me speechless. As MI6 is under attack by fallen agent Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) Bond is tested and goes back to his roots in a journey that tests his loyalty and that of M (Judi Dench). To me, Bond is a superhero.

If we survive today and live to celebrate Christmas and the New Year, here are some upcoming apocalyptic films to look out for in 2013…

- Man of Steel (Dir: Zack Snyder)
- Oblivion (Dir: Joseph Kosinski)
- Star Trek Into Darkness (Dir: J. J. Abrams)
- After Earth (Dir: M. Night Shyamalan)
- Pacific Rim (Dir: Guillermo Del Toro)
- Iron Man 3 (Dir: Shane Black)
- The Lone Ranger (Dir: Gore Verbinski)
- The Wolverine (Dir: James Mangold)
- Thor: The Dark World (Dir: Alan Taylor)
- World War Z (Dir: Marc Foster)
- The World’s End (Dir: Edgar Wright)
- The End Of The World (Dir: Evan Goldberg)

What’s your favourite apocalyptic movie? We’d love to hear your thoughts…

Nafissa Jeetoo

  • supesdujour

    Two other end-of-the-world films worth mentioning: "Knowing" and "The Day of the Triffids"