Monday, 17 December 2012

5 Films for the End of the World

With the Mayan Apocalypse just around the corner (Friday the 21st of December 2012 to be precise), we're taking a look at some of the biggest and best End Of The World Movies. 

With Hollywood having covered everything from alien obliteration, viral holocaust and earth-shattering cataclysm, there certainty isn't any shortage of destruction on offer with this oddball mixture of despair and (sometimes) laughs. I've listed below five of my favourites; give them a read and let me know what you think in the comments section below!

I Am Legend (2007)

So for starters, we have a film that is a firm favourite of mine when it comes to witnessing the End of the World. I Am Legend follows Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith) as he attempts to find a solution to a plague that has killed most of humanity and left him alone in New York City, with only those who have been transformed into monsters for company. Oh, and his faithful dog Sam of course. 

The tempo of the movie see-saws between serene and peaceful to tribal and chaotic, the safe and sunny day-time segments punctuated with some pulse-pounding night scenes that reveal the true horror of this post-apocalyptic world. There are also some really elongated silences that reflect the isolation of Neville and the hopelessness of his task. Pretty bleak stuff, making it pretty perfect stuff for viewing if your stuck for ideas this Friday.

Oh, and don't forget the Kleenex; Neville's pooch pal bites the dust half-way through, leaving not a single dry eye in the house. You have been warned. Oops, spoiler alert. Sorry.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

I take it back, the End of the World doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. Whack on a copy of Shaun of the Dead and you'll forget that the world outside is crumbling down around you in mere minutes.

Faced with hordes of zombies rampaging across the leafy suburbs of London, Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) must arm themselves with the usual zombie killing utensils; a cricket bat, a spade and a box full of old vinyl records in order to fight their towards their local, "the Winchester, have a nice cold pint and wait for all of this to blow over".

Pegg and Frost hit the nail on the head first go with this brilliant zom-rom-com that has inspired so many American counterparts and yet to be surpassed. 

Guaranteed to lighten the mood if your getting any End of the World blues this Friday!

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

If your not afraid of getting some pretty big chills, chuck on The Day After Tomorrow this Friday night. On completely the other end of the spectrum to Shaun of the Dead, The Day After Tomorrow charts the fates of Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), a climatologist who must rescue his son who is stranded in New York in the middle of a super-storm that is forever altering the climate of the entire planet, beginning a new global Ice Age. 

It's bleak stuff for anyone who worries for the future of our climate. The super-storm, its size and the consequences may be highly fantasised but the message the film gives off isn't, making it one of the scariest End of the World films out there, just for different reasons than most. (See also: An Inconvenient Truth)

Like most great apocalyptic films however, The Day After Tomorrow works best when it is focused primarily on the humanity of its protagonists; Dennis Quaid gives a good performance and the motivations and perspective of his character is generally what drives the film, not its depressing notions of our future climate.

Independence Day (1996)

The aliens are coming and humanity faces gigantic odds; on the brink of annihilation, what can mankind do to outmanoeuvre and defeat the oncoming behemoth's that loom overhead? 

Alien invasion on a global scale, Independence Day is the second film on this list to feature Will Smith and the second to be directed by Roland Emmerich (let the end of the world conspiracy theorists begin!)

It may cop a lot of flak for being downright ridiculous and something of a cheese-fest at times, but when it comes to End of the World movies, Independence Day is pretty hard to top for sheer destruction. Of course, Roland Emmerich would go on to try and top all of this in his latest apocalyptic epic, 2012, but for me Independence Day is better for sheer fun (primarily because of Will Smith and his razor-witted character Steven Hiller).

If your looking for something to munch popcorn in front of this Friday night, you could do a lot worse than Independence Day. Bring on the cheese!

2012 (2009)

No End of the World movie list would be complete without 2012; not content with unleashing alien mother-ships and climate change upon the world, Roland Emmerich (Yep, definitely a conspiracy afoot) is back again with this ridiculously silly and OTT destruction-fest that sees the entire world torn apart by some geological MacGuffin that only really makes sense after a heavy night of drinking. 

The plot follows Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), who must attempt to save his broken family from the devastation unfolding around him as they travel to a supposed safe haven in the remotest area of China. 

Visually, 2012 is as spectacular as one has come to expect from a Roland Emmerich destruction movie. Whether it is huge waves crashing over the Himalayas, molten lava consuming Pacific islands or gigantic faults that tear Los Angeles apart, the visuals here are pretty stunning.

Whilst I personally detest this film, it is the most apt of this list (that is, it is set in 2012 and it centres around the whole Mayan/2012 phenomenon that will grip the world on Friday), so viewing 2012 on December 21st would simply be for the shiggles. Either that, or the crippling sense of irony that would kill us all if the Mayans turned out to be on the money with this whole End of the World thing. 

Honourable Mentions

Of course, with apocalypse films generally being a genre unto themselves, it is hard to encompass the entire length and breadth of that in five films (one of which is a pretty terrible movie). So here we have some honourable mentions had I have included more than just the five I am considering watching this Friday night.

First off, Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) is probably is greatest omission here and defiantly one that should be seen if you were living out your last days on Earth. The same can be said of the original Planet of the Apes (1968) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Steven Spielberg's The War of the Worlds (2005) is also a fantastic, chilling take on desolation and despair. 

Any of you looking for more bonkers takes on the End of the World, look no further than a batty and twitchy Nic Cage in Knowing (2009) or Zombieland (2009). For those looking for something to warm the heart in dark times, whack on a copy of Wall-E (2008). Who says your Friday night isn't sorted this week?

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