Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The end of the world




It is Spring Break for me and I've already watched two movies about the end of the world.

The first was really a re-watching. The Day After Tomorrow is a film directed by Roland Emmerich and based on the book, The Coming Global Superstorm by Whitley Strieber and Art Bell. It's about a massive storm that crosses the world in various forms. New York City gets hit with a hurricane and is then flash frozen as a new Ice Age hits. Dennis Quaid plays a climatologist who must trek across the newly frozen wastes of North America to get to his son in NYC.

The son is played by Jake Gyllenhaal from another one of my favorites, Donnie Darko. If the film must have a "plucky kid" character, then at least he's played by an actor with chops. Such character tropes are to be expected in a disaster film and nobody delivers one of those like Emmerich. As I'm sure has been said, the guy is the Irwin Allen of our time, committing to film many of the most memorable scenes of wholesale destruction. I mean, Independence Day is  a completely stupid film, but I can't help but be hooked by it each and every time. The arrival of the massive alien saucers, the nuclear-esque devastation, it's all great entertainment.

Expect the same from The Day After Tomorrow. High-budget special effects, disaster befalling humanity, and the White House in ruins (Emmerich has quite the penchant for that) and more traipse across the screen in great fun. I actually took notes for a novel I'm going to write which will in part be an eco-disaster. Of course my storm will be sentient.

Then there's Deep Impact. I had never seen this one before, giving it guilt by association I suppose with the utterly moronic Armageddon. Both were released around the same time, but my judgment was an unjust maligning it turns out. Deep Impact has a...well...depth to it that the Michael Bay monstrosity utterly lacks.

Deep Impact concerns a comet hurtling on a collision course towards Earth. Can it be stopped? If it can't, how do we save at least a small portion of humanity? The next logical question: who do we decide to save? That latter consideration reminded me of Dr. Strangelove. Indeed, that quote from the eponymous character is pretty much what they end up doing. The human "pick of the litter" goes into deep bunkers and "our deepest mine shafts" to ride out the holocaust. Whether or not hot, young, nubile women are selected for breeding as Strangelove suggested is left to conjecture. 

Neither of these films are bad. I mean, I've seen much worse. They manage to disappoint in the same way. Spoiler, but with each of these films, there's something of a last minute save for humanity. Oh it's not like we don't get our hair mussed (another Strangelove quote), but we are still standing.

I'd like to see the people of this planet get what's coming to them. Call me sick, but I'd like to see us reap the whirlwind from decades of abusing the environment and denying it's a problem. I'd like to see our complacency smacked by a comet or an asteroid. "That kinda thing only happens to dinosaurs. Not us." That's the sentiment anyway. Then turn on a sitcom and pretend it's not an issue because the alternative is just too tough to think about.

I suppose we could once more open the debate as to whether or not humanity is too stupid to survive.

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