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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

2012: The End of the World and Other Fun Things

            Is there anything more fun than the end of the world?  Mass destruction, cataclysm, apocalypse --all favorite entertainment devices that lend themselves well to high drama, tension, action, terror, and, of course, amazing special effects.  What draws us to fantasies about the destruction of our world? 

          Recently I watched Roland Emmerich's 2012  starring John Cusack. The film is based on the ancient prophecies taken from the Mayan calendar that suggest the world will end on December 21, 2012.  Starting in real time of when the movie was released (2009) and moving through 2010, the story culminates with the disaster as predicted--and that's all in the first half of the film.  The balance of the film slows to a little more dramatic action, which is continually interspersed with additional scenes of visual effects. What you end up with is two and a half hours of mind-numbing, edge of your seat thrills.

          Don't get me wrong, it's all a lot of fun.  It reminds me of a thrill ride at Universal Studios except it lasts a whole lot longer.  The special effects are pretty incredible while the action is wonderfully absurd.  We witness the longest earthquake in human history with all destruction conveniently choreographed to allow our heroes to barely escape certain death from cracking highways, crashing overpasses, and collapsing buildings.  There are fires and explosions.  It's all flashy and noisy and great fun as we watch millions die and our largest cities turned to rubble.  And that's not all!   There are tsunamis, volcanoes, fire from the skies, windstorms of deadly ash.  Oh, and did I mention great fun?

         I'll have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and apparently I'm not the only one.  It's all about the action and effects.  The acting is fine and the story is somewhat absurd.  You can pretty well guess what's going to happen; who will live and who will die.   There are lots of cliches, but that's the way the world ends, right?   If you enjoy special effects extravaganzas and exciting on the move action, I highly recommend 2012.

        What is it about the end of world that fascinates us so much?  I've been a big fan of these types of movies since I was a child and it is still probably my favorite genre.  I think World War 2 and the emergence of the atomic age had a lot to do with it.  I can't really think of any end of the world movies prior to that big war.  Then after Hiroshima we became curious--what if?   What if the war to end all wars happened?  How will radiation effect us?   We saw giant mutants and cities destroyed by radioactive monsters in the films of the 50s.  We witnessed worlds where very few people survived.

         One of the best atomic apocalypse films ever is  Stanley Kramer's ON THE BEACH with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner.  A film with little action or special effects, the post apocalyptic world and how it affects those who remain is eerie and memorable.  Another favorite is THE ROAD WARRIOR with Mel Gibson.  Once again we see survivors of the "big one" struggling against the forces of evil who want to take control.  With action to the extreme and a hugely imaginative vision, this film is perhaps the 80s counterpart to the more recent release of THE ROAD, based on the book by Cormac McCarthy. 

        Another recent favorite of mine is KNOWING with Nicholas Cage.  I found the special effects in this film to be outstanding and the spiritual story was unique. You can go to Amazon to see my review of Knowing and the many interesting comments that follow it. 

         The trend in zombie films is probably related to the apocalypse mentality as well.  The George Romero DEAD trilogy and its spinoffs and remakes and the infatuation with zombies seems to have a lot to do with end times.  The recent zombies are not the voodoo zombies of old.  These new zombies are brain eating terrors that seemed to have been activated from death sleep by some fluke of the modern age.  Who doesn't at least secretly like zombies?

        Might it be that we humans have this hidden desire to rid the world of us?   And while we're at it maybe take everything else with it?  There seems to be a curiosity to see the world knocked off its axis and split apart, or maybe better blown apart.  There are some Biblical implications here as well.  Christians, as well as other religions, look to the destruction of this world so it can be replaced by God's new better world.  For some of us we may be looking forward to this renewal of earth into heaven.  Maybe it would be a good thing to see God trash this world and start anew.

        Until the ultimate day of doom arrives I'm sure we'll see more books about the topic and more films with better special effects.  Let's hope they come up with better stories as well.  But, hey, if it's a good noisy thrill ride then that's okay too.

           Are you a fan of apocalyptic films?  What are your favorites?   What do you think is the reason for the popularity of these types of films?


  1. I wonder why people are so curious to find out the date for the end of the world when we could die at any moment.

  2. I do hope that if it's going to be the end of the world in2012, it's after the Olympic Games, they're in London then and the sailing part of the Olympics are being held in Weymouth/Portland in Dorset where I lived for nearly 25 years, much preparation is being made for the occasion I live only 40 miles away from that and 2 hrs from London.
    As for the films I am really into films, my love is Music as you know.
    As usual a most interesting topic and excellently written.

    Have a good day.

  3. I get a kick out of them. The Road Warrior is my favorite out of those you mentioned.
    Although not sure if anyone could ever top 2012's mass destruction.

  4. I'm with you. This type of "end of the world" movies are my favorites even past a good mystery. Sci Fi is number one on my list. I will watch 2012.

  5. They actually scare me. It's silly I know. So I tend not to watch them.
    Thanks for sharing:)

  6. I can't remember a time in my life when I was not reminded that the end of the world is "NEAR". As a yound girl, we practiced getting under our desks for "cover" and the "bomb shelters" were starting to be built in a few locations. After so many years of this prediction and that prediction, I just take each day as it unfolds. The movies are interesting. Enjoyed reading your review.
    I haven't seen the other movies you mentioned I will keep them in mind.

  7. Do zombie films count as apocalypse? I've seen a ton of those—both humorous and not.

  8. I like end of the world films but only for the action. They can't tell me that only American's would survive. You're right about it being out there...but in the end, fun.


  9. Ocean Girl -- I guess we have a curiosity about what the end will be like, but it is usually not depicted as horribly as it would probably be in reality.

    Yvonne -- The apocalypse would make one heck of an Olympics closing ceremony -- shudder!

    Alex -- ROAD WARRIOR is a classic. The way film making is going I'm sure someone will top 2012. And we still need the end in 3-D.

    JW-- If you like the genre, I'm sure you will enjoy 2012.

    Christine -- Actually it's probably not so silly that they scare you. It should scare us in one sense, although if one is religious and sees the end as a new beginning it might make one hopeful.

    Brenda -- Sounds like you and I are of the same era. As kids I think the possibility of nuclear war was on our minds because of those drills. If you haven't seen ON THE BEACH you might want to check it out: It's filmed in black & white and it's a classic love story done in a post-nuclear war settyin. It's bleak and powerful.

    Portia --As I stated in my piece, I definitely think the zombie movies are apocalyptically themed. The original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD still ranks as one of the scariest horror movies of all time for me. Some of the Biblical prophetic imagery sounds like they're talking about zombie-like creatures.

    Ann -- Actually Australia has faired pretty well too. The Road Warrior and ONE THE BEACH seem to indicate the survivors are all in Australia. But Americans usually fair pretty well in these films, although usually they caused it as well. By the way, have you seen the great 1961 British film THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE? This is one of my favorites in the genre and has one of my favorite all time movie endings. This film has an early film appearance of Michael Caine who appears a brief one-line role.

  10. I wasn't 100% sold on the ending of Knowing. But the setup and atmosphere was great.

    I think 2010 was almost too much destruction for me. I guess for an encore, the director will be forced to destroy the universe...

  11. >>[Maybe it would be a good thing to see God trash this world and start anew.]<<

    "DO IT NOW!"

    >>[Are you a fan of apocalyptic films?]<<

    No, I don't like "Action" films at all. Global Destruction, Martial Arts, Comic Book Heroes - I find all of it to be mind-numbingly bad and a total waste of my limited time.

    Oh, I like silly comedies just fine, but then we all know that "Laughter Is The Best Medicine." So, I'm not opposed to lightweight entertainment, but vampires and zombies? Puhleeease! If it MUST be zombies, make mine "Plan 9 From Outer Space" - shaken, not stirred.

    Well, even if 2012 really will turn out to be a major turning point of cataclysmic proportions, we who believe in Biblical prophecy KNOW that the end of the world still remains at least 1,002 years into the future.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McSissyboy

  12. I am a great fan of apocalyptic films. I have seen and enjoyed most of the movies you mentioned.

    I think for me the reason end-of-the-world films and books have such a draw is because they make me evaluate myself and my surroundings, show me what *could* happen, make me think of how I'd react in a similar situation, and then STOPS. Return to real life ensues. But you're still given an opportunity to think about things you might not have usually.

    Thanks for posting, I really enjoyed this one, Lee.

  13. Funny, when I read your title I immediately thought of the Olympic, since most Londoners think their world will come to an end once the Games begin!

    I am scared of apocalyptic films. Scared! They make me want to run under a bed and hide.

  14. Oh, I'm a huge fan of the end of the world. I love the movies, the books, all of it. So much that I wrote one!

    My favorite? Terminator. Love that.

  15. I enjoy end of the world entertainment too :) It's always lots of fun & action.

  16. We have 2012 arriving tomorrow from Netflix. Can't wait to watch it! I was a bit surprised with Knowing. I think I was expecting something a little different, but still enjoyed it. I am not sure there are any others I have seen. I do remember back when The Day After was a big thing. I remember my parents not really wanting us to watch it. Not sure if I ever really ended up watching the whole thing. Oh, I also remember that one about the virus. That was pretty good.

  17. Diane-- I found the end of knowing to be so different that I enjoyed it, but it was kind of strange.

    Stephen -- Yes it's just escapism, I know--kind of like riding a roller coaster and now I don't do roller coasters, I do action movies --just on week-ends.

    B. -- Thanks and yes those films give us something to ruminate on.

    Talli -- You'd better be careful--I've heard there's monsters under the bed.

    Elana -- I'll have to check into the one you wrote.

    Jemi -- Oh yeah -- the end of the world is more fun than a barrel of zombie monkeys.

    Dalia-- The Day After was quite a big deal when it was first shown on TV. I watched it a while back on DVD and it was still good, but not with quite the same impact as back then. Let us know what you think of 2012.

  18. Lee,

    The End Of The World has been imminent since forever... Will it end? Who knows, Major religions have their view points.

    I don't like end of the world movies...yet I did enjoy a book: Swan Song by Robert McCammon which was a excellent read, I just fell in love with the characters.

    I listen to Coast to Coast with George Noory at night, just before I go to sleep. Always influences my dreams in one fashion or another...enough doom and gloom on that program (although interesting...) to give me all the end of the world scenarios I care to hear about.


  19. I like the stick with comedies. When were were on vacation a few years back the History Channel kept previewing their 2012 end of the world expose. Never got to see it but I bet it was interesting. (we don't have the History Channel on our non-cable set up) I think it goes back to the everybody loves a trainwreck philosophy. You don't want to look but you catch yourself doing it anyway...if that makes any sense at all...

  20. I haven't watched 2012- I'm a bit behind on movies, compliments of my three-year-old. I do like post-apocalyptic books though- The Hunger Games was fabulous!

  21. Sig -- I'm not familiar with Swan Song, but I am with George Noory -- pretty creepy sometimes.

    Carma -- I was all built up for the History Channel series after all the hype, but it was a big rip off as far as I was concerned.

    Stephanie -- Thanks for stopping by. I'll need to look up Hunger Games as I'm not familiar with it.

  22. I love it that absolutely anyone believes in the future prophecies of an ancient civilization that was wiped out centuries ago. It might make for a good entertainment though and in the process fool enough people into a Y2K style frame of mind, just enough so that smarter people will make real money off gullible people for something beyond entertainment. Go buy another emergency generator to replace the one that has rusted out there in your garage from ten years ago ....

  23. Ah yes-- I wonder how many ancient bomb shelters still remain under older houses and in back yards. I remember that as quite the fad from my childhood.

  24. Hi, Lee,
    what about "Soylent Green" with Charleton Heston and Edward G. Robinson? It is a favorite of mine. Wonder if that is what will happen when we get socialized medicine under O'bama Care and the old people are left to die instead of being well cared for? Hmmmm

  25. Of course, Soylent Green -- saw it again recently after 40 years or so and it's still relevant. Charlton Heston made a whole franchise of "end time" movies: Omega Man, Planet of the Apes -- his films may have been predicting the future.


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