As I’m sure you are aware tomorrow will see the end of the world. We survived the end of the world and at the end of 1999 and again on 21st. May 2011 just as our ancestors survived a previous predicted end of the world in 999. This latest End of the World relates to the Maya calendar, but which Maya calendar, I have heard of at least three different ones quoted and that’s before we get to all the new age bullshit. So what happens at the end of the world? To be honest the Maya doomsday theory is little more than the end of their calendar, and what happens when the calendar ends? A new one begins! The end (or near end) of the world is a subject many filmmakers have explored.
Like many movies on the subject, (plot spoiler) Planet of the Apes (1968) explores what happens to survivors after the end of a man made apocalypse. Mad Max (1979) and its sequels (1981 & 1985) is vague about the events that led to the end of the world as we know it instead concentrating on the increasingly crumbling society. The Terminator (1984) uses time travel to try and avert an apocalypse. Hardware (1990) is a story of a small group of survivors living in a city living off the scraps of the dead and decaying civilisation. The Matrix (1999) combines idea of all the above movies and uses glossy Sci-Fi as a juxtaposition to the grim reality of the dystopian future. We never really find out what exactly happened in The Road (2009) but the world is clearly dieing in this chilling and melancholic story.
Averting the end of the world is a mainstay of sci-fi, like The Terminator (mentioned above) Millennium (1989) and 12 Monkeys (1995) resorts to time travel to try and save the world after the event. More proactive in their approach, Sunshine (2007) sees a team of astronauts attempts to re-ignite the dying sun. the opposite is happening in (the terrible) Knowing (2009) as solar flares from an overactive sun burns away the atmosphere and incinerates the surface of the Earth. Both films have religious themes in their ending. Melancholia (2011) turns the destruction of the earth as a metaphor for depression. The under seen Last Night (1998) forgoes explanation and simply tells us the world is ending and concentrates on how people spend their last day.
Roland Emmerich seems to be trying to corner the market in world destruction. After flirting with aliens in Stargate (1994) he went for all out alien invasion in Independence Day (1996). No sooner had we survived that than America came under monster attack from Godzilla (1998) (if you haven’t seen it, don’t bother, just go for the Japanese original 1954 Gojira). Then the weather struck in The Day After Tomorrow (2004) before the Maya doomsday prophesy of 2012 (2009).
Following in the footsteps of WALL·E (2008) two of the biggest and most bankable stars in Hollywood return to an uninhabited future earth. Oblivion sees Tom Cruise as a drone repairmen on an abandoned and devastated earth after a war with an alien race. In After Earth Will Smith’s return to earth isn’t planned. This time earth has been abandoned for a thousand years until Smith and his teenage son (played by his teenage son Jaden) crash land and have to fight for survival. My only reservation, it is directed by M. Night Shyamalan who I have been less than complimentary about, except the underrated Unbreakable (2000).
Lets hope we all survive the apocalypse and get to see them.