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Posts Tagged ‘Millennium’

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.The Terminator

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.sunshine

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).the day after tomorrow

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).After Earth and Oblivion

Lets hope we all survive the apocalypse and get to see them.

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Catching up on an old episode of The Matineecast got me thinking about movies set in dystopian futures. Ryan referred to dystopias that are not that far in the future, and via the movie Pleasantville (1998) he and his guest Sasha James Talked about how a nostalgic view of America in the 1950’s could be a dystopia for people from the present day. My first thought was that we could now be living in what would be the dystopian future that people in the 50’s feared. With dwindling natural recourses, and rising costs, losses of civil liberties and an over reliance on technology coupled with the threat of war and terrorism, we are probably closer to dystopia than utopia. With this in mind I have avoided movies set in an unrecognisable world to concentrate on dystopias that are not that different to the real world.

Movies like Gattaca (1997), V for Vendetta (2005) and In Time (2011) exist in a society that has adopted practices that oppress the masses and it is through rebellion that people are able to find a better life. There are other films like1984 (1984), Brazil (1985) and Code 46 (2003) that revel in their desperation and futility by pulling rug from under the hero, and the audience with it. Fahrenheit 451 (1966) and Children of Men (2006) find a happy balance where the despair is tempered by a glimmer of hope. The brilliance of Fahrenheit 451 the way we see a character comes to distrust what he has been taught to believe in and chooses to fight the system from within. We see a similar idea explored in the interesting if a little overrated Equilibrium (2002), set in a society where emotions are outlawed it also explores what it is to be human. Both these ideas are explored in the underrated and misunderstood RoboCop (1987). In there own way the characters in Rollerball (1975) and Death Race 2000 (1975). This is very different from District 13 (2004) and A Clockwork Orange (1971) whose protagonists are and remain outsiders. An interesting case is The Handmaid’s Tale (1990) whose main protagonists desire is only to escape the system but her desires bring her into the sphere of those who are trying to change things.

When you mention Mad Max many people think of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, in some ways the best film in the trilogy, but the original low budget Mad Max is actually equally as good in its own way. Set in a near future world were society is crumbling and law & order has begun to break down people will do what it takes to keep moving to stay on the road. It was relevant in its day but it has found new relevance in recent years. If we think about the glue that holds society together, it is not fear of prosecution, but a moral belief of right and wrong, if you take that bond away the world as we know it will crumble. We see the early days of this in Mad Max, and the subtlety with which this idea is displayed within a violent revenge thriller is why it is possibly the best dystopian movie. This breakdown of society is in the background of neo-noir Trouble in Mind (1985) and retro-future comic book inspired Streets of Fire (1984) but lacks the despair of Mad Max. The other movie that perfectly depicts society at a tipping point is Strange Days (1995). Made in the mid 90’s with LA’s troubles fresh in the memory and set just five years in the future, now more than a decade in the past, some would argue the world is a worse place now than what was depicted. Given the reality TV obsession of the last dozen years and current distrust of media and governments, The Running Man (1987) now seems strangely prophetic. Battle Royale covers some of the same ground but is all the more shocking in the way it casts children against society.

It is human nature to try and change and shape society, but some movies have taken this to an extreme. By travelling back in time from a dystopian future to change the present and reshape the future, their present. This is handled in different ways in different movies, the hero of Twelve Monkeys (1995) is haunted by memories of his own death and with it his failure to save the future. Millennium (1989) takes a different point of view as the characters from the future battle to hide the existence in the present through fear that it will change and potentially destroy the future with the effects of the paradox of time travel. While Millennium is afraid of the effects of paradox, The Terminator (1984) exists within a paradox. It is only within an effort to kill the hero who can save the world that he is conceived. The one thing all these movies have in common is the way they only give us glimpses of the dystopian future, a future created in the present.

One thing that is clear, there are as many differences as there are similarities within the genre, but the movies that are the best and that age the best are the ones that have a deeper relevance. This can be an overt plot, a subtle subtext or just a theme that anchors the story in reality.

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