Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Way the World Ends

Let us count the ways, my droogies. Let us be analytical, or anal-ytical. First,

Animate versus Inanimate
In today's lesson we will not consider rocks, ice cubes or exploding stars. No meteors, comets or novas. No changes in the Earth's orbit, etc. It has to be our fault or somebody else's. Somebody is to blame, dammit! Second,

No Homefield Advantage
In the battle for Planet Earth, there is no homefield advantage. The visitors always have the upper hand. Third,

Smarts versus Dumb Luck
A tough one. Do we want to lose out to a foe which can play 3D chess with eyes closed, or are we okay with plain old fashioned brute force? Bear in mind that a repeat-appearance will be made by Dumb Luck on our side. And,

We Have Met the Enemy, and You Know the Rest
Yeah, we can defeat ourselves. Tens of thousands of years of humans piling on humans tells us this again and again. Fifth,

The End is the End
It's not apocalyptic if their isn't a pretty much all-consuming disaster. We have to be done for. . . . Mostly. Not completely done for, just mostly, pretty much. So, either Washington or New York has to be destroyed.

Reality vs. WTF?!
Some films actually take the end of the world seriously, especially if made during the reign of murderous maniacs like George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan. But this can wear on one, so most take the entertaining road of unreality, antireality, fantasy, delusion, illusion, denial. Finally,

The Suck Veto
I reserve the right to pass over films that just plain suck, as opposed to suck in a fun, late night camp way. Tim Burton's Mars Attacks just plain sucks.

Let us begin.

1. The War of the Worlds
Tom Cruise. No big victories, we just get lucky.
And nobody has a clue. Nice.
Weakened by the rosy ending with a near-perfect
Boston street, but for badly parked cars. (In some
sense understandable, who would bother
attacking Boston?) Cruise might join our classic heroes
noted below.

2. The War of the Worlds
The original. Scientist knowing
it all detracts from doom and gloom.
Screaming dimwit woman sidekick is a downer.

3. Children of Men
Now this is the way to end
things. Nasty, brutish, and drawn out.
And a good post-apocalyptic hero has
a nice cynical realism. (Witness two of
our heroes below.)

4. The Blob
That blob is best of the dumb luck, brute force brigade.
But not good enough to beat Steve McQueen.
Excellent camp factor. (Sorry, the cast of
the remake sucks so massively, I cannot
take it seriously.)

5. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
The original.

6. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy,
Jeff Goldblum, Brooke Adams,
Veronica Cartwright. Has that great
70s Stalinist gloom quality.

7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (aka Invasion)

8. 28 Days Later
Night of the Living Dead, but with
less camp, more stamp.

9. Omega Man
Charlton Heston takes on the end thing
and blows away . . .

10. I am Legend
This could have been so much better.
How did Will Smith get that James Bond
house going, anyway? And just how dumb
can a person be and make it through 3 years
of apocalypse?

11. The Planet of the Apes
The original. One of The Great Three
Charlton Heston apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic
movies. The third being . . .

12. Soylent Green
What a dystopia here. And in each of the
Big Three, Heston has that great
resigned cynicical realist vision. He
just toughs it out.

13. Battlestar Galactica, Revelations
Just that one scene at the end earns this
episode a place on the list. I never thought
the producers would have the guts for a
plot turn like that.

14. Independence Day
Windows spammers can't even write a good virus for the Mac.
How did Jeff Goldblum write code to hack the aliens here?

15. Road Warrior
The rip-roarin-est best of the
post-apocalypse chase.

16. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Delicious vision of post-apocalyptic tribalism.
And Mel Gibson is the third of the just
tough it out lot, with Heston and Owen
(and maybe Cruise in War of the Worlds)

17. Threads vs. The Day After
Threads is the brutally bleak British answer
to the picnic nuclear apocalypse, The Day After (1983).
Day After is so sunny, you half expect it turn into a
musical midway through.

And forthcoming: The Road
I don't think there's a snowball's chance in hell
that Hollywood can get this one right.

And the awful that shouldn't be mentioned but must be lest we forget:
Battlefield Earth. How did Travolta get work after this?
Waterworld. How did Kevin Costner get work after this? Would have been better as Wayne'sWaterworld.
The Postman. And how did Kevin Costner stay on the roster to strike out again?
Signs. Had some nice touches, like the sense of isolation. But what the hell are the aliens up to? They're just making crop circles? What about leveling something?!

And what have we learned today, my droogies?
If you're going to survive the End of the World, you better have that don't-grin-and-bear-it attitude. Plus, running or racing, be fast. And watch out for people who have got religion.

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