x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

It seems Hollywood is all about the apocalypse this year

Hollywood is shamelessly releasing a veritable slew of films in which the world is brought to the edge of collapse.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) in THE HUNGER GAMES.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) in THE HUNGER GAMES.

As any self-respecting film aficionado should be aware, the world as we know it will end this year on December 21 (although exact timing has yet to be confirmed). First prophesied by those maize-munching merchants of doom, the Mayans, and more recently brought to public attention by Roland Emmerich (who'd have thought it would be John Cusack and Thandie Newton to help lead the world into a new dawn?), this little apocalypse is likely to make any predictions regarding 2013's Oscars race largely irrelevant.

Given that there are now about nine months till doomsday, many of us assumed studios would have helped take the edge off our impending collective deaths. The release of a few feel-good epics – perhaps a 3D remake of It's a Wonderful Life – might have assured our days came to an end with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside (not put there by molten lava or some such other hot stuff). But no. It seems as we wait for extinction, Hollywood is releasing a veritable slew of films in which the world is brought to the edge of collapse time and time again. Thanks, guys.

Next month, it's the classic asteroid approach, as Keira Knightley and Steve Carrell skip down the road to oblivion in the plotline-explained-in-the-title drama Seeking a Friend For the End of the World. It may be a romcom, but few are likely to find the possibility of an existence-threatening rogue interplanetary body on a collision course with Earth a laughing matter. Just a month later and humankind is up against it again, forced to choose between certain destruction or Will Smith's third outing in a black suit and sunglasses. Given that the former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger has been roped in as a Men in Black Wag, perhaps the first option would be more preferable.

There's no respite in June, as Ridley Scott unleashes the hotly anticipated sci-fi actioner Prometheus in which an exploratory mission into space results – rather predictably – in a "terrifying battle to save the future of the human race". Why such space exploratory missions can't result in a "tremendously exciting new variety of biscuit" is a question only scriptwriters can answer.

But as mankind's curtain call inches ever nearer, are we getting more "end of the world" films? It certainly seems that way. The 1970s, never really considered the cheeriest of decades, was boomtime (literally) for disaster filmmakers, but thanks to special effects restrictions, deaths were largely confined to buildings or cities, such as Towering Inferno and Earthquake. The whole planet was only really roped in as computer graphics became capable of displaying such mass catastrophe, and the 1990s saw Independence Day, followed by Armageddon and Deep Impact, add a few noughts to the overall kill count. Then came the "makes you think" stubble-scratching, planet-destroying affairs such as 2004's The Day After Tomorrow, a film that probably had viewers considering reducing their energy consumption for all of five minutes.

Given that advances in technology means your average nine-year-old with a MacBook can have the world blown into smithereens in just a few hours (no doubt accompanied by a heavy-metal soundtrack), keeping disasters restricted to a small area sadly seems a bit small-fry nowadays. And it's pretty much the same with post-apocalyptic films, of which a similar flurry is heading our way. Even children can't escape in The Hunger Games (due out on March 22 in the UAE), in which the ruins of what was the US are used as a fight-to-the-death arena for the under 18s. Is this the sort of sporting pastime John Cusack will endorse once he's made king of the new Earth?

Brad Pitt is getting in on the action too, transforming much of the world into a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic wasteland for World War Z. Unfortunately, for anyone hoping to learn survival tactics for this eventuality, there's a small problem Mr Pitt has perhaps overlooked. Yes, the film is due for release on December 21. Again, no exact timings have yet been announced (organising something on this scale is probably quite complicated), but it might be an idea to get to an early screening.

 

aritman@thenational.ae