Sunday, August 10, 2008

Post Apocalypto

When we think "apocalypse" these days, we think nukes, environmental disasters, diseases and the like, going from our current POV. But of course, societies have ended many times, and movies have been made of this.

E.g., Apocalypso shows the end of the Mayans. The Last Days of Pompeii shows--if memory serves--not just the end of Pompeii, but the implicit fall of Rome. (And I remember some movie where some Roman scientist had invented a laser and was blasting ancient Rome with it.) The Lost City and Reds probably would count. I wouldn't count American Revolutionary movies because the transition from British control to American control was pretty smooth. I might count French revolutionary stuff, though. How about Gone With The Wind?--the entire Southern way of life down the tubes.

Zombie movies could count. I wouldn't count Romero's, though, because in Night, he shows the before, while in Dawn, and subsequent flicks, he shows the after. Maybe the last real one (Land of the Dead) because it showed a post-zombie society, and then showed it ending.

In which case, I think Mad Max 3 would probably count. I can't remember--did they end up destroying Bartertown?

Movies about genocide fit, too. Hotel Rwanda, maybe even Schindler's List. Though a temporary feel doesn't quite work.

Apocalypse, after all, is just a matter of degree. The main thing it has to capture is that things taken for granted before are gone for good, now. When Worlds Collide has that feel. The Last Emperor.

80% of the fun is just defining the category.

All stories are eventually about some major change. Cataclysmic change for the worse is what makes them apocalyptic.

Lord of the Rings had that feel--the book, not the movie. Well, maybe the movie, too, if I could stay awake through the endings. The Narnia books almost all have that feel: It's sort of the point, sic transit gloria mundi and all that.

Curiously, I'd say the recent Star Wars trilogy, which tries very hard to do so, really misses the mark. Except, perhaps, when they're killing all the jedi.

Anyway, a good apocalyptic movie is always a little unsettling, probably because at some Jungian collective level, we recognize the archetype of civilization collapse. (OK, the Jungian collective isn't popular these days, but it is fun!)

It's gotta be tough to hit both the civilization-scale collapse and still make a movie personal enough to be interesting.

Can you guys think of more titles?


  1. How about The War of the Roses (1989)? They pretty much scorched the bejeezus out of that earth didn't they?

  2. Yeah, but on a very personal level. Although, did they blow up the house at the end?

    If you get personal about it, all those revenge flicks would work. After all, usually several people's lives are permanently altered by bullets, explosions, and what-have-you.

  3. The Matrix? I can't speak to the sequels--I fell asleep during the second and never saw the third.

  4. Actually, yeah, that works, sorta weirdly as both post-apocalypse and apocalyptic. Because it is the former, but for everyone who takes the .. blue? ... pill it's apocalyptic--completely ends the illusion of the civilization they've known.


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