Surviving 2012 did nothing to quench America’s obsession with the apocalypse, and this year’s pop culture lineup looks as morbid as ever.
The studios - big surprise - aren’t looking to prioritize creativity in their quest to profit from stories of humanity’s demise, because at this point, what threat have we not had to rally from in order to avert extinction in the movies? Increasingly disfigured-looking aliens? Crippling disease? Trees? It’s all been covered, guys.
At first look, a Google sweep of upcoming films that could qualify as “apocalyptic” is ghastly if we’re talking sheer numbers: just shy of ten films, if you count The Fast and the Furious 6, because if that’s not a sign that the end is near, then I don’t know what is. Some of these films, though, look promising, and are definitely worth a look if not the full price of an admission ticket.
Only three films are sitting unscathed on my good list thus far: the casting choice of Brad Pitt in the first film, World War Z, may not guarantee its success, but it gives it a hell of a good start. In a loose adaption of the Max Brooks’ novel of the same name, Pitt stars as a U.N. employee enlisted to interview survivors of a deadly outbreak that threatens the entire population. Spoiler alert: these things can move, which always puts a stressful spin on the beaten-to-living-death zombie genre.
The second film, This is the End, is set for release on June 14 and looks like another promising prospect, albeit one for the easily amused. Apocalyptic comedies may still be a relatively new concept, but apocalyptic ensemble comedies courtesy of Hollywood’s A-list? Only Seth Rogen could begin to pull that off. With all the film’s stars playing themselves, this film might seem a bit stale paired with the similarly star-packed Movie 43, but after watching the trailer this looks like it could actually be pretty funny, if not infinitely in bad taste.
Balancing out the cinematic guilty pleasures should be easy with Elysium, the long-anticipated second film of District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, out August 9. An allegory on the all-too-familiar question of class warfare and its presence in modern society, Blomkamp transports us to the year 2159, when Earth’s 1 percent has fled the used-up planet to live on a cushy space station, while the rest of the population gets to hang out down here, breathe in noxious gases all day and wonder what the hell a “polar bear” is. Luckily, star Matt Damon seems to have a scheme up his sleeve to restore balance to these broken worlds, though you wouldn’t think it from the rather cryptic teaser released over a year ago. I’ve never seen any film quite like District 9, and if Elysium has half the staying power of that film, it’ll have plenty going for it.
Most of this year’s apocalypse-themed films, though, are guilty until proven watchable. “Everything on this planet has evolved to kill humans,” Will Smith warns his son (who, of course, is his actual son, Jaden Smith, because this family just can’t get enough of each other) in the After Earth trailer. And if by that he’s implicating M. Night Shyamalan, the film’s director, and his unfailing ability to make me want to drive an icepick through my temple when I watch his films, then he’s right. Oblivion also has a confusing mess of a trailer, and stars Tom Cruise wearing the same freakin’ Yankees cap he wore in his last post-apocalyptic movie, War of the Worlds. And just like that film, Morgan Freeman can only carry this so far.
The "Most Likely to be Terrible" award goes to Pacific Rim, this year’s Transformers regurgitation that’s unfortunately directed by Guillermo del Toro. His films are the epitome of hit or miss, but I didn’t see him stooping into truly mindless blockbuster territory quite yet, so that’s a disappointment. “Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!” bellows Idris Elba in one trailer. Thanks for the words of encouragement, but could you please let Hollywood know?