The End is here?
By Scott M. Waldman
The unimaginable has happened; asteroids hurdling towards the Earth, hail the size of minivans, dogs and cats are living together… locust! The world is nearing its last breath, and the events leading up to its dramatic ending are either adventurous or ridiculous. During the whole ‘2012’ or ‘Y2K’ phase where we began to believe that a certain event would trigger a phenomenon that would end the world; Hollywood’s best and brightest (maybe not the best) took the opportunity to answer your questions of how the world is going to end. Some directors went literal and went with the idea of the world ending with a bang, a large storm (we all freeze or are met with a ‘shocking’ demise), or the world is given personification by allowing itself to collapse to reject humanity. The best way to possibly look at this type of film is to expect two obvious conclusions. 1) The world ends or 2) It doesn’t.
How has the world not ended or at the very least been threatened in film? It has been blown up by ‘Villains without Motives’, attacked by giant unstoppable monsters [that we pissed off; sorry Godzilla (2014)], and many other convoluted sequences that either kill all life or leave us with an empty void in space to view into the credits. The biggest question is why would a villain want to destroy the world? Comics had it better with Owlman (Batman of Earth 3) giving his whole “It doesn’t matter” speech, but we haven’t created any character worthy of destroying the world. They usually have a sad childhood on their world, get a college education, and then come out of their learning experiences swinging their fists at the world. These villains are not worthy of destroying the world. They can kill off humanity, but why take the world with them? It could be as simple as the villain being controlled by a second party from off-world trying to create a hyperspace expressway [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)]. There needs to be a logical reason as to why any human being would destroy the world, or else the film was probably better off without them on that world to begin with.
The films that have shown the most merit of how the world will end have pointed to natural or non-manmade disasters. Bring on an earthquake that has lava flowing through the crevices, a meteor the size of Kentucky, or the sun sending solar flares to turn Earth into the next marshmallow at a campfire, because this is the only possible end. The funniest part about this specific type of film is the craziness of the plot; the writers try to explain how they discovered that the end is mediocre at best, but the audience drops the fact because of all of the mind-blowing visuals. It could be as simple as “a young boy looking through his telescope and…” the end is found. The films that have reacted to this type of imminent doom best are the ones where humanity literally gives up hope and goes crazy showcasing the reality of the situation. Sure scientists or oil drillers can try to save us, but in all cases, that television inside that store is in need of stealing.
The world may end someday, but many directors and writers have so far worked off of past stories (remakes, classic literature, etc.) rather than created their own way for the end to happen. Sure the plot can have different names, have a different sequence of events compare to whatever it’s based off of, or just drop off everything and just take the title and the ending shot, but is that really anything new? The reason we haven’t seen any recent film where the world is actually destroyed is because there aren’t many understandable motives for it to happen besides the Earth literally dying of old age. Villains destroying the world need to have a realistic explanation to do it whether it has to do with a nightmare with a long streak of sweat, seeing the world as a threat, or because if they do it they get a discount at a galactic discount store. What matters is that it’s believable, or else the film is the only thing that’s coming to an end.