Next Friday Keanu Reeves threatens to scrape Earth free of the entire human race, or at least truckers, football fans and Kathy Bates. Yet, unless the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still really deviates from the original film, I doubt Reeves floats away in his bowling ball of eco-friendly destruction from a human-free planet. After all, it’s a Hollywood studio movie, and while Hollywood studio movies love to occasionally kill billions of humans — preferably with the aid of visceral computer pixels blowing famous landmarks up real good — they never have the pair to finish the job.
In 2009, we get 2012 from the destroyer of worlds and intelligent cinema Roland Emmerich. This guy adores inflicting pain and stupidity on massive groups of people. He practically blew up Earth in Independence Day, froze it to death in The Day After Tomorrow and plans on drowning it Waterworld-style along with some other Mayan madness in 2012. Yet, Emmerich is a pussy. He teases us with human extinction, but never delivers the coup de grÃ¢ce. And I’m sure half the cast of character actors in 2012 will still have a pulse (and fattened bank accounts) when the credits roll. I’m looking at you John Cusack!
But can you imagine how sweeter Armageddon would have been if right after Bruce Willis heroically declared to the camera “We win,” the nuke fizzled out like a match snuffed in ice cream and it only sort of broke apart Michael Bay’s steroid asteroid. Damn it we didn’t dig deep enough! Thanks Ben Affleck, you just murdered Earth. That’s an alternate ending I want to see.
Yet, the studios have to sell tickets, lots of them, to finance these quagillion dollar blockbusters. So concluding them with a body count of 6 billion isn’t going to win over the mainstream crowd still fragile from watching Bambi’s mama get mowed down by Elmer Fudd.
So my hope lies within smaller, arty films. It’s hard to do an apocalypse film on a ramen noodle budget. Yet, not impossible. Oh yes, that film I pimp anytime I possible can (and I wept when its release was delayed), The Road apparently pulled off such a feat. And if it stays true to the book — which from all accounts it does — then I might finally have a movie that makes no concessions regarding humanity’s fate: we are goners.
It has been a long time coming. Earth’s movie humans have survived zombie infestations, global warming, countless alien invasions, dozens of leaky-pus diseases, intergalactic highway projects, talking apes, nuclear wars, nuclear tornadoes, asteroids, comets, pissed-off plants, killer computers, a stalled-out sun, a broken planet core, cross-dimensional collisions, flood-happy deities, infertility and the Wayan brothers. Whatever Hollywood throws at humanity, we take it like champs.
However, I’m tired of watching apocalyptic films where humanity lives to get sequeled another day. I want a film that doesn’t welsh on its promise and actually portrays the human species’ existence as finite. It’s not that I’m a life-hating curmudgeon (okay, I am when shopping at Wal-Mart). It’s just that I’m bored of end-of-the-world films with predictable conclusions. Yay, the plant kingdom won’t force every man, woman and child in the world to commit hilarious suicides. How dull.
As human beings, we have an innate interest in how this whole spectacle will end. Hollywood caters to that curiosity and packages it as entertainment, which doesn’t bother me. Personally, I love the apocalypse genre (unless it involves my buddy Kirk Cameron and the putrid Left Behind series). Watching humanity face obliteration inherently sets up possibilities for interesting drama, complex examinations of human behavior, and rad car chases if you’re George Miller.
So, I’m always in when it comes to checking out the latest humanity-is-in-deep-shit flick, especially if it’s a last-man-on-Earth story. I’m fascinated by the tale of the person who will turn the lights off. The person has the whole world to themselves, pure freedom, yet no one to share it with it. Well, that’s the theory anyways. The subgenre’s name is a misnomer. These movies never feature the truly last human on the planet. For the first hour or so they’ll try to sell you on the idea. Yet, whether it’s the decent, but flawed, I Am Legend or even one of the subgenre’s best, such as the cult classic The Quiet Earth, another pesky human always pops up and undercuts the film’s last-man marketing premise. And it’s always someone of the opposite sex because we can never have too many Adam and Eve allegories.
It’s as if the filmmakers have a psychotic parental need to comfort us like we’re children awaking from a nightmare about hatchet-wielding goats playing tennis with Gary Busey, who for some goddamn reason won’t stop reciting bad emo poetry — common childhood nightmare for me. No son, we humans won’t end. Adam will always find his Eve.
Bullshit. If we see a Texas-sized space potato heading towards Earth tomorrow, Bruce Willis will not save us. Nor will NASA, Jesus, your mom, or our magical President Barack Obama. We will simply all die. Hollywood should come to terms with that.