The annihilation of human kind on a global scale is a fascination of the movie and book industry. In the final part of the series we take a look at some of the larger forces behind our possible demise. Although we already covered my personal favorite, the Virus, I wanted to relay some interesting figures related to the Plague (although I prefer the term…the Black Death…cuz it just sounds so much cooler.) Record keeping of course was not very good back in the 14th century. Still the estimates are that the Black Death killed about a third to half of the population. In some areas of the world eighty percent of the population died. Research suggests that it took almost a 150 years to replace the loss of human life. Today’s world is far more populated, thanks to technology, medicine and better food production. I found it interesting to consider that even if a virus killed fifty percent of humankind, that would only return the population to the levels of…1970. Well hell that’s no fun. I mean its not like we’d have our pick of houses and land…it felt pretty crowded in the 70’s too.
It appears that unless the virus is accompanied with a little zombie uprising our incredible urge to reproduce may have effectively insulated us against a massive reduction in work force based on virus alone. (An 80% kill rate would make the world look like the 1900s). So statistically speaking, if you’re gonna give us some real elbow room then we’re gonna need a little something bigger. Fortunately, the movie industry is thinking outside the box on this one and they’ve offered up some excellent options.
6. God is sick of you – I’m actually surprised we don’t see more of these types of films. Considering the impact of the Bible’s Revelations on the apocalyptic story industry you’d think there would be more such films. Most of them, however, focus on a single element such as the movie “The Seventh Sign” where the last soul is gone or we get a lot of “almost happened” that involve battles to deliver Lucifer’s son like the Omen and Constantine. Of course these films are almost apocalyptic but never get around to killing off the massive number of humans to qualify. One film however did and that was Legion. The quick scenario is that God is pissed off and he’s calling in the Angels to finish off humankind. The Angels’ clothing and wings are black…because in apocalyptic fashion circles we know that black is the new white. God could have opted to just snap a finger, wave a wand or say a word and “puff” finished it, but instead chooses the slower route. The movie had a pretty decent plot, plenty of survivor gun fire, and some creepy scenes. Since I can’t come up with another global God annihilation film, I’ll have to say this was one of the best.
7. I told you not to play with fire – I don’t know what category to place the movie “Reign of Fire.” Overall it was just so-so which was surprising based on the strong casting. I did think the concept was rather neat-o. The long slumbering Dragons rise from the earth, they have a strict diet of ash, and that requires that they burn the hell out of everything. Ah-ha! So that’s what killed the dinosaurs. Not even the slightest attempt here to create a plausible end of the world scenario, but still a fun idea and plenty of action. I think it missed the mark because it moved a little too quickly from “the first dragon rises” to “and so many years later.” Still death by dragon was a unique approach.
8. Will that be cash, credit or…holy crap is that a laser – Nothing pulls humankind together like the much anticipated alien attack. Certainly not a new concept, but with the advances in special effects these stories can really deliver. The version one invasion is straightforward. The ships come to earth, the lasers start blasting, and people start dying in droves. Independence Day took a more light-hearted approach to the topic, which is to be expected when you bring in Will Smith and Randy Quaid. The special effects were very good although the script didn’t really deliver a sense of “dread” over the invasion (although Pullman’s speech was a great film moment even if he did it rip off from the famous Dylan Thomas poem.) Battle Los Angeles took a much more serious approach to the invasion and it at least felt like the “invasion” was a bad thing. “Signs” was another little gem, and although we didn’t get to see the global destruction that is requisite for an apocalyptic story I think M. Night did such a great job with the script and visuals that this is probably the scariest version of the alien invasion films. What I find most amusing about these scenarios is the lack of understanding the aliens actually possess about our society. They want our resources and they come down with guns blazing. Why? With all that technology they have, that we really want, they could easily broker a deal where we gave them everything anyway.
9. Yum, tastes like chicken – Sometimes the goal of an invasion isn’t to get rid of humans but to harvest them. It takes on a whole new meaning when the purpose of the apocalypse is to use humans as food, fertilizer…or batteries. The first two films that stand out in this category are just different versions of the same story – War of the Worlds. The classic Wells story told originally in 1953 was for its time, a great film. They didn’t really highlight the “plan” for humankind though in the way the Twilight Zone episode, “To Serve Man” did. In the 1990s remake humans were, I think, intended fertilizer. Great SFx and great retelling of the story….bone dust…classic. The Matrix just took it to a new level – we’re batteries. Of course the film didn’t focus greatly on that point but the premise is always there right behind the scenes.
10. I like my women like I like my beer…cold and bitter – Once upon a time western society feared communism. Feared it so much we convinced ourselves that we could be brainwashed by those “Reds.” The beauty of a society sized decade of fear is it’s gonna spark some good movies. Invasion of the Body Snatchers was one of the best of those films. In the 1956 version we are introduced to the Pods from space that replace humans with a perfect duplicate, however sans emotions. The story was retold in 1978 with equal if not better creepiness. It really is hard to determine which was spookier, the final scenes where the woman is this cold thing calling to the other Pod people or that awful scream they introduced in 78. Either way when sleep is your enemy you are pretty much screwed. The final version, Invasion, with Nicole Kidman was just okay. It gets a B because it has Nicole in it but other than that there wasn’t anything new about the film and it fell sort of flat.
I think there are plenty of new twists and ideas for the concept of humankind’s destruction. It is after all the end game anyway. In 4 billion years the sun enters its next stage and consumes the Earth…I’ll miss you guys. Writers today don’t suffer from a lack of ideas, but Hollywood seems destined to just rehash the old stuff and avoid the new. It’s sad because ‘safe’ is not innovative. Still I am hopeful for the continued exploration of how best to kill humankind.