The post-apocalypse issues continue to tickle the nerves of modern readers and viewers. The genre is gradually merging with reality: from January 2020, you will not surprise anyone with the scenario of the disease of all humankind with an unknown virus. And the climate on Earth in recent years presents us with weather disasters, too. Humanity could only wait for the birth of artificial intelligence for a complete set of fantastic “scarecrows” of the XX-XXI centuries.
Let’s start with the mainstream movies of recent years: in 2020, for example, The Midnight Sky, an American science fiction film directed by George Clooney, was released. It’s based on the 2016 novel Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. Telling without spoilers, the narration boils down to the fact that an unknown catastrophe polluted the Earth, and the protagonist needs to save the spaceship – the carrier of the last representatives of humanity.
The movie did not create a sensation after its release. Scenes with screamers and tension build-up do not evoke the catharsis effect, as in the films of the masters of the genre.
The pandemic year did not bring significant breakthroughs in the genre. Suddenly Western people called to memory that in 2011 Steven Soderbergh shot the unnoticed but now mega-topical movie “Contagion.”
The film is known for the fact that the author involved professional medical workers in the scriptwriting, and therefore the movie came out painfully realistic. Even with the source of the worldwide pandemic, China, the authors got it right. The plot tells the story of a virus that spreads through fomites; attempts by medical researchers and public health officials to detect and contain the disease; the loss of public order in a pandemic. Ultimately, scientists develop a vaccine that curbs the spread of the lethal airborne virus that kills within days.
But in reality, we have not yet reached the optimistic ending of the film: in Contagion, samples of the virus are placed for freezing in a container where cultures of the pathogens of SARS and swine flu are already stored.
(“Let’s just hope that “I am legend” stays as a movie” – the watcher’s comment under the trailer. Oh, I really hope so, too).
The film “Annihilation” (2018) is still underestimated. My colleagues mentioned it in the review of movies about mutations and bioethics. Meanwhile, this film by Alex Garland has powerful potential both as a post-apocalyptic film and as a parable about “the first contact.”
The Annihilation script is based on the first book of the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeffrey VanderMeer (2014). Meanwhile, viewers familiar with world science fiction will see parallels in the film with the novel by Soviet science fiction writers Strugatsky brothers “Roadside Picnic” (1972) and its adaptation of “Stalker” by Andrei Tarkovsky (1979).
Why is Annihilation another scenario of the apocalypse? Because the authors described the alien threat in the form of an ever-expanding “zone of strange phenomena.” Ultimately, officials feel threatened, not friendly, by the actions of a wholly incomprehensible “another mind.”
It is noteworthy that at the sight of an alien trying to copy and study people’s behavior, the female protagonist… hits first, and when she fails, explodes an alien with a grenade. Human nature, you know.
And it is not scientists who are sent firstly by the US government to establish the “first contact” (it is the linguists who decrypt the language of aliens in the film “Arrival“), but the military servicemen.
The year 2021 and the threatening geopolitical tensions in April between the Russian Federation and the “Western world” brought numerous parallels with the “Cuban missile crisis” of 1961. I mean the large-scale movements of the troops of the Russian Federation to the borders with Ukraine, which the RF officials called “exercises.” Reading the comparisons with the Caribbean crisis, I called to memory movies like “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964), “Threads” (1984), and “Damnation Alley” (1977). And for an intellectual public that does not like action movies, I recommend the gloomy, shivering Soviet film “Dead Man’s Letters” by Konstantin Lopushansky (1986).
The statement unites all these movies that by pressing the conventional “red button,” civilization on Earth will be destroyed by a nuclear war. It is worth mentioning the computer models of Carl Sagan, who popularized the concept of “nuclear winter” in the media in the 80s. This model is now being used to explain why dinosaurs became extinct at the border of the Cretaceous and Paleogene, about 66 million years ago.
The nuclear winter chapter of history began in the late 1970s when a group of scientists – including Sagan – entered the nuclear arms fray. These weren’t nuclear physicists or weapons experts: they studied the atmospheres of Earth and other planets, including dust storms on Mars and clouds on Venus.
Sagan and his former students James Pollack and Brian Toon realized this work applied to climate change on Earth – as well as nuclear war. Along with meteorologists Tom Ackerman and Rich Turco, they used computer models and data collected by satellites and space probes to conclude that it wouldn’t take a full-scale thermonuclear war to cause Earth’s temperature to plummet. They found average global temperatures could drop between 15º and 25º C, enough to plunge the planet into what they called “nuclear winter” – a deadly period of darkness, famine, toxic gases, and subzero cold.
The art-house parable about Mother Nature
In the finale of our short hit-parade “cinema about the end of the world” of recent years, let’s call to memory art-house, author’s movie “Mother!” by Darren Aronofsky. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but note that the film is full of deep symbolism. You will hardly be pleased to watch it (it fully justifies the declared genres – drama, thriller, and horror film). The Apocalypse does not appear in the literal sense of the word, but in the allegorical form of its signs, it happened more than enough.
For the most part, people are presented by the director as an unruly greedy crowd, feeling the need for a chief, divided for far-fetched reasons, fiercely fighting the police, fighting in wars. This crowd is robbing and destroying the home of Mother Nature. The director shows through unexpected plot twists how a respectable literary agent becomes a murderer, shooting prisoners with bags on their heads (a direct reference to the 2003 Iraq war and the infamous Abu Ghraib prison). When Mother Nature asks the intruder why he destroys her house, the stranger replies: “I want to leave a mark!”. And the poet, inspired by Nature, exclaims at the sight of his fanatical followers: “They all understood my text correctly! But each in its own way. “
The film was received in contrast by the festival audience; it was called the worst film (following the scandalous movies of Lars von Trier), then it was praised. This work will definitely not leave you indifferent. You will quite expectedly think after watching how not to rape and rob Mother Nature.
And back to the mainstream
What else is post-apocalyptic to expect in a post-pandemic year? Of course, “The Matrix 4 Resurrections”, which has to be released in December 2021. Lana Wachowski has already made us happy with the first trailer.
Now, among franchise fans in disputes, spears are breaking about the “true meaning” of the picture. Did the screenwriters really put the idea of hopelessness into “The Matrix” before filming the first part? The version of the plot seems quite logical that both the illusion for people (who are the batteries in slavery by machines) and “real life” are equally simulated virtual realities. And what is “beyond,” in fact, no one inside the setting of the “Matrix” knows. Will the author continue this line in the fourth part of shooters-murders with philosophical overtones? The premiere in December will show.
Perhaps we will still see the movie adaptation of the “near-war” events of 2021 in the form of a thriller with a happy ending. Biden eventually invites Putin to an online climate change summit on April 22, while the Russians withdraw troops from Ukraine’s borders. And soon, the world community defeated the global pandemic, and COVID-19 took its place in history along with H1N1 and other previously threatening infections. And the history of 2020-2021 will become the story of how humanity managed to dodge the Apocalypse.