You may encounter situations in your life for which there is no possible preparation. Luckily, movies are a great substitute for real-life experience. In Film School, we look at what television and movies can teach us about these unexpected scenarios.
You may notice that in the title of this post I refer to it as “an” apocalypse and not “the” apocalypse. That’s because movies don’t have much to teach us about the apocalypse. First of all, what are you really going to do in that situation? Secondly, a series of natural disasters wiping out cities until eventually the camera just cuts to black would be a terrible movie. It would take a sick group of people to pay to watch characters killed off in graphic detail with no hope for survival (I’m looking at you Saw fans).
But there are several apocalyptic scenarios portrayed in movies that don’t result in the actual end of the world, just a much less populated one. Personally, I harbor no illusions about what happens to me in any of these situations. I don’t have any skills that translate to a post-apocalyptic world, unless a ragtag group of survivors looking to preserve the last bits of humanity want someone around to correct their grammar. But if you think you have what it takes to repopulate the earth, let’s look at a few movies and what you can learn.
The Day After Tomorrow: The Next Ice Age
Summary: The Day After Tomorrow stars Dennis Quaid as paleoclimatologist Jack Hall who, after predicting that global warming would bring about a second Ice Age, experiences every paleoclimatologist’s dream – to have the stuff they say actually come true in their lifetime.
While Jack predicted that the events leading to another Ice Age would take hundreds of years, a slight tweaking of his model actually shows that it’s going to happen in seven to ten days. Whoops. Major weather events start wiping out cities across the world. There’s a massive hail storm in Tokyo, tornados in Los Angeles, and New York gets hit with a tidal wave and freezing temperatures.
Jack finds his son and friends hiding in the New York Public Library, burning the books for warmth like a band of beleaguered fascists. They get rescued by Black Hawk helicopters and all head to the non-ice coated southern hemisphere.
Lesson Learned: Be related to someone who has studied the cause of this apocalyptic situation for their entire lives and is willing to come after you if you’re trapped in the middle of it. If that can’t be arranged, haul ass to Mexico.
2012: Turns Out The Mayans Were Right
Summary: Let me just start out by saying that I tried to watch this movie, and I couldn’t get past the first half hour. So this synopsis will be brief, because I don’t think I should spend more time writing the summary than the filmmakers spent writing the dialogue.
The idea behind the movie is that in 2009, a group of scientists realize that the temperature of the Earth’s core is increasing, which is going to cause major natural disasters. They share this information with the world’s leaders, who begin a super secret project to create an ark that will save 400,000 people. How will these people be chosen? How will they be notified and yet the project still remain secret? Will animals and plant life also be preserved somehow?
We don’t know, because instead of focusing on any of that, the movie jumps to the year 2012 and shows a bunch of landmarks getting destroyed. I know that Roland Emmerich has, for all intents and purposes, one talent. As the director of Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, Emmerich is undoubtedly the premiere auteur of “showing shit happen to the Statue of Liberty.” He is very good at it. But what he is clearly less good at is presenting the non-exploding side of humanity’s struggle to survive. Dialogue, emotions, human relationships…these all take a backseat to watching a megatsunami slam an aircraft carrier into the White House.
Lesson Learned: Befriend government officials, but not the heroic ones. President Wilson dies because he decides to address the nation one last time from the White House, while his shadier Chief of Staff, who started the ark project, lives. So pick out the shadiest, highest up leaders you can and start getting on their good sides now.
The Road: Things are gonna get pretty grim
Summary: The Road offers what is probably the most realistic apocalypse experience from the perspective of a regular person. Because if there is some major event that causes the collapse of society, odds are most normal people won’t even know what happened. You’ll turn to the person next to you and say, “Did you hear that?” and then nothing. Or you’ll be one of the unlucky survivors, and will spend the rest of your life wandering around trying not to get eaten.
The Road is about a man and his son walking south in a post-apocalyptic world. They’ve got a gun with two bullets, which they’re saving in case things get really bad, although the definition of “really bad” is subjective, since I would have shot myself as soon as I realized that the post-apocalyptic world didn’t include toilet paper.
On their journey, the pair enter a home and find that it’s owned by cannibals who have chained people in the basement and are eating them…slowly. Again, here’s where I would break out those bullets. But the man and his son escape and live to wander the wasteland another day.
They’re also robbed by a thief, but they manage to catch up with him later and rob him, even taking his clothes, because morality is questionable in a world where people have human farms in their basements. Fortunately, the actor who plays the thief has experience in morally questionable worlds:
Eventually, the father is killed but the son joins another family who have been following them. So…there’s some hope. Kind-of.
Lesson Learned: We are so effed. You do whatever you want, I’m opening the bottle of wine I’ve been saving and locking the doors.