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Favorites: The Apocalypse

Favorites: The Apocalypse

This is the fourth in our series of Favorites, semi-annual canonizations of particular cinematic genres and sub-genres. Much like the prior entries in this series – The Action Movie, Time Travel, and Transformations – as well as our annual celebration of the horror genre, 31 Days of Horror, this feature is to be construed as a broad yet selective overview, and will be comprised of reviews published in random order over the course of a month.


As a funhouse mirror reflection of everyday life – its trials and tribulations, its natural proclivity for drama, and its sometimes sudden conclusion – cinema has gone to great lengths in exploiting the more trying circumstances of existence. And to this end it constitutes a voluminous library of destruction and suffering—in alternately cartoonish, ruminative, and often violent ways.

For the remainder of this month, we are focusing on the most disastrous of disaster films: apocalypse movies, the more pronounced of which are loud and obvious. Generally they are summer blockbusters with ensemble casts, renowned for their digitally-crafted scenarios of global mayhem, and directed by Roland Emmerich. However, apocalypse movies predate the advent of computer special effects as well as the summer blockbuster, and some of its more conceptually innovative examples are only apocalyptic in a subliminal sense, narrowing their focus on the effect a cataclysm has on a single character, dispensing with tectonic disruption in favor of bleak understatement.

Our selections may be roughly delineated into two chronological partitions:

  1. The pre-apocalypse movie, which generally concerns the revelation and consequential anticipation of an apocalypse, depicts a nation’s (or world’s) desperate comprehension of this threat, and almost invariably climaxes in a visualized apocalypse.

  2. The post-apocalypse movie, which may not feature an apocalypse at all, often considers its aftermath—the social, psychological, political, and economic repercussions.

Categorically, apocalypse movies are quite varied, and depict a rich thematic spectrum of mayhem ranging from war-drawn disasters to pandemic, technological, environmental, and astronomical ones. In sum, however, apocalypse movies tend to correlate in how they tend to stage apocalypses that are very nearly commensurate with their time of release. This propagates their fiction with suspense, an aspect exacerbated in the sub-genre’s more pornographic titles, which possess hallmarks in their resolute destruction of Earth’s architectural masterpieces. Notably, many of these films are now dated, and their contemporaneous relevance muted in the passing years. Nevertheless, apocalypses have proven to be of perennial interest to the cinemagoing public, even if the disasters they forecast, like the words of some outspoken prophet of doom, are perpetually in the near future.

Favorites: The Apocalypse will run on weekdays throughout the month of August.

Introduction by Rumsey Taylor

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