Post-Apocalypse Now: Movie Reviews — The Road, Collapse, Daybreakers

Posted in Cultural Mining, documentary, Douglas Coupland, Michael Ruppert, Movies, post-apocalypse, TIFF, US, Vampires by on January 24, 2010

Around this time of year, when it starts to get bitterly cold, when the skies are overcast, with no hint of the sun some days, and no holiday coming for a long, long time… well this is the time of year when people start thinking of disaster, apocalypse and general destruction.

Canada’s Parliament seems to close down, without rhyme or reason.

A tsunami in the Indian Ocean, levees collapsing in New Orleans, a horrendous earthquake flattening Porte au Prince.

People’s thoughts turn to apocalypse.

Canadian writer Douglas Coupland’s new novel “Generation A” tells of a disastrous future world where technology progresses, like it always has, but the bees… the bees… are… gone.

OK, not so scary, but he imagines a world where our ecosystem has been totally decimated and 5 youngish people in five countries get stung at once by five bees which had somehow survived their extinction. An entertaining book.

Then there’s the movie
The Road
Dir: John Hillcoat
Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy

If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s still playing on the big screen and you should try to catch it, and be depressed.

A man (Viggo Mortensen) and a boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who have survived a monumental disaster (that seems to have killed everything on earth, except for some humans), are on the road slowly walking south in some future incarnation of the United States. The boy is one of the few people born into this post-apocalyptic world. This place is now inhabited not by zombies, robots, or aliens but by the scariest monsters of all: ordinary people who have lost any sense of decency or morality. These survivors live only to eat whatever food they can find or steal, mainly canned goods put aside by long-dead “survivalists”. Or, rumours have it, they eat other people.

The movie is full of religious symbolism. The boy is portrayed as an almost messianic icon, gentle as a lamb, innocent, moral, and forgiving. Scenes of death and rebirth, quasi-baptismal rituals, floors strewn with now worthless dollars and jewels, and locations in crumbling churches, give the harrowing film a decidedly Christian motif. Can the characters hold onto their civilization and beliefs (what the father and son call “the flame inside”) where humanity has ceased to exist?

Australian John Hillcoat also directed the beautifully shot and extremely violent movie, The Proposition, which failed where The Road succeeded so well. Where that movie had red, wide shots of the Australian outback, The Road has stark, arresting desolate landscapes of dead forests, abandoned, half-finished bridges, collapsing ghost towns, with garbage blowing instead of tumbleweeds. The movie feels like the cast has been transplanted into photos by Burtinsky.

This is a pretty depressing theme for a movie, but it’s not necessarily a downer. Anyway, if you haven’t seen it maybe you should check it out.

Dir: Chris Smith

Collapse, a documentary, is a chance for a political theorist, Michael Ruppert, to voice his views of what’s going on in the world. To summarize: we’re doomed. The world’s energy supply has long since passed “peak oil” – the point at which oil is being produced at the highest level before its decline; he predicted the current burst bubble economy in his dissident newsletters – and it’s not going to get better; and the powers that be, including the CIA, are nefarious drug-dealing thugs. The entire movie consists of him in close as he riffs in an excellent ongoing monologue on various topics as he chain smokes.

This movie combines what look to me like the styles of two great filmmakers, Errol Morris (especially in his amazing TV interview show, First person, where he talked to people like the autistic Temple Grandin), with his long takes of a single subject waxing lyrical in a bare room; and Adam Curtis, a British documentary maker for the BBC, who’s style, like this one, combines the monolgue voice style with visually pleasant old-school documentary stock footage. So in this movie there are long sequences where Ruppert’s ideas on energy are amazingly well illustrated using old educational films dating back to the 1970’s energy crisis.

Ruppert is an ex-LAPD cop, who talks like a small-town American and looks, disturbingly, like Doctor Phil (the TV psychiatrist). And most of what he says in the film is completely plausible, with parts that are already proven. When he gets to his own personal story – that his own ex-girlfriend worked for the CIA when they tried to get him to help smuggle drugs into LA when he was a cop… and how they pursued him and smashed up his office when he published a controversial newsletter in which he used his own news research to expose various government cover-ups – he verges on, but doesn’t quite reach – paranoid sounding. Is he? Or isn’t he?

The filmmaker, Chris Smith, intentionally makes him seem edgy as he tells his story, but also gives him the chance to state all of his very convincing theories. It’s up to the viewer to decide what to believe and what to discount, but, either way, Ruppert’s a captivating speaker, and it’s the kind of movie you talk about with strangers in the lobby as you leave, as you try to think through the Truckload of information he dumps on you.

Dir: Michael and Peter Spierig

Another view of the post-apocolyptic future comes in the form of a new vampire movie, Daybreakers, directed and written by brothers Michael and Peter Spierig. Vampires roam the planet feeding on humans, and changing some of siring them into vampire-dom. At some future point, the vampires overtook humans in total numbers, and basically tool over, living in the same homes, taing the same subways, working in the same offices. Humans are driven underground – metaphorically speaking, since they, unlike vampires, can exist in sunlight without bursting into flames – and are hunted by police and military who function as corporate entities, like the ones in Paul Verhoeven’s classic film “Robocop”. So, while Ruppert, in collapse, talks about peak oil, this movie begins at some point after “peak blood” – the demand has way outstripped supply, so the vampires — who look just like humans except they have two little cutely pointed teeth and amber-coloured eyes – are desperately chasing down the last humans for their blood, and at the same time are trying to create an adequate

So that’s the set-up for the movie. Ethan Hawke is the heroic blood research scientist trying to find the cure, Sam Neill is his boss, the sinister CEO; and Willem Dafoe is one of the rebel humans trying to stay alive. Is it a good movie? I didn’t like it as much as a lot of people I know, mainly because it was more cheesy than scary – with lots of really cheap effects like bats flying at the screen every so often. I guess it’s supposed to make you scream. It didn’t. Still, the story was fun enough to watch, entertaining enough, and different enough… if you’re really into vampires. It has some very gross, bloody scenes, but it’s not too gory, at least not by current standards.
– Daniel Garber, January 13, 2010

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One Response

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  1. Depression Treatment · said, on November 4, 2010 at 12:04 am

    i always look for a good movie review first before watching new movies ..


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