Hollywood likes to second-guess itself and look over its shoulder. “Oh, you’re producing a film about a math wizard who falls in love and takes a trip around the world in a balloon?” [Turns head, whispers in teeth to assistant] “Where’s our version of this? Get a draft on my desk by next Thursday.” This year we’ll see two White House movies (“White House Down” and “Olympus Has Fallen”) going toe-to-toe and a number of superhero film face-offs. But with apocalypse movies, it’s almost something else entirely. It seems to have captured the creative zeitgeist, and/or everyone is just creatively bankrupt. In Hollywood, it’s always hard to tell.
But this year, there are at least three apocalypse comedies, a straight-up horror, a procedural blockbuster, a rock ‘em sock ‘em robot vs. monsters one, and a post-apocalyptic one thrown in for good measure. That’s eight films in all. Are they unique snowflakes? Are they different enough from one another? What are they about? Are they worth your time? Are you hungry already? We dive into 2013’s eight apocalypse movies so you don’t have to. Here’s all you need to know. Let’s do this.
“This Is The End”
What’s It About? Six friends — Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and Jay Baruchel — throw Los Angeles’ sickest house party. But as a series of strange and catastrophic events devastate Los Angeles and the world outside unravels, the six friends find themselves trapped inside, trying to deal with the oncoming end of the world.
What Brings On The Rapture? It’s an unexplained phenomenon and the friends have to do discover what it is. When they do, the loose plot coalesces, but we won’t spoil it here.
Will Audiences Go See It? Probably. It’s got a who’s who of contemporary comedians in it, plus a cavalcade of cameos and co-stars like Emma Watson, Aziz Ansari, Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, Rihanna and more.
What Makes It Stand Out From The Rest Of The End Is Nigh Movies? Well, unlike most super-serious doomsday films, it’s comedic, super irreverent and very-meta — all the actors play themselves and the main gag is the actors skewering their public personas.
Final Verdict: Our reviewer didn’t love it and essentially says that one gag is spread too thin and some more plot and fundamentals could have gone a long way. “They call can all be sharp and smart comics, and in spots during [the movie] they certainly are,” he wrote. “[But it’s] a vanity project that hopes that audiences will enjoy hanging out with Seth and the gang as much as they like hanging out with each other.” Still that doesn’t mean other members of The Playlist won’t love it when we all catch up with it. Time will tell.
“The World’s End”
What’s It About? 20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl, five childhood friends reunite when the more stunted man-child of the group becomes hell bent on trying the drinking marathon again. Their pub crawl then runs into trouble…
What Brings On The Rapture? “The World’s End” is the third installment of Edgar Wright’s “Three Flavors Cornetto” trilogy of comedies. Let’s say there’s spoilers from here on out, so please don’t read if you don’t want to know. Although, to be fair, the posters and trailers pretty much reveal what the main threat is. And though we’re not 100% sure having not seen the movie, it’s pretty clear from the aforementioned marketing materials that it’s some sort of extra-terrestrial beings or forces that takes over humans a la “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.”
What Makes It Stand Out From The Rest Of The End Is Nigh Movies? Well, it’s a comedy and it’s also got sci-fi elements, it reportedly has an all ‘80s soundtrack (the songs of the main characters’ youth) and it’s set in the U.K. with an all-star English cast — Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Rosamund Pike. Presumably its English bent will make it stand out quite a bit.
Will Audiences Go See It? There’s always a question whether British comedies will connect with U.S. audiences. Recent pictures we loved like “Attack The Block” and “Sightseers” didn’t really seem to move the needle. That said, all of Wright’s Cornetto films thus far have landed very well and done well at the box-office given their modest budgets.
Final Verdict: None, it doesn’t come out until August and we bet it’ll premiere at Comic-Con first. Though from first blush it sort of looks like “Attack The Block” with adults meets, Edgar’s Cornetto sensibilities.
“World War Z”
What’s It About? A United Nations crisis expert leaves his family to in order to help combat a global zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself.
What Brings On The Rapture? Zombies, duh.
What Makes It Stand Out From The Rest Of End Is Nigh Movies? Lots of things. For one it’s Brad Pitt’s first self-made tentpole and would-be franchise (his Plan B shingle produced it). It’s much more epic that most of the movies on this list. It’s also grounded and has a realistic procedural approach to it mixed with horror and your traditional zombie movie. It also looks like a cross between “28 Days Later” and “Contagion,” putting a realistic spin on the zombie/virus outbreak genre, but on a much bigger scope and in a more tentpole-friendly way.
Will Audiences Go See It? As you can tell there’s a lot of forces at play here. Is it an intelligent thriller? A tentpole? An action-franchise? It seems like all of the above and the movie comes with a mountain of bad press issues — bloated budgets (reportedly over $250 million), re-shoots, new writers, a scrapped ending, a new ending created midway through the shoot, director/actor clashes — and lots more drama. Still, it’s a zombie movie led by Brad Pitt, so we assume it’ll still do fairly well though whether it’s a mega blockbuster and spawns its would-be sequel remains to be seen right now.
Final Verdict: We’ve seen it and as suggested, it seems like there’s simply too much going on in the film that becomes confusing and clashes tonally. Our reviewer said that the problem is that “it wants to be ‘Zombie Dark Thirty,’”a zombie procedural, and yet, it also wants to be a “a for-the-cheap-seats would-be-blockbuster with CGI swarms of the undead, and a plane crash sequence that features the three stupidest things we’ve seen in a movie in at least a year. (You’ll know them when you see them…)”
“It’s A Disaster”
What’s It About? A weekly couples brunch takes a turn for the worse when Los Angeles — and potentially all of North America and the world — is attacked by an unknown force.
What Brings On The Rapture? All lines of communication are down so reports are sketchy, but it appears to be dirty bombs that have decimated L.A., N.Y. and other major U.S. cities, leading to fears of radiation and toxic contamination.
What Makes It Stand Out From The Rest Of End Is Nigh Movies? Like “This Is The End,” writer/director Todd Berger’s end of the world comedy is also a single-setting film (though they roam in the Rogen comedy) where a group of friends — David Cross, Julia Stiles, America Ferrera, Erinn Hayes, Jeff Grace, Rachel Boston, Kevin M. Brennan and Blaise Miller — are boarded up inside a house trying to figure out what kind of dirty bomb fumes could infect or kill them. It’s also riotously funny and despite the impending doom, it’s much more about the dynamics of the group as they alternately plan, panic, give up and try all kinds crazy schemes in order to prepare for the worst.
Will Audiences Go See It? They really should. Our review called it, “a darkly hilarious apocalyptic dramedy that’s anything but disastrous,” and that’s spot on.
Final Verdict: This is now in limited release and on most VOD outlets, so you have no excuse. Yes, it’s kind of a rental movie, meaning you don’t necessarily need to see it on the big screen, but it’s surprisingly great and a real treat.
What’s It About? A young couple (Anna Kendrick and John Francis Daley) battle their way through a religious apocalypse on a mission to defeat the Antichrist. Things get complicated when Satan himself falls for the female half.
What Brings On The Rapture? Well, the Antichrist, duh.
What Makes It Stand Out From The Rest Of End Is Nigh Movies? Craig Robinson as the Antichrist is a pretty big distinction, though apocalypse comedies, once a fresh take on the genre, are quickly becoming the standard way to tackle the end of the world (see above). A romantic angle with Satan seems relatively fresh as well.
Will Audiences Go See It? Mmm, maybe? It’s in limited release now and on VOD. And arguably, more audiences are going to see this type of movie on VOD. Co-starring Rob Corddry and Ken Jeong, maybe comedy heads will want to take a peek.
Final Verdict: None, we haven’t seen it yet, though presumably, we’ll catch up with it on VOD as well, though admittedly, reviews out there so far aren’t great.
What’s It About? Legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, starting a war that takes millions of lives and consume humanity’s resources for years on end. To combat them, civilization creates massive robots called Jaegers.
What Brings On The Rapture? Legions of monstrous creatures from the sea, yo.
What Makes It Stand Out From The Rest Of End Is Nigh Movies? Well, it’s much more high-concept, blockbuster-y apocalypse than the rest of these films, even “World War Z.” A cross between Godzilla, Kaiju Big Battel (seemingly the main inspiration) and robot anime cartoons like “Voltron” and such. It also features the sure-to-be-classic line, “We are canceling the apocalypse today!” which children will surely be shouting aloud for Halloweens on end, when they are running around in cumbersome, awkward robot costumes.
Will Audiences Go See It? It seems like such a gigantic spectacle that yes, nerds will eat it up and regular audiences too. That said, all the money has been spent on effects and the cast is largely unknowns, Idris Elba of “The Wire”/”Luther” probably being the biggest names followed by Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman and Max Martini. Names probably don’t matter in a film like this, right? Time will tell.
Final Verdict: None, as it’s not out til July 12th. That said, our gut tells us it’s either feast or famine. A huge whopping hit or something audiences turn their noses up at and nothing in between; such is usually the fate of the modern blockbuster with expensive, winner takes all stakes.
“The Devil’s Rapture”
What’s It About? When young girls start to go missing within a religious cult, older followers fear a long-told prophecy while the younger members suspect abusive elders are killing them off.
What Brings On The Rapture? The Supernatural, the Occult, maybe Satan.
What Makes It Stand Out From The Rest Of End Is Nigh Movies? Not a lot. The budget, motley crew cast collects a who’s who of also-rans that weren’t busy during the film’s shooting schedule like Jennifer Carpenter, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Rufus Sewell, Thomas McDonell, Adelaide Kane and Leah Pipes. The director is Danish filmmaker Christian E. Christiansen, whose 2011 English-language debut was “The Roommate” (Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester in what amounts to a godawful remake of “Single White Female”). All signs point to a cheapo horror meant to make money. Though to be completely fair, maybe it’s a cut above because LD Entertainment, the production company behind it, has a decent track record (“Biutiful,” “Killer Joe,” “I Love You Phillip Morris“), though not so much with horror.
Will Audiences Go See It? Yes, as the very average, very forgettable “The Purge” reminded everyone, audiences will flock to cheap, forgettable horrors on opening weekend, but the film will usually lose at least two-thirds of its audience after that and be straight-to-video not long after.
Final Verdict: None, but if we were gambling people, we surely wouldn’t take a bet on it.
What’s It About? Based on the French graphic novel “Le Transperceneige,” the film is set in a future where inhabitants of the Snowpiercer — a train that travels around the globe and is powered by a sacred perpetual-motion engine — are the only people left alive on Earth.
What Brings On The Rapture? Well, arguably the apocalypse has already arrived and we’re cheating here a little bit. This is a post-apocalypse movie, technically. After a failed experiment to stop global warming, an Ice Age kills off all life on the planet except for those on the aforementioned train.
What Makes It Stand Out From The Rest Of End Is Nigh Movies? Well, it’s post-apocalyptic for one. For two, it’s a sci-fi thriller which adds the dimension of three genres and there’s a class system theme running throughout the film as well (social texture). It’s cast is super dynamic and multi-racial — Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Jamie Bell, Alison Pill, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and Ed Harris — that perhaps has global appeal. The film’s director is Bong Joon-ho, the filmmaker behind “Memories of Murder,” “The Host,” “Mother,” and he’s one of the most exciting international genre auteurs working today.
Will Audiences Go See It? Probably, though it’s likely not going to be an easy sell and The Weinstein Company, who has North American distribution rights hasn’t yet dated it for 2013 despite the fact that it’s coming out in South Korea this summer. TWC always hedges their bets, so it could be they’re going to test it out during the fall film festival circuit and if it plays, it gets a 2013 release. If it doesn’t, they’ll likely shelve it until the spring of 2014; a season that typically houses a lot of indie genre films.
Final Verdict: None, but it was on our Most Anticipated 2013 list so we for one are definitely looking forward to it. Though we have to admit, the international trailer hit yesterday and the first thing we thought was, “OK, now we know why this didn’t premiere in Cannes…” TIFF 2013?
Uhh, if we’re gonna mention one post-apocalyptic movie, we suppose we could mention “Oblivion,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Warm Bodies,” “After Earth,” and “Elysium,” but they don’t exactly count. That’s about it for the end is nigh movies of 2013, but there’s probably more on the way next year. That is unless a new trend tends to consume everyone instead.