When it comes to guilty viewing please I have always loved an end of the world film. For my 15th birthday, I dragged my entire family off to see The Day After Tomorrow, a disaster film that involves Jake Gyllenhall trying to survive a superstorm.
Back then the appeal of end of the world cinema took on a different form. I was curious because the scenarios felt so far away, so unimaginable.
But this week when I sat down to watch Greenland, the new disaster film directed by Ric Roman Waugh and starring Gerard Butler, my interest stemmed from a more sinister place.
Over the past twelve months’ end of the world’ has felt less like a dramatic statement and more like a looming inevitability. Since COVID-19 became a part of our daily lives, we’ve been regularly forced to watch our society slowly tear apart at the seams.
Global COVID-19 deaths have exceeded two million, unemployment rates have skyrocketed, and a culture of misinformation has made us more polarised than ever.
As grim as it may sound, my curiosity regarding the end of the world films has become borderline voyeuristic. Recreational viewing has morphed into research and with each new disaster film, I make a mental list of how best to prepare myself for the possible apocalypse.
You may think I am going off the deep end (very possible), but I am far from alone. Since arriving on Amazon Prime last week, Greenland has been widely praised for its realistic take on a tired genre.
Oh shit GREENLAND is like, a good movie. Go figure! https://t.co/XL93Gf4M6P
— Chris Evangelista (@cevangelista413) February 8, 2021
In the film, Butler plays John Garrity (Butler), a down on his luck structural engineer whose main aim in life is to win back his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin).
The family drama takes centre stage until we learn that a planet-killing comet is headed towards Earth. Within an instant, the rules change, and a seismic shift occurs, survival taking top priority.
Further complicating matters is that Garrity receives a presidential alert confirming that his family has been chosen to take up residence in a special bunker. If they can make it to a local airfield, their survival is guaranteed. Cue a cat and mouse game as Garrity tries to save his family while society slowly implodes around him.
While watching Greenland flashes of the past year were hard to ignore. Realising the hopelessness of their situation those not on the presidential alert list resorted to looting.
“That didn’t take long,” says Garrity as he walks past a couple entering a defaced pharmacy
It was art imitating life, or more accurately, art imitating death – and that was the point, according to the film’s star.
“I feel now that people watch the movie with a way deeper understanding of what really happens when something is really out of our control,” said Butler in a recent interview.
“How does it affect them individually, and how does it affect society?”
“This isn’t just all about special effects that are kind of fun but meaningless. It goes pretty deep into the psyche of a family and a population at large for good, bad and indifferent and how something like this would play out.”
Having conquered Greenland I’m now on a disaster film deep dive, revisiting some of the best end of the world films of all time. Feel free to consult this list and thank me later when everything starts falling apart.
The Road (2009)
A father and son find themselves the last two people in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. In search of a warmer destination, they hit the road, but it becomes apparent that they’re not alone after all during their travels.
Released ten years ago, Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion feels all too real. A deadly virus spreads from animal to humans, and before long, the entire world is at risk of being infected. Sound familiar? Perhaps proving my point, Contagion has undergone a resurgence since COVIF-19, with millions of people streaming the 2011 flick since the pandemic began.
As the 2020 coronavirus outbreak proliferated, the 2011 movie Contagion — about a deadly worldwide virus outbreak — suddenly became popular again. It even broke into the top 10 on iTunes' movie rentals chart on January 28. https://t.co/wAkU9SkzVH
— Vox (@voxdotcom) February 26, 2020
If Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis can’t save the planet from an asteroid, then who can? Alright, so while Armageddon may not offer as many take-home tips as other end of the world films, it still belongs on the list, When NAA gets wind of an asteroid headed for Earth they pick a crack crew to dismantle it. Also, extra points for the fantastic use of “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith.