|| Print ||
|Written by April Yorke|
|Wednesday, 31 October 2007 19:00|
We’d like to figure it all out. We’d like to be able to point to a moment and say, “That’s when we fell in love,” or “That’s when we fell right out again,” or “This is what happens when you mix pop rocks and coke.” Too many unknown factors and too many possibilities never stop us from guessing. And when this world falls apart, as it inevitably will, we’d sure as hell like to know how that shit’s gonna go down.
Look no further. Movies have been trying to tell us what the fall of civilization as we know it will look like for years. In the last decade alone, they’ve given us seven of their best possible incarnations of how everything will fall spectacularly to pieces. (Warning, chock full o’ spoilers!)
Gattaca (1997), dir. Andrew Niccol
When: Not too distant future
Cause: Genoism (discrimination based on genes)
How we fall: Having perfected the genetic engineering of humans, we live in a two-tiered society: those who have a genetic advantage and those who were conceived naturally. Free-borns are the bottom rung, holding down menial jobs, knowing that they will never have a chance to climb to the heights of their own brothers and sisters. Vincent (Ethan Hawke), a free-born with a heart condition, purchases the identity of Jerome (Jude Law), a genetically perfect man who just happens to be in a wheel chair. Jerome’s identity gets Vincent into Gattaca, an elite space program, but a murder at Gattaca and a stray eyelash threaten to upset Vincent’s mission to Titan, the 14th moon of Saturn, just days before take off.
Chance of survival: Slim. While Vincent makes it on to the spaceship at the end of the film with the help of his genetically superior detective brother (Loren Dean) and a sympathetic Gattaca doctor (Xander Berkley), there is no indication of a greater social upheaval or revolt by the free-borns against the genetically gifted. Only a select few with the means to do so will continue to make borrowed ladders out of the unscrupulous genetically superior.
Dark City (1998), dir. Alex Proyas
Cause: The Strangers, aliens who look like the Gentlemen from "Hush,” only more talkative.
How we fall: At some unknown point, aliens decided to build a human-sized ant farm, stick a bunch of people in it, and mess with their heads every time they fall asleep, ostensibly to understand how we work. Unfortunately, one man (Rufus Sewell) is resistant to their memory suppression, and framing him for murder doesn’t seem to be enough to get him out of the way.
Chance of survival: Medium. While Sewell’s John Murdoch, with an assist from Kiefer Sutherland, eventually breaks the aliens’ hold, restoring the human’s free will (and sunshine!) to their little city, they’re still stuck on a floating land mass in outer space. And they appear to be sustained by the power of John’s mind, so good luck keeping that going if something should befall him. As for where the rest of us are, that remains a mystery.
Equilibrium (2002), dir. Kurt Wimmer
When: After World War III
Cause: Ourselves, fascist government, drugs
How we fall: After World War III, an unknown superpower emerged and convinced us to inoculate at regular intervals to prevent ourselves from experiencing emotions, and, therefore, committing violent acts. Resistance still exists outside the city walls of Libria, but -- thanks to the elite police force, the Tetragrammaton Clerics -- resistance has proven futile. The highest ranking cleric, John Preston (Christian Bale), has been assigned to round up the highest level of Sense Offenders (those who don’t take their dose) in order to put an end to the resistance once and for all. Trouble is John just went off the dose.
Chance of survival: Excellent. Several awesome hand-to-hand, gun, and sword fights later, John kills the highest ranking government official, disables the central communications system, and makes it possible for the Resistance to blow up all the Equilibrium stations, stopping the distribution of the dose just long enough for the people themselves to want to get back to feeling (apparently men named John in dystopian futures are big on free will.) Unfortunately, they’ll also get back to hating, fighting, and killing. It’s one of those glass half-full sort of things.
28 Days Later . . . (2002), dir. Danny Boyle
Cause: Rage virus, zombies, animal activists
How we fall: Animal activists moronically break into a government test lab and attempt to free some primates. The primates infect the activists with a rage virus, turning them into zombies. The zombies run amok of the Island of Britain for 28 days. Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up from a coma alone in a hospital, wanders the streets of London, and eventually meets up with a group of survivors willing to take him in.
Chances of survival: Poor. While Jim, Selena (Naomie Harris), and Hannah (Megan Burns) outlast the initial infection, none of them are around to witness 28 Weeks Later . . ., which is good for them, considering the fact that a carrier of the virus accidentally restarts the crisis. While a carrier also means hope for a cure, everyone’s a little distracted by the virus spreading clear across continental Europe and who knows where else. Thanks, animal activists.
V for Vendetta (2005), dir. James McTeigue
When: Further into the 21st century
Cause: Terrorist attacks, totalitarian regime
How we fall: A fascist (John Hurt) and his conspiratorial government web use bio-chemical attacks to turn Britain in a totalitarian regime. A victim of those attacks turned terrorist, V (Hugo Weaving), seeks to pick up where Guy Fawkes left off.
Chance of survival: Excellent. With Evey’s (Natalie Portman) help, V succeeds in killing each member of the cabal and blowing up Parliament. V has inspired (with help from his beautiful baritone, no doubt) the people to stand against their government and, in the end, the army stands down. How well they’ll do re-forming the government remains to be seen, but, hey, standing together at the end of the movie is already a marked improvement over sitting scared in their homes. Too bad it looks like the world around Britain has gone to pot, too.
Idiocracy (2006), dir. Mike Judge
How we fall: The stupid have out-bred the intelligent, turning the US into a heaping trash pile where everyone’s favourite shows are “Ass” (about a farting ass) and “Ow, my balls!” (about guys getting hit in the balls). Thoroughly average Joe (Luke Wilson) and Rita (Maya Rudolph) are cryogenically frozen in 2005 and wake up to discover they are now the smartest people alive.
Chance of survival: Medium. Joe and Maya end up President and First Lady, respectively, and begin re-educating the population, but it’s unclear how successful they will be. After all, this is a place where fast-food chains serve Extra Big Ass Fries and take custody of your kids when you can’t pay.
Children of Men (2006), dir. Alfonso Cuarón
How we fall: The world’s human population is unable to procreate. With a limited number of years left, we have fallen into a tightly controlled police state, fragmented and chaotic. Borders are closed, illegal immigrants are rounded up in cages to await deportation, and terrorist groups keep Britain in a constant state of subdued fear.
Chance of survival: Excellent. Despite all this, a young refugee named Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) has conceived. Julian (Julianne Moore), the leader of a radical political group, charges her ex-husband, Theo (Clive Owen), with leading Kee safely across the country to meet up with The Human Project, a shadowy, possibly non-existent group made up of the brightest medical and scientific minds left in the world. For reasons he conceals until his last moments, Theo conducts Kee to the waiting boat, and a new hope for humanity is born.
Overall, our chances of survival seem not so good. If we can manage to subdue our own fascist, violent impulses and general stupidity, we still may have zombies, aliens, and sterility with which to contend. Even so, as long as we have people named John and people like V and Theo, people who are not afraid to have and give us hope, we just might make it after all.