Rating Pop Culture Responses To The Apocalypse From Smart To Silly

Sometimes, viewers wish they could enter the world’s shown on their screens, but that doesn’t really happen in post-apocalyptic stories. We get invested, but we’re cool with staying removed from the situation. We cheer for our heroes to stay alive, but they often make deadly mistakes. As the world burns around them, however, some choose to laugh in the face of Judgement Day… and Judgement Day laughs back. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some approaches to the End of the World, both silly and smart, in no particular order.

The Last Ship

Though they didn’t have a choice at the start, Commander Tom Chandler makes a smart call when he decides to keep his ship at sea and avoid returning home initially. If you have the resources and the ability to push back all comers, it makes sense to stay away from where an infection is likely only getting worse. Besides, you might get lucky and find someone who is immune and who can help you craft an antidote for the virus.

Verdict: Smart

Zombieland

The Apocalypse is never funnier than when Bill Murray shows up in Zombieland. The idea that everyone’s favorite Ghostbuster managed to survive the zombie infestation with a little stage makeup, some groaning, and an exaggerated limp is truly absurd but completely hilarious in practice. Also, Tallahassee’s quest to find Twinkies in between Zombie Kills of the Week is maddeningly insane. Sure, hold onto the simple pleasures to maintain some humanity, but maybe let the sub-par snack items go.

Verdict: Silly

This Is the End

So, the Apocalypse is happening. Now, imagine that your famous, rich, and not entirely sober. Basically, This Is the End is an Apatow (co-writers/directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen are from his roster of talent) flick about friendships between emotionally stunted men with some seriously intense action sequences. They try to barricade themselves inside James Franco’s house, with less than stellar results until they leave the house and find even less success. However, it isn’t all that bad. Sure, the world is ending and Emma Watson is stealing your supplies, but The Backstreet Boys will be there in the end.

Verdict: Silly

The World’s End

I would argue that facing the impending doom of an alien invasion armed with beer and your best mates is one of the best ways to approach the Apocalypse. The third film in the Cornetto trilogy is more about mending relationships between old friends than anything else. There just happens to be an alien invasion at the same time. As Simon Pegg’s Gary and the rest of his friends end up face to face (metaphorically) with the sinister Network, it’s his belligerence that exasperates the impending overlords into quitting their invasion. The aliens’ self-destruction may trigger some cataclysmic events across the globe, but at least humanity is left with the tools to start over, right?

Verdict: Silly

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Stanley Kubrick’s pitch black comedy is still as relevant today as it was 50 years ago at its release. Sure, the Cold War is over, but satire of rival nations and arrogant military leaders is still sharp as a knife. Paranoia and mistrust are still a part of everyday dealings, and there is probably still fighting in the War Room. Still, a very funny film manages to have one of the darkest and most unsettling endings: Because of the petty squabbles of political and military leaders, the world is still destroyed in a nuclear detonation.

Verdict: Silly

Mad Max franchise

The apocalyptic landscape portrayed in the Mad Max franchise is ultraviolent and relentless. The race for fuel and water doesn’t really have a clear winner. The losses are heavy on both sides, but the destruction sure looks cool. The marauding hordes of psychopaths obviously makes staying in one place seem a bit risky, but it seems kind of counterintuitive to drive through the Australian desert like a maniac when there is a fuel shortage. However, ingenuity and iron will gives these characters a pretty good shot at survival.

Verdict: Smart

The Hunger Games

After a cataclysmic event that wiped out most of humanity, the remaining people decide that a fascist dictatorship, a corrupt power system, and holding a yearly bloodsport using children is the best way to maintain order. Shockingly, this ends poorly. Maybe if they had used their insane technology to feed their people instead of using it to build increasingly elaborate arenas, all of this war and discord could have been avoided. However, after the overthrow of the Capitol, the technology is put to a much better use and humanity is able to rebuild.

Verdict: Smart

The Walking Dead

Everything is pretty terrible in the world of The Walking Dead. But, despite some terrible decision making from Rick Grimes’ crew, they have somehow managed to survive the zombie apocalypse for five seasons and beyond. They are constantly threatened by walkers, cannibals, and other types of crazies, but as long as they keep moving and stick together, a few of them have carved out some semblance of a life.

Verdict: Smart

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