Postapocalyterature

It’s been fairly quiet around here this week… almost too quiet. If Cinematic Attic were a movie, I’d be walking down a deserted street, sidestepping newspapers proclaiming an imminent zombie apocalypse. I’d have no idea how I got here, and I’d have no idea what to do. Then suddenly, a mutant vampire would grab at my leg from a sewer grate!

OK, I guess it’s not been that quiet here, and I imagine we writers got all hot and bothered for the Oscars and then ended up taking this week off to recover from our fainting spells (since most of the writers for Cinematic Attic are old-fashioned Dandies through and through). Plus, I have a feeling I’ve been thinking about dystopian futures more than usual lately.

The "Cover-inside-the-cover" of Veronica Roth's "Divergent"

The “Cover-inside-the-cover” of Veronica Roth’s “Divergent”

As a side note (and a bit of inevitable self-promotion), I’m reading a book a week again this year (you can see the list here). It just occurred to me recently that a lot of the books that I’ve been reading lately –and indeed, a lot of books that are popular in general– deal with alternate, post-apocalyptic futures. And that has also affected the types of movies that are being made, too.

For example, this year so far I’ve already read Veronica Roth’s Divergent and Stephen King’s The Gunslinger, both of which are part of series that explore a world after some kind of catastrophic event. And in the last two years of my project I also read such titles as Apocalypse Z: The Beginning, Cloud Atlas, Ready Player One, The Stand, and the three books from the Hunger Games series. But if I had to list the movies that dealt with these kinds of topics, the list would be so long I’d have to do it on a separate post.

OK, to be honest, I only read the novelization of this one.

OK, to be honest, I only read the novelization of this one.

I was surprised, then, when I was recently talking to two other Cinematic Attic contributors who happen to have a baby. I’ll give you 5 extra points if you can figure out who I’m referring to. Anyhow, they told me that ever since having their child, they don’t like to read dystopian or post-apocalyptic novels. I thought that was interesting, and although I’m definitely hesitant to second-guess them seeing as I have no kids of my own, I think that such novels and movies could be a good way to deal with the realities of now, by seeing how crappy the future might be if we mess things up.

Then again, that might just make a new parent more stressed. I don’t know.

Anyhow, it was just a thought, and I wanted to share it with everyone to see what kinds of comments you had.

Here are my lists, by the way, since I know a lot of us are into that:

RYAN’S TOP 5 DYSTOPIAN NOVELS THAT HE CAN THINK OF ON THE FLY AND LIST WITHOUT PUTTING TOO MUCH EFFORT INTO IT:

5. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline: A double win, as it combines a depressing future in Oklahoma with fervent 80s nostalgia.

4. World War Z – Max Brooks: This guy really did his homework.

3. The Road – Cormac McCarthy: Lock up the booze and guns before reading.

2. Brave New Fahrenheit 1984 – 3 Authors: The three times I’ve read these, I read them together, so I just think of them as one giant, awesome bummer.

1. The Stand – Stephen King: One of my favorite books ever.

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Escape from THIS, Harry Dean Stanton! (If that really is your real name)

RYAN’S TOP 5 DYSTOPIAN OR POST-APOCALYPTIC MOVIES THAT HE CAN SORTA MAKE UP AS HE GOES ALONG:

5. Cloud Atlas: This would be higher (and in the book section, as well), but over half the novel takes place in the past.

4. Death Race 2000: I’d say the title says it all, but it leaves out two things: “David” and “Carradine.”

3. Legends of the Fall: I shudder to think of a future in which I’d need to watch this shitty movie again.

2. Children of Men: A future with no need for birth control.

1. Blade Runner: Mainly since it’s great, and because everyone always uses it as a touchstone for talking about dystopian futures.

I also want to end with a few questions. Please answer in the form of a complete sentence.

1. Do you like post-apocalyptic or dystopian novels and movies? If so, why? If not, why, and what’s the matter with you? What it is about their topic matter (or our human nature) that makes them so popular?

2. What titles or movies have you enjoyed, and which haven’t you liked? Explain.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. Have a great rest of the weekend!

16 thoughts on “Postapocalyterature

  1. 1. I like post-apocalyptic movies because it makes me play the “what would I do in that same situation” game. There’s something enjoyable, sometimes, about being depressed. It’s weird. I think it’s the same reason why I love depressing music.

    2. The titles or movies that I have enjoyed are: Mad Max 1 and 2, 28 Days (and Weeks) Later, Gattaca, Total Recall, V For Vendetta, I Am Legend, Minority Report, Wall-E, The Last Man on Earth, I Robot, and Panic in the Year Zero. I haven’t liked The Divide, Monsters, Daybreakers, and I also thought Zombieland was overrated.

    Sorry I haven’t posted in so long. I think it has a lot to do with the time of year. It’s just that time of year to curl up in the corner of the room and wait until the sun starts shining a little more or the weather to get warmer… I actually haven’t even been watching too many movies worth mentioning… sad.

    • What a post-apocalyptic commentary, Deuce!

      Hope things get more interesting and/or sunny around there. And don’t worry about not posting as often, since all of us took the week off. Let’s call it Spring Break.

      Anyhow, I forgot a lot of those movies, and they’re also really good. Although I was thinking a bit further into the future, so I considered V For Vendetta but that seems almost like present time, just in a parallel universe. I definitely liked a lot of the other ones, though, so my list was a bit short.

      • I feel the same way about Idiocracy. I was going to mention it, but it just seems like it’s a little too present day.

        • I love Book of Eli and Idiocracy too. I think V For Vendetta can count too. It seems like the natural progression of the 1984 world. Do any of you guys like Brazil? I think that can count too, but it’s more of what Ryan mentioned, an alternate reality. I love Twelve Monkeys and the film that inspired it, La Jetee. Also Planet of the Apes! And The Terminator movies have some fantastic post-apocalyptic parts (especially T2). OH!!! And The Matrix! Did people forget this or is it not liked by people any more? I still love it. My favorite is still Children of Men. I think that will go down as the Citizen Kane of our time (I’m not saying I love Kane, I’m just saying it’s a film that didn’t win any awards or was highly regarded in its time but gained prestige and respect through time).

          • Hi Djake,

            Yeah, I definitely like the Matrix (although it does seem generally acceptable to dislike the two sequels as being bloated), but like a lot of the others that didn’t make the list, I also saw it as a sort of alternate reality story, not post-apocalyptic. But I guess there is that element to it, too. Maybe we should have another post about our favorite alternate reality movies. Anyone want to write it?

  2. Last fall/winter during the Starz Film Festival, they had what they called a Zombie Town Hall, which I got to go to, where George Romero, Max Brooks and Steven Schlozman (yeah, THE Steven Schlozman) sat around and talked about zombies for a good hour and a half.
    It was interesting to hear their perspective since none of them had the “I want to see blood and gore and zombies eating peoples brains” outlook on the entire genre. While that’s certainly a part of it, they were all more concerned with the zombie genre being a direct look into our future if we don’t try to change what we’re doing (especially Schlozman who’s a sociologist). While this future might not include zombies, per se, the human versus human element, and the fact that someone you loved a minute ago can turn against you the next, plays in in a huge way. To them, zombies were nothing if they didn’t carry with them a social commentary.
    In addition to a lot of the movies Dustin mentioned, I also liked Book of Eli (sometimes in concept more than execution) and Sunshine is one of my favorites.

    • That sounds like a cool discussion!

      I also liked Sunshine, but I’ve not seen Book of Eli. I may have to check that one out, just to “see” the idea behind it.

    • I would have loved to see that discussion. I feel that horror films, more than any other film genre, are the best way to study a specific period in history. You can understand the cultural zeitgeist of any culture or period of time by studying the horror films that were coming out. Romero’s zombie films were always the best example of this. I feel that horror films get the worst treatment from society and movie critics (and awards for that matter) because they look at them at face value instead of understanding the social commentary behind them. While there are always going to be exceptions, I think people should respect horror films more than they do.

      This can be directly linked what you guys were talking about with post-apocalyptic movies and books. Have you noticed an insane number of disaster, apocalypse and post-apocalyptic movies coming out over the last 5 years? Most of the movies that you guys listed came out recently. This year alone there is Oblivion (Tom Cruise in live-action remake of Wall-E), Catching Fire, After Earth (Will Smith and son vs. Avatar Earth monsters), World War Z, The World’s End (Edgar Wright’s 3rd in his trilogy), This Is The End (Seth Rogan and every awesome friend he has face the apocalypse) and Pacific Rim (giant robots vs. massive monsters from another dimension duking it out on Earth). The end of the world is definitely on people’s minds and Hollywood is exploiting that. Same goes for books. I work in a bookstore and literally every week there is a new Teen book about the end of the world or a dystopian future. Sure most of this is from the popularity of Hunger Games, but it’s still interesting to think about.

      • I might be biased since I loved the books so much, but I can’t help but feel like a lot of this was because of Harry Potter. Especially the Hunger Games. I’m not trying to discredit anything you’ve said, but I have a hard time believing that The Hunger Games would’ve found the audience it did if Harry Potter hadn’t blown up a decade before. It almost single-handedly made “Teen (or “Young Adult”) Fantasy” into its own section at the book store. Before that, it was all Terry Brooks and A Wrinkle In Time, which might be good but didn’t really become a part of the mainstream like Harry Potter did. It’s quite proving that although The Chronicles of Narnia were started in 1949, they were untouched by Hollywood until 2005.
        However, the release of the first Harry Potter movie also coincided with the first Lord of the Rings movie, so that could’ve been equally at work. Maybe it was just a magical year.

  3. I really considered mentioning Sunshine, as it is one of the best movies of last decade. However, I look at that film as more of a straight-up sci-fi then a dystopian story. It didn’t show much of how us back on Earth is doing with a weak sun. I didn’t consider it a post-apocalyptic film either since the sun hasn’t (yet) blown up, I suppose.

    • That’s true. I suppose it could be mentioned in the same vein, though, since it gives a warning of what could happen if we don’t straighten up (some global warming disaster future type scenario). It’s definitely science fiction, but these days it seems harder and harder to separate the science fiction genre from that of the disaster movie and post-apocalyptic films.

  4. I don’t think I can add anything, but I will say that I do enjoy reading all your comments as much as I love reading your posts!

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