Summer movies are always famed for big setpiece special effects and explosive finales. But as America fights two foreign wars and deals with an economic meltdown, Hollywood's "dream factory" has taken a decidedly nightmarish turn. Suddenly the Apocalypse is in fashion.
From arthouse films to animation to popcorn blockbusters, destroying the world has never been more in vogue. Directors and movie studios are clambering over one another to see who can create the most dystopian and destructive vision of the near-future. Nor is it just Hollywood movies. Apocalyptic themes have spread to American television and books, too. Discovery is running a reality show called The Colony in which contestants try to find food and water in a post-disaster world. A book imagining the Earth free of human beings, The World Without Us, has been a bestseller and made into a television documentary.
But it is in the movie world that the trend is most obvious and it includes all genres of films, perhaps reflecting a zeitgeist of doom that stretches from the liberal salons of New York to the blue-collar suburbs of the Midwest. "We live in angst-ridden times, and so the appeal of these movies is further amplified, " said Jamsheed Akrami, a film professor at William Paterson University in New Jersey. "Most of us seem to seek mental relief by drowning ourselves in a sea of doom and gloom for a couple of hours. The experience can be some sort of catharsis."
It is hard, though, to see any sort of enjoyment in The Road, a film set to be released in the US in October (the UK release follows in January) and based on the bestselling book by Cormac McCarthy. Unless, by enjoyment, you mean seeing how awful a post-apocalyptic world could be and thanking God you do not live in it. Dealing with economic crisis and looming unemployment is one thing, but fighting off sadistic cannibals in a dead wilderness is quite another.
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