SCI-FI FOCUS: Apocalyptic Visions

It’s the end of the world as we know it…

When Steven Spielberg brought Jaws to cinema screens in 1975, it didn’t take audiences a leap of the imagination to fear the eponymous shark.

The combination of big sharp teeth and a taste for human flesh was more than enough to get audiences’ pulses racing, but in the years following film-makers have been positioning a different kind of threat to mankind…

I’ve always had a bit of a soft-spot for apocalyptic movies, the ones where the world has ended and all that remains is a sun-scorched earth and a horde of raving lunatics. Movies like the Mad Max series spark my imagination and make me wonder if the world is really going to end up like that. Of course, whilst these movies are always a good laugh, it’s sometimes even more interesting to explore how these worlds get to this point. ‘The end of the world’ is often positioned as the final gambit by super-villains, but in these movies, the end of the world is very much in progress and protagonists are tasked with simply surviving…

The Day After Tomorrow

Only Roland Emmerich could enact the apocalypse as enacted by the environment as viscerally, whilst also telling the story of a Father searching for his son, whilst also telling the story of the son trying to sleep with a school crush, whilst telling the story of British climate scientists stuck in a bunker, whilst also telling the story of a plucky homeless guy and his dog. Believe it or not there are more moving parts in this fit to bursting environmental disaster picture and whilst it’s doubtful Al Gore would have approved of the dramatic fashion with which climate change was treated, at least the word was getting out there!

The Happening

One day you’re spraying your home with Japanese knotweed killer from Knotweed Help, the next day the planet is coming after you! M. Night Shymalan’s much-maligned effort from 2008 was perhaps rightly criticised for being a tonally misjudged, campy mess, but somehow it’s one that I keep returning to. Mark Whalberg plays a science teacher (yes – you read that correctly) who flees the city with his wife, accompanied by his colleague (Joe Leguizamo, much more believable as a teacher) and his daughter. There is no discernible threat in The Happening, so when ordinary folks start launching themselves off buildings and hanging themselves en masse, it’s suggested that something invisible is looking to off the entire human race.


The world is in the process of dying in Chris Nolan’s sci-fi monster Interstellar and it’s up to Matthew McConaughey to sort it out – well kind of. This is a movie that is as much about ‘saving the world for future generations’ as it is about time-travelling, absent parenting and giant planets that are wholly comprised of water. There are some pretty big weighty themes in this movie, not to mention some mind-bending concepts that might have you reaching for Wikipedia, however the cast is uniformly excellent and the emotional payoff, not to mention the timely environmental message, are totally worth the wait.