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Apocalypse Now: The Rise of Dystopian Cinema

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 2, 2009 at 12:23PM

As wildfires fires rage in California, polar glaciers melt, ocean levels rise, and hurricanes grow more powerful as the world gets warmer, we are looking not only at The Age of Stupid, but the rise of Dystopian Cinema.
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Thompson on Hollywood

As wildfires fires rage in California, polar glaciers melt, ocean levels rise, and hurricanes grow more powerful as the world gets warmer, we are looking not only at The Age of Stupid, but the rise of Dystopian Cinema.

A Dystopian world is the opposite of a Utopian one, basically: usually miserable, poverty-stricken, and dehumanizing. Last year Wall-E proved a surprise blockbuster, while 2009 brought us Alex Proyas's Knowing, starring Nic Cage as a man facing a grim forecast for the world; McG's Terminator Salvation, set in the future as John Connor (Christian Bale) rages against the Machines; and Neill Blomkamp's sleeper hit District 9 with its insect-like aliens living in a fetid South African slum. Just hitting cinemas: Shane Acker's animated 9, while still to come is John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, the British documentary hybrid The Age of Stupid, and the latest sky-is-falling installment from Roland Emmerich, 2012: dystopian movies all.

Thompson on Hollywood

If we're not scared yet, we should be.

Watch the Age of Stupid trailer and vote for your favorite dystopian movie on the jump:

Filmmakers have been imagining the end of the world and what life would be like for its survivors since William Cameron Menzies' 1936 H.G. Wells adaptation Things to Come. The nuclear age brought 1959's On the Beach, followed decades later by George Miller's 1979 Mad Max and its sequels, Ridley Scott's 1982 Blade Runner, and more recently, Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men (2006) and Will Smith in Richard Matheson's I Am Legend (2007).

Opening September 9, the animated 9 pits friendly humanoid robots against deadly monster-bots. Set to open October 16 after its debut at the Toronto Film Festival, The Road stars Viggo Mortensen as a father trying to protect his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) in a hostile, fire-ravaged world inhabited by gangs of cannibals scavenging for food. Here's the Apple trailer. UPDATE: Another movie coming up that fits the bill is the Hughes brothers' Book of Eli, starring Denzel Washington as yet another warrior in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The Guardian has theories about this trend.

Thompson on Hollywood

The post-apocalyptic disaster movie is one strain of the genre. Armed with the latest VFX, will 2012 prove as successful on November 13 as Emmerich's other destroy-the-Earth scenarios Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow? Here's the 2012 trailer:


It doesn't have to happen. Fanny Armstrong's terrifying DIY eco-doc drama The Age of Stupid stars Pete Postlethwaite as a man in 2055 sitting on top of a melted Arctic, surveying the damage that could have been prevented: the world is largely flooded and deserted. The film world premieres via satellite direct to 440 digital screens on September 21 during UN Climate Week, when world leaders will meet to discuss reforming the world's environmental Kyoto Treaty. "Our response to climate change will define our generation, in the same way that ending apartheid, overturning slavery or landing on the moon defined earlier generations," says Armstrong. "At the moment, we are The Age of Stupid, but there is still time to turn things round. We're launching this event in the U.S. and globally, with the aim of inspiring 250 million viewers to leap into action before the world leaders decide our collective fate at the crucial UN Climate Summit in December. All of life on Earth is at stake, so may as well aim high."

The Age of Stupid USA Trailer from Age of Stupid on Vimeo.

What is your favorite dystopian movie?
Blade Runner
On the Beach
Terminator: Salvation
Mad Max
The Road Warrior
Children of Men
Dark City
District 9
Fahrenheit 451
Metropolis (1927)
Total Recall
Independence Day
The Day After Tomorrow
Planet of the Apes (1968)
THX 1138
Twelve Monkeys
Strange Days
RoboCop
I, Robot
Soylent Green
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)
Artificial Intelligence: A.I.
The Matrix
A Clockwork Orange
Escape from New York
Wings of Desire
Brazil
War of the Worlds (1953)
Minority Report
Gattaca
  
pollcode.com free polls


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This article is related to: Genres, Video, Trends, Sci-fi, Trailers


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