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Dystopia Rules! Rudin and Paramount's Unpublished 'Annihilation' Joins Rash of Movies About Our Grim Future

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by Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna
March 27, 2013 6:22 PM
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'Elysium'
'Elysium'

In Hollywood, the end of the world is always at hand. Trust Scott Rudin to sniff out the next literary phenomenon. Yes, yet another dystopian picture is in the works. As John Carpenter and Kurt Russell reunite in advance of an "Escape from New York" reboot, and Roland Emmerich preps a sequel to "Independence Day," a plethora of dystopian movies are on the way.

Coming up:

  • "Elysium" (August 9), Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to sleeper hit "District 9," with its insect-like aliens living in a fetid South African slum. Footage from the new film featuring a ravaged earth, space station, Matt Damon and Jodie Foster played well at Comic-Con. (My interview with Blomkamp is here.)
  • Based on a graphic novel, "Snow Piercer" tracks the last train across the frozen wastes. 
  • "The Survivalist" tops the Brit version of the Black List.
  •  The hit AMC show "The Walking Dead" continues to score with viewers. 
  • Tom Cruise stars in "Oblivion," (April 19) offering yet another view of our destroyed planet.
  • Finally opening soon is the Brad Pitt swarming zombiefest "World War Z" (June 21).
Scott Rudin

In this case, Rudin and Paramount have optioned "Annihilation," the yet unpublished first novel in a planned "Southern Reach" trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. Deadline reports that the deal is "sizable," and that Rudin and Eli Bush are on board as producers. "Annihilation" centers on a biologist who, still reeling from her husband's sudden disappearance, volunteers for an expedition in a region sealed off for decades as an environmental disaster zone. And there be a dangerous creature in them thar hills. (They must hope that the film will do better than the horrific B-movie "Chernobyl Diaries.") VanderMeer is best known for fantasy collection "City of Saints and Madmen" and 2009 novel "Finch."

As wildfires, melting polar glaciers, rising ocean levels, and powerful hurricanes threaten us all, Dystopian Cinema continues to flourish. A Dystopian world is the opposite of a Utopian one, basically: they're usually miserable, poverty-stricken, and dehumanizing. If we're not scared yet, we should be. 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 Will Smith in Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" (2007).

Some of these movies are hits (Roland Emmerich's "The Day After Tomorrow" and "2012," Pixar's "Wall E"), and some are too grim, brainy or familiar for wide audience appeal (the Hughes brothers' "Book of Eli," Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," Shane Acker's "9," McG's "Terminator Salvation," Alex Proyas's "Knowing"). Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men" won our fave dystopian flick poll a while back.

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