Now that we've gotten vampire films out of our system, let's tackle a new genre: the post-apocalyptic. I'm ready to start psyching myself up for Fallout 3 (and the coming 40% unemployment rate) with a romp through the most gritty, whacked-out, disturbing, hilarious, and all-around awesome survival-in-the-wasteland stories.
The essential elements of the genre are set out by io9, including but not limited to scarce resources, warlords, degraded culture, forced breeding, cannibalism and pee-drinking. The big picture, of course, is society reorganizing itself on the ruins of collapsed civilization. Sorry, On the Beach fans, but that barely makes the cut. The apocalypse can be a single sudden event or a long, slow decline, but the post-apocalyptic (or the unfolding of the apocalypse) should be the center of the film, not a brief interlude as in the Terminator series (at least until Salvation).
I've been into this genre since I was a kid, when I devoured books like The Stand, The Tripods, Z for Zachariah, Warday and the very odd Riddley Walker. For whatever reason, I was put off by The Day After, probably because it was so heavily pushed as a Cultural Event. We may even have been required to watch it for school.
I have my own favorite movies, none of which, I admit, are exactly high art: Escape from New York, Road Warrior, Logan's Run, 12 Monkeys, Idiocracy. I've never seen the reputed classic A Boy and his Dog, though I've just bumped it up the Netflix Queue, along with 28 Days Later, which some people seem to count as more post-apocalyptic than zombie.
Which brings me to other great films that I'm not sure should really be included. Technically they seem to meet the criteria, but they feel like different genres to me: Dawn of the Dead, Planet of the Apes, Children of Men, the Matrix.
For the record, Waterworld is not as bad as it was made out to be at the time (it has some intriguing ideas and looks cool, though the script and acting are pretty, well, soggy). Costner's true apocalyptic crapterpiece is The Postman, possibly one of the funniest movies ever made.
Should we talk books? For pre-apocalyptic novels, of course, there's our own Kevin Shay's The End As I Know It, now available in paperback for your holiday gifting, but that's a different category. If you have not read Y: The Last Man, it's a must. One of the best post-apocalyptic visions in any medium. Incredibly thought-provoking, exciting and funny as shit. I will confess to having never read A Canticle for Leibowitz, a fact that appalls my Christian friends who know that I have read Left Behind and a dozen similar trashy propaganda works masked as end times thrillers. (For that matter, I've read the genre's secular equivalent, A Handmaid's Tale, which is better written, to be sure, but no less obnoxious, smug and delusional.)
Nor have I read The Road, and at this point I might just (gasp) wait for the movie.
So what do you recommend? After throwing this out to my Facebook circle and browsing a few online lists, there are some titles I'm totally curious about: The Blood of Heroes, Damnation Alley (not on DVD, sadly), Le Dernier Combat. I've heard mixed things about I Am Legend, though I'll probably see it eventually.
As for TV, I wanted to like Jericho, but it was so goddamn lame. With that in mind, can anyone vouch for Showtime's Jeremiah (baring in mind that I never got into Babylon 5)?
Finally, having seen The Day After Tomorrow, I know 2012 is probably gonna be dreadful, but this is one of the most snappy trailers ever.