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Movies About the (Coming) End of the World

First of all, don't mistake these films for "post-apocalyptic"—a whole other subgenre. These movies are set in the time BEFORE the characters think their world is about to end. These movies are not about what happens AFTER a nuclear blast or a devastating war or alien invasion. The apocalypse has not happened yet in these movies, so for the most part they are PRE-apocalyptic. I want to explore what humans think and do with a horrible future in front of them.

I haven't put together a list of basic questions about this genre. You're on your own! But things to look for are what humans think distinguishes themselves from animals or inorganic matter as their world is about to end. What is the greatest thing they'll lose when this disaster occurs? What is the point of rescuing themselves from it? Who deserves to stay alive? What values should we preserve as we try to rescue ourselves? What are the signs that someone is beyond hope, that it's too late to save them? What attitude should we take about this ending of everything we know? Is there something beyond?

If you're a person like me who needs to imagine a worst-case scenario before feeling optimistic, I'm sure the coronavirus has given you a chance to imagine the world ending via contagion. Use some of your fears or ideas in thinking about the way these films address a world that has changed forever.

I've started a list of movies with the theme of the coming end of the world. It's definitely not a complete list—suggested additions are welcome. Find it in Files (also attached here). You could compare these other films with the one we're focusing on.

Watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers (USA: Philip Kaufman, 1978) (Amazon Prime Video)* This is the second (color) version of the film, not the 1956 black & white original version with Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy DOES appear for a few seconds in the version we're watching.

[new as of 4/13/20] If you've looked all over and can't find the 1978 version, you can view and write about the 1956 black-and-white version directed by Don Siegel and starring Kevin McCarthy. Make sure you tell us which version you watched at the top of the assignment.

*NOTE: I was told, and I've confirmed, that the 1978 version is not available on Amazon Prime Video, and alternatives (like Hoopla and Xfinity) require library or cable memberships. I may assign the 1956 version after all--it's on Amazon Prime and can be rented at YouTube--after a few days. Let me know in Questions for Frako ASAP if the 1978 version is accessible for you or not.

A) Ask 3 discussion questions of your own regarding the film. The questions can be about specific techniques used in specific scenes, the characters, the plotline, unexpected outcomes, the ending.

B) Answer 3 discussion questions posed by other students.( other student's post are in the documents)

C) Respond to at least one other student's post with polite agreement or disagreement, giving evidence for your point of view. Answering another student's question doesn't count for this part.( other student's post are in the documents)

D) Read: Intro, “Science Fiction." Also read the Bowen article, (Links to an external site.)

Bring up an interesting issue from each of these writings that would start a discussion—so two comments.

E) Do 300 words on Invasion of the Body Snatchers in the Invasion 300 words discussion,The 300-word paragraph should expand on a topic/question about some aspect of the film. Instead of any description, it should be packed with analysis and critical thinking about Invasion of the Body Snatchers.]

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For part B: A. My Questions about the 1976 version 1. Do you think there is an important connection between the fact that Matthew doesn’t fix his windshield on the same night that Geoffrey becomes "invaded"? Do you think it could be a sign that their viewing of life was about to become broken? 2. Do you think Nancy is an intelligent character, or a crazy character? Why? 3. Why do you think Matthew couldn’t harm the other growing bodies and only himself? D. The science fiction chapter of the textbook says that there is a differentiation between the horror monster and the science fiction creature, specifically saying that the creature “has little personality or pathos attached to it” (344). It would be interesting to have a discussion about the differences between what makes a monster versus a creature, or if they’re really just synonyms for each other. In response to Invasion, this would be a good way to dissect how the spores are creatures because they came in large groups, and they’re terrifying, while it’s said that monsters can elicit sympathy from the audience. In response to the Bowen article it’s interesting to think about how it’s mentioned that Matthew and Elizabeth don’t want to believe that “their safety is imperiled, that their cocoons are capable of being breached.” Isn’t that how people felt when the current pandemic was starting in Wuhan those many weeks ago? People tend to believe that bad things won’t happen to them (for whatever reason they may think). It’s a very “well it isn’t bad if it isn’t affecting me” sort of way of thinking. That’s how Matthew first started thinking when Elizabeth was saying something was off with Geoffrey, but in the end it did effect Matthew completely. For Part C: A. (1978 version) 1. Which elements make Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) a classic sci-fi/horror movie? 2. Give at least two examples of foreshadow in the film. 3. What do you think of the Pods' shriek in the movie? D. (1978 version) In Bowen's article, he mentioned: "Kaufman embraces the airy ineffability of the material. The images are intricately multilayered yet light, delicate, and often only minutely “wrong." A drop of rainwater could be just that, or it could contain an alien spore. One notices people in the backgrounds of cityscapes who’re standing a little too still and upright" (Bowen). I notice the same thing in the film. Every little detail could be something bigger or a foreshadow of something happening later in the movie. Therefore, I pay attention to many little things throughout the film and put all of my focus on every minute of it. The film successfully tells the story visually. The dialogues never try to expose anything and they leave that job to the image. Speaking of the image, Bowen also wrote: "The close-ups of a body in a health spa are especially eerie in their specificity, capturing precisely how intergalactic tendrils interact with flesh" (Bowen). I think a health spa is a perfect location for that scene. I cannot imagine any place better than a health spa to show the interaction between the evil plants and human. San Francisco is also a great choice of location to tell this story: a busy city with a very high population number and a popular sea international shipping place. In An Introduction to Film Genres, they wrote this about sci-fi films: "The vast majority of them not only feature white males as the dominant characters, but they also personify a vision of unproblematic heterosexual masculinity in their pursuit of the twin goals of defeating the aliens and rescuing the damsel in distress" (339). We can see this in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) as the protagonist, Matthew (a white male), rescues Elizabeth (a woman, later become his love interest) from her boyfriend and takes care of her while trying to escape/defeat the Pods. END OF THE WORLD FILMS The End of the World (Den: August Blom, 1916) End of the World (Abel Gance, 1931) (blurry 18-min segment at Things to Come (William Cameron Menzies, 1936) The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 1951) War of the Worlds (Byron Haskin, 1953) Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1955) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956) The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957) On the Beach (Stanley Kramer, 1959) Twilight Zone: The Midnight Sun (1961) (26 min) Panic in Year Zero! (Ray Milland, 1962) The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963) Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964) The Last Man on Earth (Ubaldo Ragona & Sidney Salkow, 1964) Fail-Safe (Sidney Lumet, 1965) Beneath the Planet of the Apes (Ted Post, 1970) The Omega Man (Boris Sagal, 1971) End of the World (John Hayes, 1977) The Last Wave (Peter Weir, 1977) (Amazon Video) Dawn of the Dead (George Romero, 1978) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Phillip Kaufman, 1978) Escape from New York (John Carpenter, 1981) The Day After (Nicholas Meyer, 1983) Night of the Comet (Thom E. Eberhardt, 1984) (Amazon Video) The Quiet Earth (Geoff Murphy, 1985) Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988) Miracle Mile (Steve De Jarnatt, 1989) The Rapture (Michael Tolkin, 1991) Terminator 2: Judgment Day (James Cameron, 1991) Body Snatchers (Abel Ferrara, 1993) The Stand (Mick Garris, 1994) Miniseries, 4+ segments 12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995) Independence Day (Roland Emmerich, 1996) Deep Impact (Mimi Leder, 1998) Last Night (Don McKellar, 1998) Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001) 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002) Time of the Wolf (Michael Haneke, 2003) The Day After Tomorrow (Roland Emmerich, 2004) War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg, 2005) 28 Weeks Later (Danny Boyle, 2007) I Am Legend (Francis Lawrence, 2007) The Invasion (Oiver Hirschbiegel, 2007) Sunshine (Danny Boyle, 2007) Cloverfield (Matt Reeves, 2008) 2012 (Roland Emmerich, 2009) Fish Story (Nakamura Yoshihiro, 2009) Knowing (Alex Proyas, 2009) Nicholas Cage The Road (John Hillcoat, 2009) Legion (Scott Stewart, 2010) Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011) Perfect Sense (David Mackenzie, 2011) Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols, 2011) The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard, 2012) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (Lorene Scafaria, 2012) End of the World (Steven R. Monroe, 2013) How I Live Now (Kevin Macdonald, 2013) World War Z (Marc Forster, 2013) Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014) It Follows (David Robert Mitchell, 2014) Left Behind (Vic Armstrong, 2014) Noah (Darren Aronofsky, 2014) Into the Forest (Patricia Rozema, 2015) These Final Hours (Zak Hilditch, 2015) The 5th Wave (J Blakeson, 2016) 10 Cloverfield Lane (Dan Trachtenberg, 2016) Geostorm (Dean Devlin, 2017) It Comes at Night (Trey Edward Shults, 2017) Bird Box (Susanne Bier, 2018) How It Ends (David M. Rosenthal, 2018) Comedies about the end of the world: The World's End (Edgar Wright, 2013) This is the End (Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen, 2013) Frequent themes Comeuppance for people's sins Distrust of government, institutions Environmental destruction Partying in the face of disaster Love conquering over the end of the world Rich vs. poor reactions to end of the world Cults and the end of the world Asteroid impact Lethal gamma-ray burst Geomagnetic storm Supervolcano Bioterrorism Catastrophic earthquake Cyberattack Saving humankind Individual initiative vs. being controlled by a larger force Destiny vs. controlling one's own fate Cold War paranoia Fears of disease contagion, pandemic Alien invasion Influence of 9/11 Criminal gangs taking over Apocalyptic event as metaphor for depression LA and SF as geographical "ends of the world" – a final stop, the cutting edge – where unique and marginal characters (psychos, eccentrics, obsessives, gays) are respected and even celebrated for their original ideas LA in Miracle Mile is a modern city surrounding a primordial ooze full of extinct creatures – Harry and Julie end up in that ooze, comforted by the idea that they will be instantly transformed into diamonds (carbon) 11/12/19 ...
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