Why 2013 Was the Year of the Crapocalypse
My name is Robert Brockway, and I have a problem: I'm addicted to the apocalypse. I'm not kidding -- I quite literally wrote the book on the end times. I just can't get enough of the idea that society as we know it will collapse, most of my fellow human beings will die terribly, and for some reason I alone will be left to sing slow jams at the top of my lungs while hucking whiskey bottles at national monuments. We all have our dreams. So imagine how happy I was when, this year, rather than forcing me to pretend to understand current events or reflect on societal trends, my bosses said, "Write anything you want about 2013."
So let me set aside the old misspelled sandwich board warning sign for a moment and talk to you about the state of the apocalypse in pop culture this year.
The Big Apocalypse Blockbuster
The year just isn't complete until we get a major Hollywood action flick foretelling the end of the world and its inevitable thwarting by a well-to-do white man just trying to get back to his kids.
What We Thought It Was Going to Be: World War Z
At first glance, World War Z seemed to hit all the right buttons -- huge stars, a big budget, a tie-in to a successful existing property -- this was the zombie movie we had all been waiting for. Unfortunately, we waited so long that by the time we finally got it, we were already over it.
Ugh, the zombie apocalypse? So dated. We're all about, like ... chupacabras now, I guess? I'm not sure what the next big trend in monster flicks is. Plus, in World War Z, we thought we were going to get a humorous, clever, analytical take on the end of days -- you know, something like that Max Brooks book, I forget what it was called -- and what we got instead was a stubbly man running half of a marathon while a zombie cheerleading squad formed inhuman pyramids of the dead behind him.
Moments before he finds a surfboard and rides the dead wave to freedom.
What We Actually Got: Pacific Rim
Pacific Rim was every bit as ridiculous as World War Z, perhaps more so: Jax Teller and a Japanese schoolgirl pilot giant mechs against Godzilla, guest starring Ron Perlman's fantastic golden shoes and Charlie Day, and all directed by the guy who did Pan's Labyrinth?
And Stringer Bell, because fuck it, why not?
How the fuck did that premise get funding? I would love to have been in on that pitch meeting, which I'm picturing as something between a Motorhead show, Comic-Con, and a Japanese rave (but in all likelihood was just Guillermo del Toro showing a bunch of jaded Hollywood executives the first few episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion).
We thought World War Z -- the big, serious survival horror flick -- was going to be the best apocalyptic blockbuster we'd get this year. Then Rip Taylor came in hurling confetti while a giant Engrish robot gave Cthulhu a Captain Kirk-style hammer-punch to the kidneys.
Obviously, it was way more awesome.
How awesome? Battleship sword to the goddamn face awesome.
The Breakout Apocalypse TV Show
Every year we launch a new drama about the apocalypse. Some are great, like Jericho, while others are cancelled before their time, like Jericho.
What We Thought It Was Going to Be: Under the Dome
Holy shit: Stephen King finally gets the big-budget hour-long drama series he deserves, and it's about the (kind of, sort of) apocalypse, no less! Under the Dome was the perfect storm on paper, and it was only slightly hampered by every single aspect of the show.
The casting was terrible. The acting was porno grade (and not like the good pornos, where you really believe Thaddeus Thundercock loves all of those midgets equally). It seemed like all the actors were reading their lines for the very first time, and the cameras cut away just before they broke character to laughingly ask where the real script was.
"I know I was in Twilight, but seriously, this?"
What We Actually Got: Sleepy Hollow
Sleepy Hollow is a hideous chimera sewn together from historical fiction and CW-caliber supernatural drama, with maybe a few buzzwords accidentally left over from its actual source material. I don't know how to make fun of Sleepy Hollow any harder than by just plainly and accurately summarizing its plot, so here you go:
Ichabod Crane is a member of the freemasons, a secret society of warlocks run by the Founding Fathers and led by George Washington himself, whose job it is to protect the world from the British army, which employs the four horsemen of the apocalypse, as well as the actual devil. Oh, and of course Crane is displaced in time to 2013 and partnered up with a sassy black police officer. It sounds like a history professor and the president of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan club accidentally finished each other's Mad Libs. And it is, impossibly, much more ridiculous than the synopsis implies.
Oh, and now the Horseman has a machine gun. Ho-Ho-Ho.
In one episode, they kill the Sandman -- not a sleep-themed villain ironically using the name, but the literal figure from children's folklore that puts sand in your eyes at bedtime -- by turning him to glass and hitting him with a chair. That's like handcuffing the Tooth Fairy to a radiator and breaking her neck with a flying elbow drop. And Sleepy Hollow did it with absolute straight-faced sincerity.
I honestly can't tell if they realize how ridiculous their show is and the writers are playing a game of nonsense-chicken with the studio heads, or if the whole staff suffered head trauma on the way to work and are now just trying to write a letter home, as baffled by the garbage their traitorous hands are spitting out as we are.
It's like they accidentally stumbled across a Silver Age comic writer's forgotten drug stash.
We thought this year would be all about the world's most prominent fiction author teaming up with a huge budget to ruthlessly dissect small town America via a tiny, personal apocalypse -- and instead we got the transcript of the acid trip I had at Colonial Williamsburg.
The Epic Apocalypse Game
What We Thought It Was Going to Be: Fallout 4
It's still not funny, you rotten son of a bitch.
What We Actually Got: State of Decay
State of Decay was a cheapo little indie title developed for Xbox Live. You know, one of those play-and-forget games you pick up because your impulse control is broken and those Microsoft Points aren't really dollars anymore, right?
Or so we all thought.
Then you fired the sucker up and realized, Good God, they've done it. They made the zombie game we've all been demanding for the last 10 years (and by we, I mean me), and they actually did it right.
Crouching: More enjoyable than four seasons of The Walking Dead.
It's an open world third-person game with a focus on survival over fighting. You don't get "experience points" for endlessly mowing down zombies. Doing that only gets you tired, and then eaten. It features an ever-changing roster of characters, with just enough "traits" to make them surprisingly effective as characters ... all of whom can permanently die if you fuck up. Yes, that's including the "main" characters. Intrigued by that quest line with the two interracial best friends facing the apocalypse together? Well, too bad you wanted to see if you could jump off that water tower, because they're both dead now.
Hold up. I don't mean for this to sound like a review, or even an endorsement. That's getting off track. Besides, I don't know how much something like this will appeal to anybody but me, because seriously -- it's like somebody sneaked into my house and stole my own personal dream journal. Somewhere around the point where I found the replica battle ax and realized I could knock down zombies with a landing-be-damned, full-on, two-footed Shatner-esque dropkick, I had to go check all the lamps in my living room for listening devices. All I'm trying to say here is: I really, really thought this year would see the release of Fallout 4 and, for the apocalypse fan, that it would overshadow every other title. Yet the closest we got to revisiting the wasteland was the wasteland left inside our hearts after the world's most elaborate rickroll.
Stop smiling, you son of a bitch.
Then State of Decay came out of nowhere, stole the show, and desperately shuffled back to its bunker with it before the juggernauts could begin their charge.
Of course, if that didn't fill the interactive-apocalypse-shaped hole in your heart, there was Metro: Last Light, wherein we learned that the real apocalypse is uncontrolled alcoholism. Or The Last of Us, where we saw what would happen if Gerard Butler and Juno got trapped in the Mushroom Kingdom. Or if you're down for early access stuff, there was the DayZ standalone, and the excellent old-school isometric RPG Wasteland 2, and-
Shit, this was a good year for bunker-dwelling psychopaths. No wonder I'm broke.
Read more from Brockway at his own monument to narcissism/website, The Brock Way. Follow him on Goodreads, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
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As 2013 draws to a close, be sure to check out Cracked's year in review because, well, we know you don't remember it half as well as you think.
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