Land of the Dead
*cough cough*), just that they weren't necessarily reliant on character for their quality. Special effects? Let's talk about Road Warrior
again: Effects-wise, it was a movie about some dudes stranded in a desert with cars badly in need of bodywork (in other words, perfectly average Australians). There were no pretty lights to be dazzled by in that movie, aside from the ones in young Mel Gibson's dreamy eyes, of course. Also, possibly the best apocalyptic TV series to date was the 1981 BBC mini-series version of Day of the Triffids
. And that was a no-budget affair with production quality comparable to a Burger King training video, littered with special effects so terrible they made old Star Trek
episodes look like Avatar
. And yet it was still brilliant.
Post-apocalyptic plant-fighting, or amateur French porno?
Well, damn. If it's not plot or atmosphere or character or effects or any of those things, what does that leave us? The appeal of the apocalypse has to be something more basic -- some psychological or cultural undercurrent that pulls on an inherent trait of humanity as a whole. There is one thing that I can think of. One single attribute common to all mankind that would be uniquely sated by the idea of Armageddon: Our sheer, unbridled, fuck-you arrogance. Both as a species and personally. As a species, we like the apocalypse in the same way that a mopey teenager might like the idea of their own funeral: We want to see our decaying remains and revel in the tragic glory that we couldn't appreciate until it was too late. We want to see crumbling skyscrapers and flooded metropolises and know that, once upon a time, we built those things. Remember what I said at the beginning: Apocalypse stories fail when they don't take the destruction far enough. That's because it's examining the forest from the trees. If we want to look back at all we've done and marvel at it, we can't have somebody running around still trying to save it. We wouldn't give a shit about losing pyramids if the Egyptians had never stopped building them, but now that so few remain, they're treasured wonders to behold. We're fascinated by the potential ruins we will leave behind when we're gone: We want to read the headstones proclaiming the magnificence of our society to whoever comes along next.
"Well, it's good, but a little humble. Can we work the phrase 'veritable dong monster' in there somewhere?"
And on a personal level, the apocalypse appeals to our arrogance because, let's face it, when you talk about doomsday, you're really saying "that time when everybody else died, but not me."