The End of the World as We Know It (Again)

The number one movie this weekend was 2012, earning an impressive $65,000,000 domestically and an incredible $225,000,000 internationally (according to Box-Office Mojo).  Disaster movies have always attracted film-goers, from the days of The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, the Airport movies, and the more recent Twister and Titanic.  (My favorite is the Stephen King mini-series The Stand.)

Director Roland Emmerich has been responsible for upping the ante and portraying the disasters on ever larger scales -- having aliens blow up the White House in Independence Day, having a giant monster stomp through New York in Godzilla, and having deadly weather wreak world-wide mayhem in The Day After Tomorrow.  (Emmerich is also the director of Universal Soldier, Stargate, The Patriot, and 10,000 BC which arguably each represent disasters of different types, but that's a critical discussion for another time.)

The new movie tells a fictional tale building on the lore surrounding the apocalyptic beliefs based on the supposed end of the Mayan calendar in 2012.  The special effects-laden motion picture stars John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover, and others. 

As a New York City resident, I still find it disturbing to see images of planes crashing and buildings collapsing, especially for entertainment purposes.  But people still crave disaster flicks.  Most of them just want to escape reality through these morbid action movies.  What is more troubling is some of the folks out there who seem to get excited by actually believing (or even yearning for) the so-called "End Times."  Remember the end of civilization panic associated with Y2K?  Thankfully, that turned out to be a dud (to the disappointment of some).  Extremists from a variety of religious backgrounds have been predicting the end of the world for millenia. 

Personally, having seen disasters up close, I can't imagine anyone getting a thrill from doomsday scenarios, but as a fan of speculative fiction, I can see how people might be enticed by "what if" stories about Armageddon.  The so-called "Disaster Porn" trend will continue, especially now that 2012 is such a hit.  Hopefully, the results won't be too tasteless.