The end of the world is coming. Nobody knows when. Filmmaker Roland Emmerich seems to think the earth will be destroyed in 2012 through an attack of special effects, but no one can truly say. What people can say is that although science-fiction movies have been using apocalypses for plot points and settings for decades, not all apocalypses are equal. The end of the world is supposed to be grand, tragic, and terrifying. Many TV, movie and cartoon apocalypses are instead low-key, boring, and/or goofy as hell. Here are the 10 apocalypses that we least have to worry about happening — or rather, if they do happen, we’re just as likely to die from embarrassment as the apocalypse itself.
10) Biological Warfare That Makes People Die Unconvincingly
In The Omega Man, the first second movie adaptation of the novel I Am Legend, the Soviet Union and China develop a plague that makes everyone die by choking. Well, not so much choking as people looking like the rejects from a Halls commercial, unconvincingly grabbing their throats and looking mildly perturbed before dying. Well, not so much dying as looking like they just smoked the most killer weed they had ever smoked and are listening to Dark Side of the Moon being played by a little Pink Floyd band in their heads. At least the post-apocalyptic world in has Charlton Heston shooting albino mutants, as we all hope it will be.
9) Next Year
In Knight Rider 2010, the future, (which as of the time of this writing would be next year) is this dull, boring world with a lot of cactus and people working on old cars. So, just like Arizona in 2009. Oh, and there are evil corporations. Then there are guns on cars. Some cars have the souls of dead women. Did I mention this world was part of the UPN Action Pack of 1994? How can you beat that? It’s a world with Action! Packed into the Paramount network, where you can see Star Trek: Voyager! Hold on to your hats for this roller-coaster! Wait, what did this have to do with Knight Rider again?
8) A Runaway Planet
In Thundarr the Barbarian, the world is destroyed by a runaway planet in 1994, (coincidentally just in time to prevent anyone from seeing Knight Rider 2010) which cracks the moon like an egg and sucks all the cobwebs off the Earth, destroying it. 2,000 years later the world emerges as a crappy hybrid of Conan the Barbarian, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and none of it is cool for your Saturday Morning Cartoon enjoyment.
7) Giant Fault Line
So in 10.5 Apocalypse, the only hole bigger than the one that opens in the North American continent is the hole in the head of whoever made this. Everyone likes to see stuff fall apart, yes. On a made-for-tv budget, though? Wow. I mean, not wow at all. Also, between the stuff falling apart there’s a whole lot of terrible acting. I mean, you see Beau Bridges weeping. Really? Can we not see this? Please? Also, how did someone like Beau Bridges character actually become President? Was he up against a character played by David Arquette? Further it is not that bad if we lose the middle part of our country and have it replaced with a giant river as the shirts for “Surf Kansas” alone would be worth it.
6) An Unrealistic Giant Bomb Made of Cardboard
I hate to ruin the pinnacle of artistic achievement that is Beneath the Planet of the Apes, but in it the Earth blows up. Again. Except this time it blows up and kills everything instead of putting the Statue of Liberty on a beach and producing apes that talk without moving their lips very much. How does it blow up? A giant bomb, how else? Well, okay, say it would be possible to even create an atomic bomb with sufficient yield to blow up the Earth and kill everyone — why would this even be created? How could it possible be able to operate for centuries without proper maintenance? And why the hell does it look like it was made out of cardboard?
5) Surly Robots Dressed Like Renaissance Fest Workers
No one expected the Robot Holocaust, seemingly not even the makers of the cheapie sci-fi fantasy flick Robot Holocaust. This would be a large part of the reason it was savaged on Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the show’s first year. The other part is because although robots have supposedly taken over the world, there are only a few robots enslaving the humans, and they all look to be dressed in homemade Halloween costumes. The only robot with an actual thought processor is the Dark One, who rules the planet with his cunning use of poison gas, his tattered tape, a fiercely over-acting blonde woman with a nearly unintelligible accent, and a decent PA system.
Reign of Fire is one of Christian Bale’s earliest films where he spends his entire performance shouting his lines. I believe he’s yelling to try and distract people from the movie’s central premise, which is that suddenly dragons will show up and and destroy the world. That’s right, dragons, the mythical beings that fly and burn things with their fire breath. The filmmakers might as well have picked unicorns — there’s just no way you can take this seriously, and yet the film desperately tries to take itself seriously, with a lot of stern faced men shooting guns and talking dramatically and flying helicopters to the sound of heavy metal music. Actually, going back to the previous point, can you imagine a film like this where unicorns are destroying the world, running wild
and stabbing people with rainbows? That would actually be pretty awesome.
3) The Earth’s Core Stops or Something
So, in The Core, the antagonist is the malevolent core of the planet Earth, which knows no mercy after some government project makes it stop spinning and decides to attack everyone with lightning. if your head just exploded, then you probably passed a college science class, because anyone with even that modicum of knowledge should be able to realize that that is the stupidest fucking thing ever. If the Earth’s magnetic field goes away, then what really happens is we all get higher doses of radiation. If you build a machine to drill really quickly into the Earth then it melts due to the core’s heat (whether that core is spinning or not). If you blow up a bunch of nuclear weapons at the center of the Earth, not much is going to happen. If you put Aaron Eckhart and Hillary Swank in a movie, they don’t have a believable romance. The producers of this movie should have just gone for the obvious rip-off of Armageddon and sent Aerosmith to the center of the Earth to rock the core back into action.
There is nothing scarier than the unknown. Therefore, in The Happening (no association with What’s Happening!!!, or What’s Happening Now!!!) M. Night Shyamalan tries to scare viewers with an unknown killer which is somehow associated with the wind, thereby drawing into humanity’s primal fear of air moving. Who hasn’t had the childhood experience of shutting your windows really tightly out of fear the air is going to move into your room and get you? I’m sure we all have.
1) John Travolta
In the future of Battlefield Earth, mankind is nearly extinct due to John Travolta and his giant potato hands. Well, that and his accent, which sounds like a drunk, effeminate high-school drama teacher trying to do an impression of Master Thespian from Saturday Night Live at a Christmas party. If this were real, I think the very fact that you would wake up one morning to have Earth conquered by aliens that look and act like John Travolta in this film would make you say “What? We were conquered by aliens like these? They could at least be all frightening with double mouths and claws or something. Man, this sucks.”
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.