When all else fails, the end looks brightest

Adam Griffiths

The world lies in ruins. Mankind faces extinction.”

That’s right, kids, the end of the world. Armageddon. When life as we know it is gone in an instant.

“This fall, one woman is the final hope for our survival.”

And she’s coming to a theater near you.

Any guesses?

It seems like whenever there’s a shortage on original story ideas among screenwriters in Hollywood, they do their best at giving us yet another take at the moment when everything and everyone will cease to exist.

Except, of course, for one or a handful of survivors who are charged with the task of the salvation of the human race. They battle a natural force or supernatural being, race to determine how such a catastrophe came to be in the first place and, at the last minute, come to the rescue of mankind.

We should all be so lucky. Or not.

The lines from above are from the trailer for the last installment in the based-on-virtual-reality trilogy, Resident Evil: Extinction, out this weekend.

After the Raccoon City disaster damned the human race to eternal rotting, Alice (played by Milla Jovovich) is on her own. She is the key Aryan for the Umbrella Corporation to clone for the perfect Nazi race.

If that weren’t enough, Ashanti and crew race through the Nevada Desert and through the former Las Vegas to escape the hordes of zombies, killer crows and decomposing humans infected with the deadly T-virus that’s reduced the world’s population to the cast of the film.

Stay with me here.

The tagline for Will Smith’s I Am Legend, due out Dec. 14, seems a little more in tune with world events of late.

“In five years, mankind’s struggle for survival will be lost,” the trailer promises.

Will Smith’s character, Robert Neville, is immune to the very virus he spent his life searching to eradicate – the virus that was unstoppable, man-made and the cause of humanity’s demise.

But “the last man on earth is not alone,” of course.

According to Warner Brothers, Neville knows “he’s outnumbered and quickly running out of time” in his search to find a cure using his own immunity.

So what does all this mean?

Aside from reminding us there may be nothing more unoriginal and uninspiring than another film about doomsday, the fact that films like Evil and Legend are backed by two of the biggest move distributors today says a lot about the audiences they’re serving.

Summer of 1998 was another season that saw a duet of apocalyptic blockbusters. Deep Impact grossed more than $140 million and the appropriately titled Armageddon brought in $200 million. Four years ago, Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid earned The Day After Tomorrow more than $185 million.

None of these movies were anything to write home about, but people sure did spend money on them. When the masses cough up almost half a billion dollars to spend a few hours of their lives hoping for the survival of the race, I think it’s safe to say we’re pretty worried about it.

Between HIV/AIDS, overpopulation, global warming and nuclear technology, a real-life Extinction doesn’t seem to be such a crazy idea. Because we have the ways, more and more of us realize that the means are brewing.

Think about it. As President Clinton was taking the first steps in calling for Iraq’s disarmament, the world was throwing back popcorn on the edge of its seat. Preemptive strike?

And now, as President Bush “vows” to bring us out of this war founded in undiscovered weapons of mass destruction, another slew of end-of-the-world dramas sit poised to be hits this fall.

“We survived the apocalypse, and now we face extinction.”

Hell, the future never looked so promising.

Contact assistant all editor Adam Griffiths at [email protected].