Apocalyptic Themes in Films Reflect Tumultuous Times

By James Hirsen, Special for USDR

Ron Swanson played by Nick Offerman from Season 4 Episode 6 of “Parks and Recreation”

A good amount of the entertainment content of late has been dealing with some type of apocalypse, in other words, an end to human civilization as we know it. The end of the world is a theme that has been finding its way into numerous modes of entertainment and a wide variety of genres. AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” which features an apocalypse of the zombie kind, is consistently at or near the top of the television ratings, including broadcast, cable, and streaming. The big-screen release “World War Z” followed the cinematic formula with the variance being that the zombies are lightning fast runners, despite their state of rigor mortis


Recent dystopian science fiction films, such as “The Hunger Games,” “Oblivion,” “Divergent,” and “The Maze Runner,” have also featured imaginative methods of expediting the destruction of human civilization. There has even been a romantic comedy dealing with the subject, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” “The World’s End” and “This Is The End,” too, are comedic films that are apocalyptic in nature.

Within the plotlines of current End Times fare, there has been a focus on a specific kind of supernatural occurrence, which features major segments of humanity vanishing into thin air. Sometimes this phenomenon is accompanied by the disappearances of riders from bicycles, drivers from cars, and pilots from aircraft.

“The Remaining” movie, the aforementioned “This is the End” film, and the HBO series “The Leftovers” each features the sudden disappearance of individuals from the physical space they were previously occupying. Many Christians recognize this biblical concept as “The Rapture,” a teaching that is under the rubric of prophesy within the Scriptures.

In the forefront of Hollywood contributions to The Rapture genre is the current film “Left Behind: The End Begins,” which is the second movie adaptation of the bestselling book “Left Behind.” The movie boasts of a relatively hefty production budget as well as an Oscar winner heading up the cast.

Nicolas Cage, a bona fide Hollywood movie star, plays the lead in the film, which tells the story of a group that remains on the earth following the disappearance of millions of people. Confusion, chaos, terror, and mass destruction follow in the wake of those who have gone missing.

Interestingly, the film has been almost universally derided by critics. It received an extremely low rating of 2% on the Rotten Tomatoes website. On the Metacritic site, another aggregator of movie reviews, it received a score of 12 out of 100.

Notwithstanding various antagonistic reviews by film critics, the movie took in almost $7 million in its debut weekend and has Christians and non-Christians alike engaging in End Times discussions and the attendant Christian teaching of the Second Coming.

This begs the question as to why the public would be so enamored at this time in history with apocalyptic themes, and particularly with The Rapture. Our entertainment products frequently reflect our culture’s inner doubts and fears. The news of the day is now replete with stories that sound as if they could be part of a movie trailer for a doomsday thriller. Wars, rumors of war, economic upheavals, mysterious illnesses, plagues, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters; these are but a few of the things that are contributing to a collective sense of anxiety.

Whether or not media psychology is taken into consideration, creative artists are nonetheless weaving various end of the world scenarios into the fabric of their entertainment fare, and it may be providing a service of sorts to the public, both in the short and long run. Individuals oftentimes derive comfort from watching fictional characters encounter immense difficulties, work toward solutions, and overcome the odds.

No one knows when the world will come to an end. And although TV shows and movies may not always be the most accurate predictors, it wouldn’t hurt to be prepared—intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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