Monday, 4 March 2013

The Darkest Hour and apocalyptic films

Recently the people of Russia were shocked when a lump of rock from space travelling at over 30000 miles an hour shattered into pieces as it entered the earth’s atmosphere some 20 to 30 miles above us but did not fragment sufficiently so that one piece of size exploded close enough for there to be have been a giant flash like an atomic bomb exploding  and then a reported three minutes there was a shock wave  which caused glass to implode and over one thousand people to be injured, including 250 school children.


It is over 100 years since there was a similar incident also in Russia which is said to have flattened some 80000 trees and a previous strike on a much larger scale is thought to have been responsible for the end of dinosaurs over 60 million years ago when the impact created a huge dust cloud ending surface life for several decades until it settled changing the earth’s climate over the planet similar to that of today.


The whole earth planet under threat has been a feature of several films recently experienced with the latest Battleship viewed over the weekend and previously the Darkest Hour and Avengers together with John Carter a film about intergalactic conflict.


Apocalyptic films have been a feature of the cinema since I  became a young person in the 1950’s dividing between extra Terrestrial attacks  and man made disasters with the earliest remembered, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Neville Shute’s credible post nuclear war film, On the Beach, War on the World’s and when World’s collide.  As a young man the most influential was Dr Strangelove and War Games. The Day the earth caught fire sounds familiar and of course the Planet of Apes, first and original production feature a planet destroyed by nuclear weapons where the Apes managed to survive and mutate into human like beings, whereas in the latest production, the rise of the Planet of the Apes a very different scenario is advanced. There were three more Planet of Apes films in the 1970’s.


Also in the 1970s were the Andromeda Strain, Alien, Logans Run, and the first of the Mad Max films, the Omega Man, Silent Running and Solyent Green. Others before the end of the millennium include Aliens a new War of the Worlds and the Day of he Triffids left out of a list of some 170 I consulted.


More recently as CGI came to the fore Armageddon, I am a Legend, The Book of Eli, Battle Los Angeles, Deep Impact, End of Days, Cyborg, Dogma, Independence Day, The Matrix films, Waterworld, 2012, 28 days later (and 28 weeks later) remakes of the Day the Earth Stood Still and On the Beach, Doomsday, Impact, Meteor, Children of Men, Escape from LA films which I remember clearly and also Contagion and 12 Monkeys. I am sure I have left out many others I have seen and could compete for the best 25 or so.


Of the four recently experienced I liked the Darkest House best because of its unsentimental reality as an alien race descended in hundreds of thousands over the entire earth surface in individual shields which left visible a frame of light which when in proximity to a human being could cause us to explode into dust having first shut down everything electrical. It will be appreciated that the recent electricity blackout on the hill in which I live had a greater impact on me that would have otherwise have been the case. The shut down every airplane in flight and left vessels at sea, transport on the ground motionless. The creatures had the power to penetrate most surfaces that preventing most humans from escaping such as in the underground network and tunnels. Others such as those working in coal mines would have been trapped underground without prospect of rescue.


The film aimed at the weekend young audience features to American trying to promote to him Russians their idea of a Mobile Phone Application which list all the best night spots for the young traveller. They arrive to find that their Swedish business partner has stolen a march and their idea and arranged a contract presentation. They attempt to alcohol drown their sorrows at their best listed party club where they find their former business partner and his girl friend and two attractive USA girls who have commented on their app with a photo. They go outside to witness what appears to be an aurora which quickly becomes the start of the blitz and they all survive together with the former partner who sacrifices his girlfriend to save himself in the inner cellar of the club.


After waiting several days using stored food and drink they venture out to find a silent world and try and make their way  to the USA embassy  finding much destruction and only one woman  in a ground floor flat warning of the danger  still around.  They quickly discover what she means but manage to make their way to the Embassy where on the upper floor they discover a log book of information on the elimination of human and other life world wide a radio broadcasting a message in Russian suggesting survivors but a message they cannot understand.


At night they notice a light coming from a residential block across the city. They manage to get to the place after various close calls. The former business partner is disintegrated. They find a young woman who has been saved by an electrical engineer who has, amazingly I must add, managed to create a counter protective force field as well as a potential weapon, a microwave based device, which has the effect of destroying the force field around the individual aliens.  The Russians are able to translate the message which is from a nuclear submarine which is calling at the city in the river to take any survivors and to join other nuclear submarines that have survived. The film does not to explore the extent to which other nuclear power facilities and their workers have survived or if others have survived in bunkers or other protected installations with air, food and water available. These films tend to overlook the basics including sanitation and ill health. One of the two girls dies as they attempt to make their way out of the building to find their way submarine. The inventor stays behind to fend of the attackers and dies.


It is on this journey that they encounter a small group of armed Russian Police men who have also managed to find a way to protect themselves at a local library. They are determined to stay and fight rather than leave via the submarine but they offer to help to get the party to the location.  There is now considerable activity going on throughout the city and presumably elsewhere as the purpose of the invasion is revealed to clear the population before mining for conductive metals. It will not have escaped some viewers that this is what mankind has done throughout the ages, going on exploration, eliminating or subjugating the indigenous population in order to exploit the mineral and other wealth available.


The remaining four, two girls and the two young men find a vessel at the quayside which they use as the tide will take it down river towards where the submarine is waiting. They part from the police who elect to stay and fight, especially as they have access to one of the devices which stuns the alien, removing the force field sufficiently for ordinary weaponry to be able to destroy. However the boat is tracked and attacked and while the two men and a girl are able to swim and reach the submarine one of the original girls has swam to the opposite back and is hiding in a bus depot. The two young men elect to go and find her and in the dramatic conclusion to the film she is rescued but one of the best friends dies. However they have their experience of using the weapons and what is learned about the alien to pass to other survivors and they learn that those in Paris have destroyed one of the mining operations. The film ends  on  positive note

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