Let’s face it: the concept of an apocalypse has been a theme for many genres. From Biblical times to the upcoming 2016 X-Men movie—and just about everything else in between. An apocalypse is what happens after an extinction level event, such as an ice age (dinosaur apocalypse), a flooding of the known world (Noah’s Ark), or a nuclear exchange (speculative end-of-the-world scenarios). Though most of these center around mankind, technically an apocalypse can pretty much fit the bill for any ruling species of the time (such as the aforementioned dinosaurs).
What’s got everyone’s attention focused on an apocalypse theme these days? The 2016 X-Man movie that Bryan Singer, director of the up and coming X-Men: Days of Future Past, just happened to let slip about in a very brief tweet. The movie will have the X-Men pitted against the villain Apocalypse, the physical embodiment of all things apocalyptic. He’s the first mutant ever with a host of powers, including telepathy and telekinesis, on top of which he’s used alien technology to turn himself into a super cyborg. And he wants to rule the world. How much more apocalyptic can one get?
Let’s examine a well know apocalyptic theme—and it does cross many genres. The Zombie Apocalypse, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones currently on television are two such examples. There’s a sense of the double-take where Game of Thrones is concerned. Isn’t that genre fantasy? Sure fantasy is filled with the dead, vampires, ghouls (essentially zombies), et al. They have been non-apocalyptic for the most part. George R. R. Martin’s tale (from his book: A Song of Ice and Fire) essentially has seven kingdoms vying for complete control of the world while just to the north beyond a huge ice wall brews, well, a Zombie Apocalypse made up of “whitewalkers” and zombies.
The Walking Dead, based on the comic series by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore, is pretty much self-explanatory. Something happened and now the world is overrun with zombies. This is actually standard fare as far as the theme goes, reflected in books, video games and movies. What sets Walking Dead apart is its focus on characters as people dealing with each other and a very bad situation against the backdrop of a Zombie Apocalypse. But what actually started this whole thing about a “Zombie Apocalypse”? Though there are predecessors, such as Victor Halperin’s 1935 White Zombie movie, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead probably cemented the idea in modern pop culture. A game tidbit: an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game called The Secret World has your beginning character starting off in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse.
Another well known apocalyptic theme: some sort of nuclear holocaust aftermath. Back in 1988, Interplay Productions put out a little game called Wasteland. It was a roleplaying game set against the backdrop of the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. It would eventually spawn the Fallout series, with Ron Perlman’s chilling narrative of how the world came to a near end kicking off the start of Fallout 1. The game made its transition from an isometric fixed view platform to first/third person shooter with Fallout 3 (Fallout 2 and Fallout: Tactics followed in the wake of Fallout 1).
One cannot mention the Zombie Apocalypse without a nod to another major videogame franchise that has spawned a series of popular movies: Resident Evil, and also a passing nod to the Doom series. Other games such as Left 4 Dead and Dead Space continue in this vein, and even regular shooters such as Call of Duty have a Zombie Apocalypse game mode. Though not “zombie” per se, other franchises have very strong apocalyptic themes, such as Alien and its sequels, as well as other movies including Independence Day and Skyline just to name a few. Only the very tip of the proverbial iceberg has been touched, however the theme of an apocalypse continues to run through many genres.
By Lee Birdine