I FINALLY SAW “MAD MAX FURY ROAD”! BECAUSE PEOPLE WOULDN’T SHUT UP ABOUT IT! I SAW IT IN 3-D BECAUSE THAT WAS THE NEXT SHOWING! I THINK THE GLASSES MADE THE EXPLOSIONS LOUDER! AND THEN IT TOOK ME FOUR HOURS TO WIND DOWN! DON’T EVEN ASK ME HOW MANY STUNTS I PULLED ON THE DRIVE HOME! AT LEAST ONE! DON’T TELL MY WIFE!
Sure, a bleak Korean sci-fi film based on a French graphic novel, delayed for months while studio heads squabbled over whether or not to delete nearly 20% of it before letting Americans see it, doesn’t sound like the perfect star vehicle for Chris Evans, cinematic hero of this summer’s Captain America: the Winter Soldier. It’s certainly not a vote of confidence that the Weinstein Company compromised by leaving it intact but downgraded to a limited-release run with minimal advertising. In the hands of an unkinder corporation, Snowpiercer could’ve found itself sentenced with immediate relegation to the Walmart $5 DVD bin.
Thanks to exactly one theater in all of Indianapolis, last weekend I had the chance to witness one of the darkest, riskiest, most thought-provoking spectacles of the year. Considering the competition is mostly sequels, I’ll admit that’s not saying much.
Remember that time when the world ended on December 21st? And before that on January 1, 2000, at the hands of the Y2K bugaboo? And before that in 1994 as Nostradamus predicted in The Man Who Saw Tomorrow? Neither do I. As the humble survivor of at least three documented ends of the world, I count my blessings and try not to take the failures of those premature endtimes for granted.
In honor of Earth living to rotate another day, I present this cursory clipfest of a few of the most memorable incidents in which someone or something threatened to end or merely ruin life on Earth as we know it. In some cases the day was saved thanks to some meddling kids; in other cases, Earth lost and the survivors pressed on because life had to find a new way. At the bottom are a few provisional inclusions — two stories I haven’t seen through to their conclusions, and two stories I could’ve lived without knowing.
(This list is clearly far from all-inclusive. Beyond what I’m forgetting or dismissing, I’m also setting aside the most famous of all, the one that will end with the Lord’s victory, because of obvious Hall of Fame status. Unfair competition, you see.)
On with the countdown, preferably timed with a red digital readout:
* Falling Skies — If the War of the Worlds Martians had better immune systems, even in victory they’d still have to reckon with the uppity spiritual descendants of America’s founding fathers. As led by the earnest but damaged Noah Wyle and Armageddon survivor Will Patton, the Second Mass is more organized and logical than Revolution, more hope-filled and less defeatist than The Walking Dead, and a lot less canceled than FlashForward.
* 2012 — Not the year itself, but the arguably greatest film of Roland Emmerich’s career has better effects than Godzilla, less jingoism than Independence Day, and higher-quality schmaltz than The Day After Tomorrow. Add in a histrionic John Cusack, a self-parodying Woody Harrelson, and a mandatory impassionate speech at the end delivered by Serenity‘s amazing Chiwetel Ejiofor. With these key components, Emmerich finally nailed the formula he’d striven for years to perfect.
“It’s been a long trip.”
Charlie summarizes the series to date with five simple words during the long-awaited family reunion that comprises this week’s fall-finale episode of Revolution, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” (title taken from another Led Zeppelin track, because last week’s tribute episode demanded an encore). After a 760-mile walk from Wrigley Field in Chicago to Independence Hall in Philadelphia for the sake of her brother Danny, she’s calm and resolute all throughout, even when everyone but Miles is naturally taken captive in the first ten minutes. Blame Miles for putting his trust in an ineffective friend named Kip (special guest Glynn Turman — ex-Mayor Royce from The Wire!) who’s useless against the brute competence of Major Neville’s henchmen. Everyone is spirited away so they can be bait in Neville’s obvious trap for Miles.
As this week’s new Revolution episode “Kashmir” opens, Our Heroes have commuted a full 280 miles from last week’s endpoint in Ford City, PA (or wherever the Allegheny rapids dumped them south of that), all the way east to West Chester, twenty miles west of destination Philly, and home of a Rebel Alliance faction led by special guest star Reed Diamond. The costar of TV’s Dollhouse and Homicide: Life on the Street was a welcome change of pace from the long line of guests I haven’t been recognizing. I presume this means the show’s mighty ratings have finally earned it a higher casting allowance.
In this week’s new Revolution episode, “Ties That Bind”, it’s finally Nora’s turn in the flashback spotlight. Intense situations evince memories of her post-blackout childhood in Texas. Her mother was murdered by home invaders in San Antonio; her father was last known to be in Galveston; and her younger sister Mia was close by her side. Throughout the ensuing years of chaos after the blackout, the two orphans would learn to rely on each other and no one else, not unlike last week’s gaggle of gun-toting independent orphans.
(Incidentally, said orphans are nowhere in sight this week. Presumably Our Heroes inspected the abandoned half-building where they were dwelling, deemed it safe enough for them to raise each other, and bade them a hearty farewell with no fear whatsoever that the Monroe Militia would come mow the rascals down.)
The moral of this week’s new episode of Revolution, “The Children’s Crusade”: nothing weighs more heavily on a conscience than watching others suffer for our sins. Nowhere is this more radically demonstrated than when our man Miles finally finds himself moved by something other than Charlie’s harping about Doing the Right Thing. He realizes that his duties as former evil assistant overlord of the Monroe Republic included unwitting orphan-making. When Our Heroes encounter ragtag Lord of the Flies refugees, something inside Miles’ head asks: won’t someone think of the children?
I had assumed that this week’s new episode of Revolution, “Sex and Drugs”, would begin with Nora perfectly fine and her stab wound from episode five healed over nicely. Instead, last week’s fake episode recap turned out to be 10% prescient, as her wound became infected and demanded serious medical attention. Rubbing dirt in it just wasn’t working. Maybe she was doing it wrong.
Scene 1: Open on a knock-down drag-out melee between Our Heroes and a horde of sword-wielding hobos inside a spacious, empty indoor set. Miles takes them down three at a time. A heavily bandaged Nora is reduced to slaying only one at a time. Charlie is struggling with one grimy, 350-pound lout who refuses to let go of her crossbow and is shouting ugly sexist epithets. Aaron is hiding outside behind a bush, watching everyone’s backpacks. Charlie slips and falls backward. Her aggressor raises her crossbow above her head, poised to strike. Five-second “REVOLUTION” title card rolls.
Scene 2: “TWO HOURS EARLIER…” says the caption. In the hour that’s passed since last week’s train job failed, Our Heroes have only walked as far as Dayton, Ohio, some 110 miles east of Noblesville. Nora’s massive stab wound is clearly slowing down their progress. Miles decides they can’t go on like this and she needs a stab-wound specialist. He knows a former friend in Grand Rapids who might be able to help. Charlie is torn between continuing their trek to rescue her brother Danny in Philadelphia, or losing yet another female cast member. Grand Rapids it is, over 300 miles northwest of Dayton.
Barely recovered from last week’s Shocking Character Death, the heroes of the Revolution are allowed to dawdle in mourning for all of half an hour before action hero Miles Matheson decides that grief is over and it’s time for everyone to move on. As soon as they cross the next set of bushes without benefit of jump-cut or montage, presto! They’re in Noblesville. Keeping in mind that Indiana Beach is 85 miles northwest of Noblesville, I infer from this instant arrival that our intrepid remainders — Miles, Charlie, Aaron, and “willing” “prisoner” “Nate” — graciously carried their fallen comrade’s body all eighty-five of those miles before deciding that the time and place were right for a proper funeral service, right next door to our villains’ current location. If you ask me, the Indiana Beach area is much prettier and farther away from evil. On the other hand, Noblesville has a large concert venue, the
Deer Creek Verizon Wireless Klipsch now presumably sponsorless Music Center. Maybe music fans of the future would love a final resting place near that.
Viewers have had a week since last week’s episode of Revolution to write down their guesses as to which character would die tonight. Would it be Aaron, the softest of Our Heroes, whose death would take all sense of comic relief with him? Would it be Miles, the main character? Would it be Charlie, the character that the show keeps telling us is the main character? Would it be “Nate”, sacrificing himself to atone for his nebulous militia past? Would it be Neville, executed for the crime of being too interesting a villain?
Before that moment of tragedy, we saw at least one victory in tonight’s new episode, “The Plague Dogs”, named after the Richard Adams novel about a pair of lab-experiment dogs on the run, like our heroes except with stranger side effects. Our cast finally reunites in the ghost town of Lowell, Indiana, as previously promised, fifty miles south-by-southeast of Chicago. (One empty business sports a sign reading “G. Stein Furniture Company”, the name of a real business in North Carolina. But never mind that.) As they merge and move along, their old buddy “Nate” also stumbles out of the shadows and joins them as a willing prisoner. We’re told that his last encounter with Charlie from episode 2 (“Chained Heat”) happened someplace called Pontiac. Presumably this is Pontiac, Illinois, one hundred miles southwest of Chicago and less than thirty miles away from Chatsworth, the recently raided town that the Rebel Alliance name-checked last week. (Pontiac, Indiana, is even more out of the way, hours south of Lowell. Obviously the larger city of Pontiac, Michigan, also won’t do.)
Their objective is to catch up with Neville’s entourage, en route with Charlie’s brother Danny to Noblesville, Indiana, which is thirty miles from where I’m now sitting and typing. Lowell to Noblesville is 120+ miles beyond what they’ve already walked from Chicago to Lowell. The bulk of the episode detours them into an abandoned amusement park, which in our reality would most likely mean a ten-mile digression off I-65 to Indiana Beach in scenic Monticello. It’s not a ride-for-ride carbon copy, but the show captures the basic essence of roller coaster, water slide, Ferris wheel with extra-wide gondolas, and plastic beach chairs. The show version has more water towers, its 1950s diner looks more like a place I know at Ohio’s Kings Island, and the giant-size guitar in the background of one shot gives away its true identity as the Hard Rock Amusement Park in Myrtle Beach, SC. As a single-episode stand-in, I guess it’ll do.
Also different from Indiana Beach: the attack dogs and their unhinged master, who sics his minions on Our Heroes and then vows revenge when they kill one in self-defense. How dare they! His poor, innocent, feral dogs were minding their own business and just going about their bloodthirsty day, and then that happens! Clearly the humans are at fault and must pay. Instead of haunting them with a fake ghost like most amusement park caretakers would, this grizzled stalker attacks from the shadows and even designs a primitive deathtrap for Charlie. Luckily for her the fixtures are authentically rickety and her day is saved. Ah, if only everyone’s day could be saved…
Meanwhile on the road to Noblesville, Danny does his own bit of heroic lifesaving after finding himself trapped with Neville in a storm cellar during a genuine Indiana tornado. The twister seemingly passes; Neville shouts “Amen!”; and I couldn’t help laughing as the ceiling collapsed on him. That’s our unpredictable Indiana weather in a nutshell, folks. If nothing else, Revolution nailed that part. Alas, Danny and Neville re-enact the old fable about the scorpion and the fox, as Danny conscientiously saves Neville’s life, only to be stung by him in return. Points to Danny for moral superiority in the face of a CG storm, at least.
Meanwhile down in Noblesville, now revealed as Monroe Militia HQ, Evil Dictator “Bass” Monroe continues holding Charlie’s mom Rachel captive, perpetuating what must be a years-long tradition of interrogating her unsuccessfully, even with sadistic lackey involvement. A flashback reveals that not only did Rachel turn herself in to save her family, but that her original captor…was Miles himself! DUN DUN DUUUUUN! I suppose this should be shocking, but it’s kind of not. Now that we know the Monroe Republic is half Monroe’s fault and half Miles’, I expect we’re in for a long parade of stunning revelations about the evil Miles committed before he realized what a series of grave mistakes he’d made, like My Name is Earl with more bloodletting.
To his credit, Miles corrects one important wrong in this episode. After two acts’ worth of wishy-washy quitter angst once again, he finally takes a leap of faith into the waiting arms of family commitment, officially deciding to stay with his niece and help see her quest through to the doubtlessly heroic end. The impetus that inspires this decision is tonight’s Shocking Character Death…which would be a lot more shocking if I hadn’t totally called it last week.
Alas, poor Maggie, we knew you slightly. Your flashbacks reveal a little more history, of your children separated from you in England, of your epic one-woman journey from Seattle to Buffalo, and of your unbelievable discovery that large boats capable of sailing to England are now extinct because of wars that demolished them all and, I suppose, resulted in the deaths of every boatwright and every boating company in America. Never mind that Christopher Columbus and several centuries of pirates managed just fine without today’s boat construction technology. Were all those Carnival Cruise liners drafted into the wars and sunk during fierce naval conflicts, too?
Sorry, where were we? Yes, Maggie, then — Charlie’s de facto stepmother passes away due to femoral artery damage from one vicious stab wound courtesy of the Phantom of Indiana Beach. A sad ending to her story, after being rescued from suicidal thoughts by Charlie’s dad Ben, made a part of the family, and now…this. In her final flashback, Maggie reads to her kids from yet another classic road-trip tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a copy of which she leaves behind with Our Heroes, perhaps serving as a reminder to keep following that yellow brick road. Or a reminder of a more innocent time when adorable dogs like Toto were the norm and not the exception.