How Eco-Horror Movies Portray Energy Crisis, Pollution and Climate Change 0 67

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This is a guest post by regular contributor Maria Ramos.

More often than not movies reflect interests and fears of the current times back at us, either directly or veiled in metaphor. This is especially true in the past few decades, as humanity as a whole has started to become more aware of our influence on the environment and this has consistently been echoed back to us on screen.

In the 1950s, the threat was nuclear weapons and its hazardous effects. Today, the threat is climate change, particularly since we’ve become more aware of the global troubles that will ensue should we allow current consumption of fossil fuels to run rampant. However, no matter what the current danger, the silver screen has become an interesting funhouse mirror to amplify, distort, and reflect them, making a statement all its own.

After the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, the world became aware of the hazard of both large-scale destruction and the wrath of nuclear fallout. Both Japan and the United States released nuclear creature-features in 1954, Godzilla and Them!, though their approaches reflected each country’s point of view.

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The Godzilla franchise may have become known for its camp nature, but initially it was a metaphor for a godlike force of destruction, with director Ishiro Honda using scenes that purposefully evoked Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Them!, on the other hand, viewed its gigantic ants as an unintended side product of mankind’s meddling who turned about and attacked the very forces who had created them.

The 1970s and 1980s brought increased awareness of the effects of pollution and toxic waste into the public eye, and so environmental horror changed as well. 1984’s C.H.U.D. served double-duty as a warning against both toxic waste pollution and 1980s corporate greed that led to the dumping of the waste into the sewers. In the 2000s, water pollution became the pollution du jour to fear, and films like 2012’s The Bay were caused not by toxic waste, but by agricultural runoff.

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Found footage eco-horror movie “The Bay”

With the advent of rapid global travel and high populations, epidemics are another on-screen threat that Hollywood has not shied away from. 2002’s 28 Days Later and 2013’s World War Z couched their epidemic through the ever popular zombie metaphor, while 2007’s I am Legend displayed its epidemic in more of a vampire variety. 2012’s The Crazies combined a few issues, with a polluted water supply infecting a town’s population with a virus that sent its residents into a frenzy.

Climate change issues of today have been especially well represented lately in environmental horror. This category is particularly topical given recent issues like the 2015 Paris Agreement. With a global increase of 80 percent between 1970 and 2004 alone in carbon dioxide, according to Direct Energy, the situations proposed in the following films seem less and less outlandish. 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow took a lot of flack for being an overblown special-effects fest, but as the general public has become more familiar with terms like “superstorm,” it has begun to seem less far-fetched than it did a decade ago. 2006’s The Last Winter, while featuring a ghost-heavy plot, also centered around the idea of destructive drilling practices being largely at fault.

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The effects of climate change in disasterbuster The Day After Tomorrow.

Increasing temperatures are a major factor in the destruction at the heart of 2009’s 2012 – though the temperature is of the Earth’s core and not the atmosphere and oceans, such as we are seeing today. And in 2014’s Into the Storm, shifting weather patterns due to atmospheric warming causes unprecedented tornado activity, similar to activity that has been seen in recent months.

People are influenced by the media that they consume, even something as seemingly diverting as horror movies. With the combination of awareness of issues as plot points in environmental horror and visibility in the news, the possibility of the public taking these issues seriously may become much more likely. If it is real enough to fear onscreen, it is real enough to fear in real life – and real enough to do something about.

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Deadpool and the Anti-Hero 0 117

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While the concept of the anti-hero is nothing new, the popularity of this archetype in recent decades certainly seems to be. Found as far back as ancient Greece and Rome, the anti-hero is simply someone who operates under some sort of moral ambiguity or who has some character flaws that keep him or her from being seen as a traditional hero.

Yet, for all of these flaws, we as an audience are drawn more and more to this type of character in everything from a watered down version in Disney films such as Tangled to hardcore offerings through television shows such as Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Game of Thrones – just to name a few. With the movie Deadpool currently in cinemas, we can give some new love to this most recent inductee of the anti-hero club.

Television, in particular, has offered up some of the darkest and scariest places and storylines of its history, with audiences eating it up and screaming for more. An anti-hero such as Walter White in Breaking Bad is someone we are simultaneously repulsed by and drawn to. Being forced to deal with a flawed healthcare system is something most of us can relate to fairly easily, and we applaud a character for fighting back in what he sees as the only means available to him, even while disagree with the lengths he goes to within the series. We sympathize with Walter, even when we don’t always agree with his choices.

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The same holds true for anti-heroes of past decades, with audiences embracing the concept of “The Man with No Name” from the Clint Eastwood spaghetti western Dollars trilogy of the 1960s and Michael Corleone of The Godfather fame. These characters are accepted along with their flaws because there is something about them and their situation that we can relate to and sympathize with. It’s the same reason that Han Solo tends to score higher on lists of the most popular Star Wars characters than Luke Skywalker, the series’ traditional hero, and why the original trilogy often tops lists of the best of the franchise.

Apparently, the double standard is alive and well within the anti-hero popularity phenomena, though, with audiences much more willing to accept men with flaws than women with them. We expect our female characters to support their flawed male counterparts and be instrumental in their development, but to not need someone else to develop themselves. Catwoman is one of the few exceptions to this idea, remaining a popular female anti-hero and thankfully still available for viewing through Netflix and DTV.

Marketing behind Deadpool plays on our sympathies and our curiosity by playing up the flaws in conjunction with the strengths. We can sympathize with the idea of someone previously used and rejected making a comeback with witty and sarcastic humor and some serious fighting skills. The character Deadpool gets to say and do what many of us would like to have the nerve to say and do to those that abuse, reject, or ignore our potential, turning his Special Forces skills to a mercenary lifestyle.

From Mad Max to Deadpool, our love for the anti-hero continues to grow as we’re given more opportunities to vicariously live out our fantasies of living in a complicated and conflicted world by acting according to our own flawed moral code – regardless of the legal or moral expectations. As long as we continue to fight the current structures of our society, the anti-hero will likely remain our favorite hero of choice, taking a stand and doing things we wouldn’t dare do ourselves but wish that we could.

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2016 Summer Blockbusters: Can They Top 2015? 0 128

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Last year, we took a look ahead at some of the biggest films planned for 2016. Now we’ve reached the New Year, and we have a better idea not just of which films we’ll be seeing but when to expect specific releases. Specifically, we’ve also gained a clear picture of the summer blockbuster season ahead, and there are some fascinating aspects to it.

Perhaps most interesting of all is the fact that the summer of 2016 at the cinema is set up to mirror what we saw in 2015 fairly closely. Last year the summer was headlined by an impressive mix of long-awaited sequels, superhero sagas, ordinary action films and charming animated projects. The schedule for the 2016 summer (beginning in May, when the top films released will likely carry into the summer season) could be described quite similarly. So now the question becomes whether or not this year’s blockbuster season can top the last.

Let’s take a look…

Sequels & Reboots

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There are sequels that I’ll discuss outside of this category, but we’re talking about films that are popular in part because they’re reviving particularly old franchises or concepts.

In 2015, this category was highlighted by two films in particular: Mad Max: Fury Road and Jurassic World. That’s a pretty difficult pairing for 2016 to overcome. The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Mad Max: Fury Road just received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture (a strong indication of a similar nomination at the Academy Awards), after successfully rebooting George Miller’s iconic dystopian adventure saga. Meanwhile, Business Insider declared Jurassic World to be the third highest-grossing film of all time (though Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now in the midst of pushing it down to number four).

One of 2016’s answers to these films will be Star Trek Beyond, which will be the third film in the series since J.J. Abrams initially rebooted it with 2009’s Star Trek. But the real heavyweight with potential to reach Jurassic World levels of attention (though almost certainly not Mad Max: Fury Road levels of acclaim) is Independence Day: Resurgence, a sequel to 1996’s Independence Day. There’s no Will Smith this time around, which could hurt the box office performance, but this film (set, of course, for a July 4 release) ought to be a big one.

Superhero Sagas

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This is the one category in which 2016 looks to have a decided advantage. There were three major superhero projects stretched out across the summer of 2015: Avengers: Age Of UltronAnt-Man, and Fantastic Four. But really, only Age Of Ultron was particularly successful. Ant-Man did well, but not so much by Marvel standards, and Fantastic Four bombed both at the box office and with critics. Really, it was a pretty forgettable summer for superheroes.

The two “lesser” superhero films of 2016 should outperform Ant-Man and Fantastic Four with relative ease. X-Men: Apocalypse will look to build on the strong popularity of X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days Of Future Past, and will be aided by the addition of Oscar Isaac (fresh off a tremendous performance in Star Wars) as the titular villain. Meanwhile, DC and Warner Bros. will be rolling out Suicide Squad, a curious project based on comics about DC villains being spun into a special-ops force.

But it’s Captain America: Civil War that should really push 2016 over the top. In fact, this film could even top Age Of Ultron to become the most popular Marvel film since The Avengers. Why? Well, for one thing its direct predecessor, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, was one of the best reviewed superhero films we’ve seen. But the film will also benefit from a specific focus on Iron Man and Captain America, undoubtedly the two most iconic characters among the Avengers. These are the most famous characters of the bunch and have also come to most clearly represent modern Marvel. Five films have been made for them specifically; they have the most recognisable costumes; and they even have the strongest representation in gaming. Known for inventive video poker and slot gaming themes, Betfair’s casino carries numerous superhero titles including all of the Avengers, but it has several titles specifically devoted to Iron Man and Captain America. They’re quite simply the two most important superheroes out there right now, and this film will see them square off one-on-one.

Animated Films

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This should come down to a pretty straight-up battle, and it’s really difficult to predict a winner, so to speak. In 2015, Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out was something of a surprise hit, and is now viewed as the studios’ best collaboration in years. But 2016 will respond with a sequel to another of Disney/Pixar’s best projects: Finding Dory will revisit the world of Finding Nemo in a project that ought to draw a pretty massive crowd. In fact, it was recently suggested by Forbes that Finding Dory could have a shot at winning the box office this year.

Action Films

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Naturally, anything in the superhero category could fit here as well. But for the purposes of comparing 2015 and 2016 summer releases, it’s interesting to note that each year will have included an addition to a major action franchise that doesn’t operate within the superhero genre.

In 2015 it was Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, the fifth installment in Tom Cruise’s larger-than-life spy series that began back in 1996. The film earned just slightly less than its immediate predecessor (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) at the box office, and according to Variety set Cruise up for yet another go as super-spy Ethan Hunt. Cruise always draws a crowd, and this series has always had a certain brand of cleverness. It’s the closest thing to an American James Bond.

2016’s answer will be Bourne 5, which will seek to revive the Bourne series on Matt Damon’s shoulders after the actor declined to participate in the fourth film. Naturally that film (The Bourne Legacy) took a hit in terms of popularity, but Damon’s return could set the fifth film up to be the biggest one yet. This one, as with the animated film face-off, feels like a toss-up.

So, can 2016’s summer blockbusters be even bigger than what we saw in 2015? It kind of looks like a dead heat, but if Independence Day: Resurgence is as big as expected and Captain America: Civil War outperforms Age Of Ultron, 2016 just might win out.