Posts Tagged ‘adam ant’

With the rise in the last several years of movies and books with dystopian or post-apocalyptic themes, the reporting media (as usual) does not take a careful look at the particular connotation behind these two terms.

Rule #1:  ‘Dystopia’ and ‘Post-apocalyptic’ are NOT synonymous.

‘Dystopia’ refers to the community or society.  ‘Post-Apocalypse’ refers to the milieu, setting, and is essentially a world-building term, of the locale after the Apocalypse.

The latest dystopian work to reach the masses, The Hunger Games, contains both dystopian elements and post-apocalyptic, but the latter only in a superficial and lazy way (never truly defined).  Mostly, it bases its storytelling on the interaction of the people within this society to ‘current’ events.

Rule #2:  Apocalyptic events often create Dystopias.

The society Panem from The Hunger Games could just as well have arisen from modern politics without the intervention of some apocalypse, in that the series of laws created eventually funneled the society into the state where it happens to be at the time of the novels, when the sheeple have given up their power to the government.  (Another aside: note that they tried once and failed, and gave up after that.  If they allow themselves to be so easily trod upon, then they deserve the government they got.)

Rule #3: Dystopias can beget a man-made Apocalypse

Nineteen Eighty-Four, by far the most famous, also has both elements to give it background, but by and large is dystopian.  It is about the people within the proscribed society.

For another example, I would personnally argue that Mad Max isn’t so much a dystopia as a film of anarchy slipping towards its apocalypse hinted at in the introductory montage in The Road Warrior.  Still, it shows that the societies that are created or born from the bad decisions of mad can eventually lean toward the type of mentality that would unleash its own post-apocalypse.

Rule #4:  Not all Apocalypses are created equal.

Zombie apocalypse abounds in our world.  In my youth, during the Cold War, the threat of a Nuclear Apocalypse reigned (and is still, ironically, my ‘favorite’ PA theme and may or may not be the ‘Visitation of the Fallen Suns’ alluded to in the first novel, Umbra: A Post-Apocalyptic Mystery).  The Road Warrior came from this era, as did one of my favorite games of all time, Wasteland (and its nearly 30 years in the making sequel, as well as the beloved ‘Fallout‘ series.)  The threat of pervasive, mutating radiation infecting everything for decades or hundreds of years, along with the (now-disproven) threat of a ‘nuclear winter‘ seemed just too juicy to not spawn some of the greatest PA works of all time.  (Now there’s also a discussion of a ‘nuclear summer’, for the global-warming hangers-on.)  Of course it had its stinkers too, like World Gone Wild, with Adam Ant and Steel Dawn, with Patrick Swayze, God rest his soul.

But what about all those other ones?  Day of the TriffidsWaterworld?  One of my favorite (and arguably one of the only ‘romance’ novels I will ever read, let alone love) – The Silver Metal Lover?  They introduce their own type of apocalypse (blindness/sentient and malevolent plants and melted polar ice caps for the global-warmers, and pollution/asteroid interference, respectively) and all of these are directly influential on the events that occur in the novel.

There are still plenty of differences, and I am sure to revisit this post as time permits to add a few more of my observations, and I invite you to research and suggest some of your own.

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There are other movies out there revolving around post-apocalypse beyond Mad Max and the Road Warrior. Not all of them are good, however.

Alright, maybe it isn’t fair to use The Road Warrior as a Litmus test for these kinds of movies. After all, it is extremely difficult to maintain that kind of brilliance. And George Miller may have set the bar far too high for everyone else, but let’s overlook that, for the moment, and focus on the basic story. If anyone else has looked into the background of George Miller’s film, they will know that he, like a lot of other directors/writers found their influence in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces (not to be confused with the James Cagney film Man of a Thousand Faces) which speaks of the internal journey of the main hero, what he must go through mentally as he goes through the motions physically. Sure, who doesn’t like a good smash ’em up, shoot ’em up film? However, in order for there to be a great story the audience needs to connect and (gasp!) maybe actually learn something about the hero and about themselves in the process. Great writers do this to our subconscious, planting a seed in our brain early on in the story that allows us to connect with the protoganist and carry us on the same journey. At its very basic level, “Mad” Max Rockatansky follows the formula point-for-point.* Miller succeeds in bringing us the real change this guy goes through because he slathers decadent layers of chase scenes and punches-up and all the gooey goodness of action flicks over the character change instead of force-feeding us what the writer wants us to believe through clunky exposition (anyone who’s ever taken a writing class would recall, “show, don’t tell”).

With that groundwork, let’s look at some other movies in the genre. World Gone Wild is a movie I am ashamed to say that I owned from back in the VHS days. I recall being at the mall and I came across this movie about a post-nuclear wasteland featuring Adam Ant. Young girl that I was, smitten by the british pop star at the time and having my pockets full of paper-route money, I found the tape in the bargain bin a little difficult to pass up.

In retrospect, I wish that I’d have walked away. Just walked away.

WGW seems to want to be The Road Warrior meets Star Wars with a septagenarian Harry Potter-esque ridiculous character thrown in for bad measure. The dialogue and situations induce riotous laughter (surely what the movie-makers intended, right?) and remove you as far from the desperate situation most of us would find us in after a nuclear conflict. Good for a laugh, not so good for a story.

At any rate, you’d have to see for yourself how laughable it is. Don’t forget to watch out for lethal hubcaps.

More movie reviews to come…

*outlined in Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s great book on the subject, 45 Master Characters. The book is must-have for anyone wanting to be a writer and to understand what character personality and motives are. Also, for anyone interested, I did a “schedule” style breakdown of the movie when I sat an analyzed it for my own amusement. Sometimes I like to subscribe to the “analyze-it-and-the-magic-disappears” school of thought, but in the case of The Road Warrior, it only enhanced it.

LATE COMMENT:  There’s a character named “Max Rockatansky” in House of God, which is a novel regarding the life of an intern during his residency at the eponymously named hospital.  George Miller went to medical school.  Although Wiki cites a reference to the last name of a procedural pioneer, I believe he read the book and unconsciously (or consciously) filed the name away.  I report, you decide for yourself.

(Originally Published 5 AUG 2009)