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"The Road" to perdition

Just the other day I was curled up with my copy of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” thinking to myself how cozy it was reading a story about civilization reduced to frozen ash and roving bands of cannibals while the real world was tottering on the brink of the same! Because obviously we're doomed, since not just is the economy tanking, but the Red Sox and Patriots are as well. Not to mention that the likely election of Barack Obama is a sure sign of the coming Tribulation. The end is near! But it doesn’t seem so bad if it’s in a book, or, since “The Road” is coming to the big screen (for those who found the adaptation of McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men” too lighthearted, this might do the trick) on November 21 (Happy Thanksgiving!), in the comfy confines of a movie theater.

I discussed this doomsday trend at some length last year  and it still seems to be going strong. A couple of weeks ago I went to a press screening of what I thought was a kids’ movie called “City of Ember” and it starts upwith a voiceover narrator intoning, “When the world ended...” Sheesh! At least get through the beginning of the movie before you end the world is my opinion. Not even Bill Murray could lighten this one up.

And there’s plenty of competition. There’s the end of the world as inexplicable, allegorical pandemic in Fernando Meirelles’s adaptation of  Jose Saramago’s “Blindness.” There’s the end of of the world as it might be if the world was a microcosm set in an apartment building which is the case in “Quarantine.” There’s the end of the world as it might be if the world was a microcosm set in Charlie Kaufman’s head like in “Synecdoche, New York” (opens November 7). There’s the end of the world (maybe) as remake of a classic science fiction movie in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (opens December 12). And upcoming in 2009 there’s the end of the world as fulfillment of ancient Mayan prophecy in Roland Emmerich’s “2012”and as fulfillment of the box office potential of a lucrative franchise in McG’s “Terminator 4:Salvation.” 

That is, if we get that far. I’m concerned not so much about the prospect of the world actually ending but of this trend losing its audience appeal. “Blindness” vanished in a blink of an eye. “Quarantine” was easily snuffed out last week by the number one hit (for the second week in a row), “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” (more a portent of the end of Hollywood than the end of the world). Why pay $10 to see the end of the world when you can watch it on TV for free?

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