The end of the world, this week, is low-key. Male strippers dominate cinemas right now in Magic Mike, but there’s drama of a different sort in Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World. It’s the story of Steve Carell and Keira Knightley figuring out what to do with the time they have left before an asteroid obliterates the planet.
Mainstream cinema is tentative when it comes to planetary destruction, unless of course the planet in question belongs to someone else. Obliterating the Earth openly invites measured probes into the human condition as the end of everything approaches with crushing velocity. There’s little wiggle room for triumph-over-adversity plot lines and an end scene with a bruised and battered alpha male adjusting his square jaw and congratulating himself on a job well done.
Ancient Mayan texts have been repeatedly misinterpreted as predicting that the world will end in 2012, so perhaps this is the time Movie President faces his stiffest test. He may need a helping hand as he considers his more leftfield responses to a Manhattan-sized lump of rock hurtling towards the Earth with a deep snarl; because Movie Asteroids always snarl. He’ll call on Studio Boss to provide a back-up plan to save the world when all the sensible options have been exhausted. Movie President will be looking for something with a bit more glamour to help win the hearts and minds of the people, and to keep them entertained as Death grins from above.
Studio Boss will join Movie President and his group of Stoic, Anonymous Advisors in the depths of the White House to explain his grand plan: “Mr President and Stoic, Anonymous Advisors. I have consulted with the greatest minds in Hollywood and we have decided that the best course of action is to stick with what we know and change the details slightly. For added pertinence we’ll call it The Amazing Spider-Man effect.
“We’ll send the obligatory space mission staffed with ‘experts’ who represent a convenient cross-section of society. Of course there’ll be simmering tensions, perhaps a mysterious virus and several not-so-famous crew members whose sole purpose is to wisecrack about how dangerous everything is.
“But this is a two-pronged attack. On the ground is where the real action happens. First up, we’ll have a camera crew following around a ‘real life couple’ with the unassuming appeal of Carell and Knightley, so that people have an emotional hook and two individuals they feel they can relate to as The Inevitable approaches.
“As the space mission will likely fail due to rebellious crew members, incompetent decision-making and a mysterious virus, we target, wait for it… the visual effects company creating the apocalypse. There’s always a leftover piece of disaster that’s serious enough to cause some eye-catching trouble, but isn’t bad enough to end life as we know it and – let’s face it – whether it’s an immense ball of fire or an oversized wave, it’s going to be computer-generated.
“We’ll sneak into the Hollywood building where these guys are based – I should mention they don’t work for me – and we’ll sweet talk our way past the unsuspecting guys and girls at reception. Our troops will be in full combat gear of course, so the sweet talk will have to be epic, but they’re up for the challenge.
“Then we’ll round up all the bearded, sneaker-clad, not-too-athletic IT experts who get paid to animate asteroid collisions and demand they tell us how to turn it off. Then it’s just a matter of pulling the plug. The fire ball/tsunami/high-speed debris cloud pixellates, shivers, runs an error message smugly suggesting the user upgrade to a Mac operating system, and then disappears. The world cheers and Movie President wins a second term!”
Movie President looks nervous, but cracks a smile as he considers everything slowly in his mind. It’s a bold plan; a brave plan. Crucially, it lives up to the Hollywood problem-solving mantra: it’s so crazy it might just work…