The Problem with the End of the World

Spoiler alert: I’m going to talk about the end of the movie Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.  If you haven’t seen it and you don’t want it spoiled then don’t read this post.  I think it’s kind of an underwhelming ending though.

Okay, so I was thinking about this the other night after watching a very mediocre movie that was trying to explore what people would do in the event of the impending end of the world.  It had all the typical tropes you’d find in an apocalyptic story: people giving in to wild hedonism, people sticking to their regular routines because what else are you going to do when everyone’s going to die, people hunkering down with some wild thought that they’ll take shelter and survive the meteoroid impact, things like that.

It’s all very existential, with a major focus on people making their own meaning out of the ends of their lives.  I could probably write about how the story assumes that no one is seeking a spiritual explanation for humanity’s imminent demise, but that’s probably best left to another post.

English: Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona.

I think the meteoroid in the movie is supposed to be a lot bigger than the one that made this crater. Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The protagonist of the film is a withdrawn guy who sells insurance and finds himself dealing with his wife running away with her lover, taking care of an abandoned dog, and trying to help his downstairs neighbor find a flight home to her family in England (we learn early on that all flights have ceased because what’s the point?) all while trying to get in touch with an old flame who he apparently never got over.

It’s all kind of maudlin, because every scene carries this pall over it with the fact that a giant meteoroid is going to strike the earth and wipe out humanity in less than three weeks.  I expected more quirky comedy, because it was billed as a quirky comedy about a pair of lonely people just looking to cope with the world ending.

Halfway through it turned into a romance that didn’t make any sense other than, “The world’s ending, and I guess we have an emotional connection, so let’s be a couple!”

Okay, fine.  I’m not going to poo-poo on whoever wrote the script for examining what kind of relationship emerges when you have only a week to get to know each other before your imminent deaths.  But a romance?!  Really?  I picked this movie up because I thought it was going to be about a friendship.  Instead I got a bait and switch with the two leads deciding they were in love with each other just because meteoroid.  Give me a break.

I think what irks me is the fact that the third act sees this huge escalation of the relationship to the point where the protagonist says to the female lead, “You are the love of my life.”  That’s funny, because I thought the woman you never got over from twenty years ago was the love of your life.  What about your wife, who, though I’ll grant you she ran off with another man, you built most of your life with?  Does she not count because the two of you let your relationship deteriorate to the point that she ran away?

The film ends with the two now-lovers lying in bed, waiting for the meteoroid to hit, talking about the impossibility of their relationship.  The protagonist says that he’s happy he met her at this point.  She says, “If only we’d met years ago,” and he responds, “No, it had to be now.”

What?

So let me get this straight.  This woman is the love of your life.  You feel so wonderfully happy that you met her and got to have a crazy week with her before everyone dies.  But if you had met her years ago then it wouldn’t have been right?  Forgive me if I’m being a little cynical, but that sounds to me like you think the relationship wouldn’t have worked out long-term, so it’s good that you’re dying while it’s still fresh and exciting.  God forbid you two are together long enough for it to turn into something resembling your desiccated marriage.

The film ends on a fade to white that implies the meteoroid’s striking, but I want to interpret it a different way.  Just before the end, a news anchor who’s been giving updates on the end of the world throughout the movie says that scientists have made a mistake in their calculations.  They thought the meteoroid wouldn’t hit until next week, but it’s actually going to hit at the end of today.  Sorry.  Be with your loved ones.

There’s one problem with this explanation for why the movie gets to end with a week to go.  I’m not a physicist, so maybe the way you calculate two astronomical bodies colliding is more complicated, but it seems to me that they have to meet at a specific point in three dimensional space at a specific time.  If your calculations are wrong about when the two objects will collide, doesn’t that mean that the meteoroid will hit the rendezvous point early?  And since the Earth is not a fixed object, but orbiting the sun, wouldn’t a week make a huge difference in where the planet is in its orbit?  Like big enough that the collision doesn’t happen?

So here’s what I propose happens after the credits roll.  The bright flash of light isn’t the meteoroid hitting Earth, but passing so close that it lights up the sky, possibly wreaks a little havoc with natural weather patterns, and then continues on harmlessly through space (I guess it’s technically an asteroid again, since it didn’t enter the Earth’s atmosphere).  Everyone braces themselves for the impact that never comes.  Then they wake up and realize that they’ve all made a royal mess of their lives.  Time to start cleaning up and moving on.

And the two lovers, who were lying in bed waiting for the end?  They awake, and the protagonist realizes that no, he’s not dead, and here he lies committed to a girl who in the long run he won’t be able to stay with.

Oops.

The film is called Seeking a Friend for the End of the World if you’d like to check it out, but I can’t recommend it.

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2 thoughts on “The Problem with the End of the World

  1. Pingback: I Love a Rainy Night | Catchy Title Goes Here

  2. Pingback: Motley Microfiction: Around the World | Rachael K. Jones

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