I like apocalyptic entertainment. From sci/fi horror (28 Days Later, Resident Evil, The Walking Dead, The Terminator) to natural disasters (Melancholia, Deep Impact, 2012, ) to war (The Road, Book of Eli) to aliens (War of the Worlds, Independence Day, Ender's Game), there's nothing like the end of the world as we know it to bring out the best - or worst - in people.
This Is The End drew quite a bit of critical and audience acclaim this past year. It received a 83% critic and 75% audience rating atRotten Tomatoes. I'm not sure why. By about thirty minutes in to the movie, I was thinking that "Please Make It End!" would have been a better title.
Every character falls on a sliding scale of shallow, self-centered, egomaniacal people. They are so self-deluded that when Hell arrives on earth, they are the only ones surprised they don’t get raptured. Yes, the movie is a self-referential commentary on the Hollywood crowd featuring ironic self-debasement (Channing Tatum), stereotype-busting character twists (Emma Watson) and a hyperbolic - and perhaps even cautionary - presentation of what life is like in Hollywood. I get it. I doubt the audience in general took that mesmerizing point away from the film by the time the credits rolled.
The survivors of Hell's initial onslaught accidentally discover that if they can perform one - just one - act of selfless sacrifice, they get beamed up to heaven. The bad news is that those left behind apparently had no record of having done anything of significance in this category. The good news is they still can. Theoretically. They just have to fight against the character they have built so relentlessly over the years.
If there is an upside to this movie, it’s found in the sense that some things deserve judgment. It also identifies one very obvious good act – the willingness to give your life for someone else. It even seemed willing to show that excess and indulgence can terrible people make. Kuddos for that, I guess.
It’s the hypocritical application of this salvaged goodness that unsettles me more than the hard “R” material. This Is The End had the potential to make a solid point about the importance of living a consistently moral life. It squandered it in favor of a perplexing heavenly shout-out to the very things that lead to social, moral, physical and relational hell in this life - glamourous indulgence, distracting wealth, meaningless casual sex, and abundant booze and drugs.
If our real world experience counts for anything, it should show us that this is the plot line for a story that will end badly. This kind of faux heaven is the exhilarating hit before the craving addiction, the smooth drink before the brutal hangover, the exciting lust before the ravenous emptiness, the praising accolades before the narcissism. This is an elevator, an its only direction is back down.