Post-Apocalypse Now

May 31, 2013 11:46 am 0 comments

A promotional image for After Earth. Photo: Sony/Columbia Pictures.

Here’s a hint for Hollywood if it’s looking for a real “green” hero. Look to Israel. If there is a group of people who know a little something about sustainability, about surviving more than one near apocalypse, you can find them there.

I say this because at the movies, on TV, in books and even in the form of Disneyeque animation, we’ve seen the world destroyed in a wave after wave of dystopian, post-apocalyptic depictions. Tomorrow, in the latest incarnation, “After Earth”, we’ll see Will Smith and his 14-year-old son Jaden play a father-and-son team that crash land back on an Earth that’s been abandoned due to eco-carnage by humans for thousands of years.

But let’s rewind the reel a little first. In 2007, the Pulitzer Prize for literature went to “The Road,” Cormac McCarthy’s hauntingly beautiful, but dark as night, novel about a father and son traipsing across a scorched, barren earth.

And while readers were raising “The Road” onto the best-seller lists, Al Gore packed theaters with his PowerPoint presentation and altered the linguistic landscape turning the term, “An Inconvenient Truth” into a phrase that’s been recycled and reapplied causes of every kind.

About a year later, in ’08 and with Pixar’s “Wall-E,” Mother Earth had been abandoned by humans, leaving a lone robot to clean up. More recently we’ve gone from “Oblivion” (another tale of post-apocalypse though this time we were done in by invading aliens who we had to nuke) to another post-apocalyptic yarn, “The Book of Eli.”

Each work, in its own way, presents a bleak vision that hasn’t been seen in pop culture since the Cold War, when doomsday scenarios were a constant, from “Fail Safe” and “Dr. Strangelove” to television’s “The Day After.”

But while threats of nuclear-style Armageddon was the cause célèbre back then, a sense of environmental catastrophe is rampant today, transmitting its potential effects like gamma rays everywhere.

Exploiting the trend, every corporate brand has had to rethink their image as they lay claim to Green. Fashion-wise, green’s become the new black. But the green that many businesses are really responding is cash because of the inconvenient truth (there I go) that environmental sustainability had become one of consumer purchasing behavior’s top influences.

Likewise, Hollywood picking up (er, championing) this movement has adapted and transformed storylines and re-affixed disasters, from creating masterpieces of extreme nuclear apocalypse, to the newest and latest “eco” kind.

In tomorrow’s “After Earth” the audience is greeted with an opening narration about Earth’s evacuation after a vague environmental catastrophe. But having taken this story from every angle already, this latest attempt appears dried out and parched, rendering a scrawny 17% Rotten Tomatoes based on 19 reviews so far.

Judging by the marketing of the “After Earth, it aims to appeal to a younger set, with a campaign that launched on Facebook and Google+ emphasizing a meme of young Jaden’s character in costume. There’s no doubt, for a generation born smack dab into the 9/11 era, young people take the end of the Earth seriously.

Now back to our hero. The determination to find a solution to the ecological challenge is a narrative that’s thriving in Israel, embraced by its youth and has become the “eco”nomic engine of the country.

Israel, surrounded by countries abundant in oil, has solar panels everywhere and water tanks on their rooftops. Pay phones and street lights are all powered by the sun.

While environmental apocalypse makes for a good villain, the tiny country donning the blue and white is coming to the rescue.

Abe Novick is a writer and communications consultant. This article was originally published by the Jerusalem Post.

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