Storylines In Review

Upcoming Attractions
-A series of blog posts on upcoming film or tv releases, storyline by storyline.
The Apocalypse-Survival Storyline 2018
This is currently a popular storyline for modern cinema, with special effects made easier via CGI. But I won’t argue there is all that much to its appeal beyond playing off viewer anxieties. Except for the ever-popular ‘plague of zombies’ scenario, the plot setups usually claim to have some basis in reality, but the melodramatic way some environmental or health concern in the news is exploited makes this claim tenuous. Some of the plots built around what are called 'existential threats' to humanity are so elaborate the scriptwriters obviously think threats such as comet strikes are not dramatic enough. (I'm thinking of films like Geostorm and Pacific Rim Uprising, whose mind-bogglingly complicated plots are summarised on Wikipedia.) Nor am I including in the current list below any of the upcoming 'super-hero' films where our lycra-clad heroes and heroines fight off some world-domination plot - causing more damage in the process than Godzilla on the rampage.
Some claim the storyline’s current popularity is working off the back of current Biblical “End Times” belief in the US (that the world is about to end). This might explain the popularity of the ‘zombie takeover’ scenario, as in the ongoing Walking Dead tv series. Recently, Neil Cross, writer-producer of the 2018 BBC/ Hulu tv ‘end times’ drama serial Hard Sun has argued shows like The Walking Dead are so ‘captivating’ because:
"all apocalyptic dramas are essentially reassuring, they're not really about destruction. We always assume that we're the ones who survive and these stories are more transformational than destructive. They afford us an opportunity to imagine ourselves stripped of the day-to-day responsibilities; they allow us to imagine our essential selves, that in facing this enormity we will find ourselves brave and able. We’re [Walking Dead hero] Rick, we’re not the zombies.”

But the chronic attempts to extend the drama into open-ended long-form move it towards soap opera, with myriad subplots set up. (ABC’s Lost seems to have pioneered this folly.) These often end up not being resolved when the series is cancelled as audiences become fed up with being strung along, and viewing figures slump.
Hard Sun itself is a case in point here. It has apparently gone into turnaround, its planned 5-season/ 5-year story arc now unlikely given the 6-ep Season One audience ratings, which had a downward arc of their own as viewers complained they could barely follow the murky plot. (By Ep 4 of 6, it had lost almost 2 million of its initial 3.5 million viewers.)
It also raises the problems of exploiting a global threat as a plot-mcguffin premise. Here, the plot has a maverick-detective duo being hounded by MI5 after the duo stumble across a USB stick with a classified documentary showing the world will end in 5 years in a “hard sun” event. This is not a real-world term, but presumably this means a deadly solar flare – the most recent of this-is-the-way-the-world-ends mcguffins. Officialdom somehow knows the exact date when this will happen (though the real threat of solar flares is that they are not predictable beyond a few days ahead). MI5 wants to keep the whole matter secret for the usual reason (avoid a mass panic) and try to kill the duo, kidnap their families etc. In fact all the pair would have to do to resolve the situation is upload the documentary programme to YouTube from an internet café, and the whole secret would be out. But that would spoil the 5-year arc, where the focus seems to be on the duo’s ability to solve cases in the face of personal problems. (They both fit the ‘cop with a murky past’ profile. I say ‘murky’ as the viewer is not told what the issue is, only fed tidbit clues.) Instead the duo pursue a serial killer evidently infected with ‘end times’ religious mania, leading to a series of violent bloody scenes.
Part of the problem where the setting is pre- rather than post-apocalypse is the apocalypse threat is merely a background. The plot focuses on how the protagonists work to avert the coming apocalyptic event, or at least minimise its damage. This has the industry appeal of being cheaper – the work can use contemporary landscapes without any set dressing or CGI. With a tv series, it also means the apocalypse itself can be deferred year on year, and if the series is cancelled abruptly, may never happen at all. The writer-producer, Neil Cross, said he had a “Stalinist five-year plan” for the series, but the BBC’s issuing all 6 eps on iPlayer before its broadcast run was halfway suggests it is already doomed. The Observer article quoted above also notes that
Cross was inspired to write Hard Sun by the David Bowie song Five Years from the singer’s fifth album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which imagines that there are only five years left until the end of the world. “It could and should be a sad song, but in Bowie’s hands it becomes joyous and uplifting because it’s about the value of the everyday and everyone, and I found that really wonderful,” he says.
This aspect evidently got lost in its crossover into the conspiracy-uncovered storyline, with gory scenes befitting a Scandi-noir policier. But I would argue the determination to simply carry on with one's life and to retain values of human decency, even when civilisation has collapsed and ill-health and mortality loom, remains a key aspect of the storyline's appeal. To quote the final line of HG Wells's The Time Machine: "to witness that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man."

In the list below, I thought of grouping films by the particular disaster scenario invoked [eg nuclear war], but there are practical difficulties here, with some afflictions being unexplained [as when people vanish] and others just used as a vague backdrop [mystery-virus pandemic, anyone?]. Thus the listing below is an A-Z by title, with the apocalyptic event summarised after the title, release date [if known] and writing credits. Note that some stills used are from prequels or from source-novel covers, where there are none released yet for the upcoming work. Anyway, for those of you that like this sort of thing (and there are obviously a lot of you), this is the sort of thing you might like in upcoming film and tv-drama releases:

The usual plot setup is to have the protagonists - typically a ragtag band of survivors - either hole up in a remote bunker, or wander around a post-apocalyptic landscape searching for others still alive (but not infected), or a missing relative. The Scandi-drama The Rain, shown here, starts out with the protagonists holed up in a family bunker for 5 years before shifting to an 'on the road' setup.

A-Z List Of Upcoming Releases

Afterburn [2020?]
Scripted by Matt Johnson, Tommy Wirkola based on the Red 5 comic series by Scott Chitwood, Paul Ens

Apocalyptic Event: Solar flare effects (Treasure hunters must negotiate European 'burn zone' overrun with mutants etc.)

 

Animosity [in devt]
An 11-year-old girl journeys west across the US with her devoted dog, Sandor, at a time when other animals are in revolt.
Apocalyptic Event: Animals develop intelligence and turn on humans.

The animated feature from Legendary Entertainment is based on the 2016- AfterShock comic series by Marguerite Bennett and illustrated by Rafael de Latorre. This is set “when the world is plunged into chaos when animals suddenly get the power of speech and heightened thought, and fixate on revenge against humans who’ve dominated them.

Anna And The Apocalypse [Dec 2018]
Written by Ryan McHenry and completed by Alan McDonald [RM died age 27 of cancer in 2015]
Apocalyptic Event: Zombies (“When the zombie apocalypse hits the sleepy town of Little Haven at Christmas, teenager Anna and her high school friends have to fight, sing and dance to survive, with the undead horde all around them.”)

Right: In this "dark twist on the High School Musical," Zombies make the mistake of dropping in on Port Glasgow, Scotland.

 



Bird Box (2018)
Scripted by Eric Heisserer from Josh Malerman novel

Apocalyptic Event: [?] (Protagonists have to travel countryside blindfolded to evade monsters which drive you insane if you see them.)

The Birds [in devt]
Scripted for BBC/Heyday Television by Irish playwright Conor McPherson [who adapted work for the stage] from Daphne Du Maurier’s 1952 story

Apocalyptic Event: Birds start attacking humans in Cornwall for no known reason.

 

The Cabin At The End Of The World [in devt]
Scripted by Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman from 2018 Paul Tremblay novel
A quartet of strangers menace a vacationing family, claiming a child sacrifice must be made to prevent a coming apocalypse

Apocalyptic Event: [=?] [

 

Cargo (2018)
Scripted by writer/directors Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling
“Stranded in rural Australia in the aftermath of a violent pandemic, an infected father desperately seeks a new home for his infant child, and a means to protect her from his own changing nature.”

Apocalyptic Event: zombie-type epidemic

 
Castaway [in devt]
An unproduced Sam Peckinpah screenplay adapted from James Gould Cozzens's 1934 novella, this tells of Mr Lecky, “an every-man who survives an unnamed catastrophe by hiding in a department store that has escaped destruction. While he is surrounded by everything that he might seem to need, he is haunted by his own paranoia and demons….a modern parable of Robinson Crusoe with philosophical, psychological and mystical implications.”

Apocalyptic Event: Not specified.

 

Left: Cargo (2018)

The Cloverfield Paradox [2018?]
Based on original script 'God Particle' by Oren Uziel, set aboard a space station, adapted by Uziel and Doug Jung to fit the ‘Cloverfield’ franchise.

Apocalyptic Event: [combination] (A particle accelerator experiment to cure global warming crisis goes wrong, unleashing a monster, a time-paradox and other undesirable forces which defy the normal laws of physics.)

 
Daybreak
Co-created by Aron Eli Coleite and Rampage director-producer Brad Peyton, Netflix's 10-episode series is "a subversive dark zombie comedy" based on Brian Ralph’s graphic novel.
It "finds 17-year-old high school outcast Josh searching for his missing girlfriend Sam in post-apocalyptic Glendale, California ... Joined by a ragtag group of misfits including a pyromaniac 12-year-old Angelica and Josh’s former high school bully Wesley, now turned pacifist samurai, Josh tries to stay alive amongst the horde of Mad Max-style gangs (evil jocks, cheerleaders turned Amazon warriors), zombie-like creatures called Ghoulies, and everything else this brave new world throws at him."
Apocalyptic Event: Zombies.

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)
A zombie comedy film written by its director the indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, now filming with Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, though IMDB notes “The plot is currently unknown.” (With Jarmusch, it's likely hard to summarize anyway.)

Apocalyptic Event: Zombies?

Down To A Sunless Sea [in development]
Scripted by David Gleeson [?] from the 1979 David Graham novel
“An Airbus A380 with 600 passengers on-board is trapped midway between Los Angeles and Tokyo when every airport in the world is wiped out in a global thermonuclear war.”

Apocalyptic Event: Nuclear war

 
Eclipse
This tv series in development for Skybound Entertainment is based on Zack Kaplan’s graphic novel for Top Cow comics. It “explores the human condition while asking the question what if our life-giving sun turned on us.”
Apocalyptic Event: Solar flare ("After a solar flare drives the human population underground, daytime surface conditions are monitored by workers like David Baxter, equipped with special suits that protect them from the sun’s deadly radiation. Baxter’s solitary patrol of the empty cityscape is interrupted when he finds the scorched remains of someone left outside to burn – now, he must solve the murder himself.")

Extinction (Netflix 2018)
Written by Spenser Cohen, Eric Heisserer and Brad Kane
“A father has a recurring dream of losing his family. His nightmare turns into reality when the planet is invaded by a force bent on destruction. Fighting for their lives, he comes to realize an unknown strength to keep them safe from harm.”

Apocalyptic Event: Alien invasion

Foe [2019?]
Scripted by [tba] from 2018 Canadian novel by Iain Reid
“severe climate change has ruined the farmlands across the north and created devastating fires that has scarred the landscape. A farmer and his wife live a solitary life, struggling on one of the last remaining farms… A stranger tells the farmer he has been selected to travel … with a group of settlers looking to relocate... when he leaves, his wife won’t miss him because a “replacement” has been arranged.”

Apocalyptic Event: Global warming?

 
Genesis (2018)
Written and directed by Freddie Hutton-Mills and Bart Ruspoli, this is set in 2067 A.D: “Deep in a subterranean silo, the last remnant of humanity is divided by a caste system that keeps the politicians and scientists away from the rabble and crowd. While the civilians starve, freeze and are forced to work in a hazardous, chemically lethal environment above ground, all resources are dedicated to the construction of ... a humanoid life form designed to forage, search, recover and make contact with any other survivors. Dr Eve Gabriel, lead scientist … makes a shocking discovery. A discovery about herself, her mind and her fate....”
Apocalyptic Event: Environmental collapse?

Good Omens [Amazon Studios / BBC Two 2019]
Six-part comedy series scripted by Neil Gaiman from Terry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman book

Apocalyptic Event: impending Biblical Apocalypse (as the Final Judgment looms, an angel and a demon work to prevent it).

Right: Michael Sheen as Aziraphale and David Tennant as 'Crowley'

Hotel Artemis [2018]
Written and directed by Drew Pearce, this is set at an LA hotel which is a secret sanctuary and emergency hospital for criminals, run by The Nurse [Jodie Foster].

Apocalyptic Event: Breakdown of public order, city on fire. ('In 2028, the rich are richer, the poor are poorer and a crimewave is turning into a city-wide riot. We check in on an especially busy night')

How It Ends (Netflix July 2018)
Written by Brooks McLaren
"A desperate father tries to return home to his pregnant wife after a mysterious apocalyptic event turns everything to chaos.”

Apocalyptic Event: war?

 

I Think We’re Alone Now (2018)
Written by Mike Makowsky
Two last survivors of humanity seem incompatible.

Apocalyptic Event: [?] ("The apocalypse proves a blessing in disguise for one lucky recluse -- until a second survivor arrives with the threat of companionship.")

Right: Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning

Iron Sky: The Coming Race (August 2018*)
Sequel scripted by Dalan Musson based on the 2012 scifi sendup indie film, inspired by Bulwer-Lytton’s ‘Vril’ novel The Coming Race
Apocalyptic Event: Post-nuclear world with underground colony of dino-human mutants aiding new invasion of devastated Earth by lunar colony of Nazi survivors with UFO-type technology.
 
[* The sequel was scheduled to be released last year, but evidently held up by a credits lawsuit and a dependency on crowdfunding. A 3rd film, Iron Sky 3: The Ark (2018) was meant to be released later in 2018 but will now likely be held up.]

Iron Sky: The Coming Race: An underground base on a devastated Earth and [mouse over] Hitler riding a dinosaur.

The Last Sharknado: It's About Time (August 2018)
Scripted by Scotty Mullen based on characters created by Thunder Levin

Apocalyptic Event: As well as ‘raining sharks’, the franchise’s last outing will feature “time travel, Nazis, dinosaurs, knights, and Noah's ark” (“Fin must unlock the time-traveling power of the Sharknados in order to save the world.”)

 
MaddAddam (in development)
Producer Darren Aronofsky is developing a miniseries from Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood’s best-selling trilogy. The 2013 MaddAddam “concludes the dystopian trilogy which began with Oryx And Crake (2003) and continued with The Year Of The Flood (2009.”
“The novel continues the story of some of the same characters in the wake of the same biological catastrophe depicted in Atwood's earlier novels in the trilogy. The narrative starts with Ren and Toby (protagonists in The Year of the Flood) rescuing another survivor (Amanda Payne) from two criminals, who had been previously emotionally hardened by a colosseum-style game called Painball. Ren and Toby meet up with Jimmy, the protagonist from Oryx and Crake. These characters reunite with other survivors, develop a camp and start to rebuild civilization with the Crakers, all while the vengeful criminals (Painballers) stalk them.”
Apocalyptic Event: global pandemic

 


Man Alive (in development)
20th Century Fox feature scripted by 'It Follows' writer Joe Greenberg and David Robert Mitchell
Apocalyptic Event: “invasion of earth by an alien species, when a man faced with isolation and loneliness in order to survive realizes he might not be alone after all.”



[Monsters tv series] [UK 2019?]
TV series scripted by Daniel Fajemisin-Duncan and Marlon Smith for Channel 4 based on setup created by director Gareth Edwards for indie 2010 feature

Apocalyptic Event: “a NASA probe crash in Mexico [has] led to the sudden appearance of giant tentacled monsters”

Mortal Engines (Dec 2018)
Scripted by Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson, based on Philip Reeve’s book series

Apocalyptic Event: nuclear war (survivors of long-ago war now live in roving constructor sets; a large city-style one threatens to consume protagonists’ smaller ‘traction town’ habitats.)


Overlord (2018)
Scripted by Billy Ray, Mark L. Smith from Billy Ray story

Apocalyptic Event: Genetically engineered monsters unleashed as war-winning weapons [“On the eve of D-day, US paratroopers drop behind enemy lines, to infiltrate a small village. Unfortunately, they realize the Nazis are experimenting with supernatural forces to fight them.”]

 

Pacific Rim Uprising (March 2019)
Scripted by director Steven S. DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, T.S. Nowlin, based on characters created by Travis Beacham

Apocalyptic Event: World war with “colossal sea monsters … from an interdimensional portal on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.”

[The Purge TV series] [in devt]
TV series for USA Network and Syfy chennel based on 2013 film etc* written by director James DeMonaco

Apocalyptic Event: Annual night when all crime goes unpunished.
(*Successful ongoing franchise of several features based on low-budget original hit.)

[A Quiet Place sequel] [in devt]
Sequel being scripted by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, from their 2017 feature written with actor-director John Krasinski

Apocalyptic Event: [?] A post-apocalyptic Earth overrun with blind giant insects who hunt by sound (“If they hear you, they hunt you.”)

The Rain: Season 2 [2019? Netflix]
Created for Danish tv by Jannik Tai Mosholt, Esben Toft Jacobsen and Christian Potalivo

Apocalyptic Event: Mystery rain-borne virus has killed off most of population, except for a few young survivors who now tramp around Scandinavia.

Rim Of The World [2019?]
Scripted by Zack Stentz and now filming, this Netflix drama has “four misfit teenagers who become unlikely allies when their summer camp experience is cut short by an alien invasion”
Apocalyptic Event: Aliens invade Earth (or at least LA)
 

[Snowpiercer TV series] [in devt]
TV series pilot, for cable channel TNT, created by Josh Friedman based on 2013 feature / graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette

Apocalyptic Event: Snowball Earth, triggered when man's attempt to stop global warming works only too well.

Train To Busan, a US remake of the 2016 Korean hit apocalyptic zombie thriller Busanhaeng written by Park Joo-suk is being scripted by Gary Dauberman for New Line Cinema.

Apocalyptic Event: A train passenger spreads the zombie virus on a train from Seoul, and the survivors discover the plague is already an epidemic.

Tremors: A Cold Day In Hell (May 2018 on DVD / BluRay)
Scripted by John Whelpley Based on characters created by S. S. Wilson, Brent Maddock, Ron Underwood for 1990 film and sequels

Apocalyptic Event: Arctic warmup has made the region a hotspot for ‘graboids’ [see below].

[Tremors tv series pilot] [? - not picked up by Syfy*]
Scripted by showrunner Andrew Miller

Apocalyptic Event: ‘Graboids’, an order of carnivorous giant worms previously unknown to science.
[*Not to be confused with 2003 13-ep Syfy-channel series, this was a new pilot shot in 2017, bringing costar Kevin Bacon back to the franchise.]



War Of The Worlds (filming)
BBC three-part drama serial scripted by Peter Harness from 1898 HG Wells novel

Apocalyptic Event: Martian invasion in 1900s, from viewpoint of protagonists based in SE England. ("In London during the Edwardian era, George and Amy's attempt to start a life together is interrupted by a Martian invasion of Earth.")

What Still Remains (August 2018)
Written by director Josh Mendoza, this 'post-apocalyptic thriller'
"After the loss of her family, a young woman struggles to survive in a world long-since destroyed by disease; but when a lonely traveler offers her a place in his community, she discovers there is more to fear in this world than the legends of the monsters that destroyed it..."

Apocalyptic Event: Virus pandemic 'monsters'

World War Z 2 [2020?]
Sequel, plot details ‘unknown’ [IMDB] currently at script stage, being written by Dennis Kelly using the Max Brooks characters.

Apocalyptic Event: Millions more zombies?

 

Y (in pre-production)
TV movie / series pilot for FX channel scripted by co-showrunner Michael Green from 2002- DC comic-book series Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

Apocalyptic Event: Men have become [almost] extinct. “Y traverses a world of women — exploring gender, race, class and survival.”


Zombieland 2 [October 2019]
Again written by Deadpool writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, this is the long-rumoured sequel to the 2009 cult indie classic from Sony Pictures. Described by The Hollywood Reporter as “a horror comedy road movie that follows four strangers that meet and eventually bond amid a postapocalyptic zombie outbreak,” the sequel is set ten years on, with America threatened by a new breed of zombies.
Apocalyptic Event: Zombies again...

Right: Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson in the 2009 original.

 
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[c] Storylines In Review 2018