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This Friday, Tom Cruise faces the challenges of living on an Earth almost completely abandoned by humanity in Oblivion. In June's After Earth, Will and Jaden Smith play a father-son pair who crash land on Earth, thousands of years after humans have left it. Next year Russell Crowe stars in Darren Aronofsky's retelling of the Noah's Ark tale-- the original disaster movie.
Noticing a trend here? Hollywood studios have always been fascinated by destroying the world, but in the next year or so they're going into overdrive, rolling out a solid dozen films that meet the Earth in some state of massive destruction. Blame the now-passe Mayan Apocalypse, blame all the very real things that seem to be threatening our existence, or just blame your usual Hollywood greed-- we're about to see the world fall apart onscreen over and over again, and to be honest, it's already getting confusing.
If you've been mixing up Oblivion and Elysium or can't remember if it's The World's End or This Is The End that stars Simon Pegg, we've got you covered. Using the patent-pending Emmerich Scale (named, of course, for the godfather of apocalypse movies, Roland Emmerich), we've ranked the upcoming world-destroying movies on a scale of 1-- White House Intact-- to 5-- White House in smithereens. Pick your apocalypse setting below.
After Earth It's right there in the title: in M. Night Shyamalan's vision of the future, all the planet has left is Will Smith and Jaden Smith, and even they've crash-landed on their way somewhere else. The planet isn't dead entirely, but it's so overrun with new mutants and other terrifying obstacles that it may as well be as far as humanity's concerned. If it's total global change you're looking for, Shyamalan is the guy to bring it.
Oblivion Oblivion still scores a solid 5 on the Emmerich scale, but it's a hair below After Earth because-- possible spoiler?-- some humans are hanging in there on the planet, led by Morgan Freeman and his badass steampunk goggles. But unlike the lush jungles of After Earth the world of Oblivion is mostly deserts and craggy mountains, so this is damn near a toss-up.
Noah Why venture into the future for your cataclysmic destruction of humanity when the grandaddy of them all is right there in the past? Darren Aronofsky will destroy the world Biblical style with this new take on Noah's Ark that promises to be even darker and grittier… as if the tale of God destroying the world wasn't dark enough already. We don't know exactly how much destruction we'll see, but given that the waters eventually recede and Noah and his family are fruitful and multiply into, y'know, the entire human race, the destruction at least isn't permanent.
The Host This recent release might have looked like another standard Stephenie Meyer love triangle, but it was secretly a pretty dark vision of the future, in which aliens have taken over the bodies of nearly very human, and have transformed the landscape into generic grocery stores where everything is free, or gleaming office buildings that are so perfect they must be… alien. The planet is still relatively intact (and probably in better hands with these peaceful aliens than with warring humans), but humanity is gone to the point that this easily merits a 4 on the scale.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Rise of the Planet of the Apes had one of the ballsiest endings in recent memory, in which nearly all of humanity was completely wiped out… but in the closing credits. As an afterthought! Given that a handful of humans have been cast we know that not everyone has been wiped out, but of course, given what Charlton Heston finds at the end of Planet of the Apes… well, signs aren't good for humanity.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Humans are hanging on to the planet in this sequel, but they're not doing a very good job of it, forcing kids to fight each other to the death and allowing Donald Sutherland, in spectacular creepy mode, to rule them all. Fans of the books also know that they've essentially given up the entire East Coast to a nuclear explosion way back in the day; Roland Emmerich would appreciate that destruction of New York and Washington D.C., though, which earns them a high 3 on the scale.
This Is The End Everyone behind This Is The End is being very cagey about what kind of destruction we're in for, but everything we've seen-- celebrities sucked into holes in the earth, the Hollywood Hills on fire-- suggests something serious. At the same time, this is a comedy, and while some of the big names at the center of the film may die off, we're not expecting a total extinction level event. After all, what's funnier-- a bunch of actors freaking out over the actual apocalypse, or freaking out over something that's not that bad after all?
Elysium We keep having to remind ourselves that Neill Blomkamp's next film doesn't involve aliens, since District 9 made such a strong impression. And despite the fact that rich people are now living in a spaceship and life back on Earth has gotten pretty dismal, life is still at least intact on our planet, which is more than we can say for most of these movies. Although given the fact that Matt Damon is determined to upset the social order, we might not expect that to last for too long.
Pacific Rim This vision of the future doesn't look much like ours, given that people are spending their time building giant robots that are used to fight giant sea monsters. But all things considered, humanity is hanging on pretty well-- if a Charlie Day's hipster scientist is still making it, then we're all gonna make it after all.
The World's End Sure, it sounds like it's right there in the title, but Edgar Wright, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg promise to be a bit more cagey with their third film together. The World's End is technically a pub at the tail end of a pub crawl embarked on by a bunch of guys way too old for pub crawls. But will it mean the actual apocalypse? Nothing at all? Something in-between? This is one upcoming movie even the trust Emmerich scale can't figure out.