If you want to take an honest look at Post-Apocalyptic Literature…you have to start with the Bible and the story of Noah and the Ark. As far as the world being ravaged by an apocalyptic plague…Mary Shelley started all that back in 1826 in The Last Man. But it’s not until after World War II and the Atom bomb that the genre really took off. From juvenile literature such as City of Ember to Pulitzer Prize winning author Cormac McCarthy’s The Road…the genre is doing just fine.
One defining characteristic of these narratives is the values the citizens of this new world embrace. What gets rejected from the old ways and what is created new is a blank canvas for a good writer to explore and comment on his/her current views of the modern world. An example from a more recent movie is Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which is an excellent film but has a blatant undertone of the evils of guns. Even the poster shows an ape on a horse looking back and dead center in the poster, raised in his hand is a gun. There’s no trouble until men decide to use weapons to get what they want if the apes don’t allow them to do what they want. Those weapons end up in the hands of the apes and violence begets violence. Until you have one human character about to kill hundreds of apes in an explosion shouting, “They’re animals” to the main ape, Cesar, whose philosophy has been through the whole film ape does not kill ape, killing rival ape Koba and saying, “You are not an ape.” Implication being he is more human in his violent ways. It really calls into question is this evolution or de-evolution?
In End of Days, it’s not post-apocalyptic…it’s the Apocalypse. This is a fun chance to see The Governator Mr. Schwarzenegger once again saving the planet on the verge of the Y2K debacle. It’s a typical heathen who has no religious conviction comes to Jesus and saves the world…in this case in the form of saving a girl named Christine who is supposed to be the vessel to bare the freshly released Devil’s baby, in other words…Satan’s Baby Mama.
Most organized religions have their doomsday scenarios. The term Eschatology is the fancy word for literature that deals with the end of human history, or end of the world. In religion it deals with the four last parts of the human experience: Death, Final Judgment, Heaven and Hell. The difference in many end of the world narratives and a religious texts look is the tone. Religion views the end as the completion of God or a god’s plan for humans. More secular narratives deal with man’s self-destruction.
The fact that Schwarzenegger is redeemed in the end, asking God for help, puts this narrative more in the religious sense of things. The fact that there are two sides of priests with differing views also makes this story more interesting. You’ve got some priest who have faith that God will win in the end and some that feel the way to assure God’s victory is to kill Christine. It boils down in the end to the question, ‘What are you willing to sacrifice?” And Schwarzenegger gives the ultimate sacrifice. Just on a side not…Gabriel Byrne is probably my favorite portrayal of the Devil in film history.