The West

Pacific Rim.

During the chillingly hilarious climax of Stanley Kubrick's 1964 Cold War masterpiece, Dr Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb, the cowboy commander of a B-52 (played by Slim Pickens) rides an atomic bomb rodeo-style to its target in the Soviet Union, waving his hat and yee-hawing like crazy. The apocalypse: what a blast!

Dr Strangelove is safe from being remade (although Jim Carrey could be good as a mad German scientist). But this year Hollywood will be delivering a hefty payload of end-of-the-world movies and riding those weapons of mass distraction all the way to the bank.

Starting with Cloud Atlas, which imagines a de-evolved civilisation as one of its six intertwining tales, 2013 is packed with movies centred on the destruction of our world, be it ruined beyond recognition by our own hand or wiped out by marauding zombies or aliens.

We're getting Tom Cruise in Oblivion, in which the ageless star plays a repairman who lives and works in a city high above a polluted planet; then in After Earth another superstar, Will Smith, plays a space traveller who lands on an Earth that has been abandoned for a thousand years. Later in the year the great Mexican director Guillermo del Toro pits giant robots against monsters who threaten to wipe out human life in Pacific Rim; and Neill Blomkamp in Elysium also imagines a refuge floating above our own devastated world.

Then there are the dystopian teen fantasies that have leapt from literature to cinema, notably Ender's Game, about children being trained as warriors to fight off an alien invasion, and Catching Fire, the second instalment of the well-received Hunger Games trilogy.

And most anticipated of all is World War Z, in which Brad Pitt plays a UN investigator piecing together what happened during a decade-long war against a zombie army (some are even suggesting this as the first zombie movie with a shot at the Oscars).

Even comedians are getting in on the act. In This Is The End a bunch of real-life actor friends, including Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jonah Hill, huddle together in a basement and wind up wanting to kill each other; and in The World's End, the Brits behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz imagine a pub crawl that becomes a fight to save the world.

The beauty of apocalyptic dramas and comedies is that they generally don't lend themselves to sequels and prequels, so at least they're delivering something fresh and promise to make 2013 one of the more interesting years for big-budget movie- making.

And it will no doubt prompt cultural commentators to ponder why there's such widespread obsession with the apocalypse, why tales of mass destruction and survival are proliferating in literature, television and cinema. Are we craving a global shake-up or are these stories a reflection of deep-seated pessimism?

But if you find new things disturbing there are plenty of familiar names and scenarios this year (some are calling it the year of the sequel, which is silly because it's always the year of the sequel).

Over the coming months we'll be getting new instalments of Die Hard, Iron Man, Star Trek, The Hangover, Monsters, Inc., Superman, Wolverine, 300, Smurfs, The Hunger Games and The Hobbit - quite a clutch but no more than in previous years.

Hopefully the veterans will be blown away by the virgins and Hollywood will again embrace the idea of surprising its audience instead of pandering to it.

As usual, high-quality adult material tends to gather at the end and beginning of the year in time for award season.

What is unusual is that some of these films, such as Oscar nominees Life of Pi and Lincoln, have been so successful that pundits are talking about baby boomers - the core audience for this kind of brainy material - challenging teenaged boys as the hot new demographic.

And, of course, there is The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrmann's take on the F. Scott Fitzgerald Jazz Age classic. It's been confirmed that hip-hop legend Jay-Z is providing the soundtrack for the movie, which will excite those who love Luhrmann for the pop-infused take on classic or period material (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!) or horrify those who think he's a kitsch-meister who ruins everything he touches (Australia).

One film not on the list is the WA-made Sam Worthington surfing drama Drift, which was made in Margaret River almost two years ago with a heap of money from the WA Government.

Distributor Hopscotch is promising they will release Drift in the next few months. The big-wave action featured in the trailer looks impressive, so let's hope the rest of the movie lives up to the hoopla and the precious behaviour of its home-grown star.

There's a lot riding on it.

The West Australian

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