While most of the world is going gaga for the new Avengers movie, another cinematic juggernaut is bearing down on us.1 A film that is part of a legendary franchise which hasn’t seen a new entry for thirty years. A film that promises to have more automotive mayhem than Vin Diesel can shake a stick at.
Mad Max: Fury Road looks awesome. I mean really AWESOME. I can truthfully say that this is the most excited I have ever been about a new movie in my entire life. I don’t know what it is, but I’m a sucker for post-apocalypse movies, and the Mad Max films are the cream of the campy crop.
Of course, there are hundreds of entries into the post-apoc category. They range from cheesy (Waterworld) to serious (The Road) to I’ve-lost-all-will-to-live (Threads) to strange (A Boy and His Dog, which gets my vote for best post-apocalyptic movie ending ever) to just plain bonkers (Six-String Samurai). And don’t forget the zombies. Grunge fashion, heavy weaponry, desolate landscapes, and motorized maniacs are staples of the genre, which give directors plenty of excuses to be as crazy as they want to be. The stakes are either very high or non-existent, the characters are either naively hopeful or utterly nihilistic, and thespian craft usually gives way to copious action and violence.
Anyone who has ever picked up a Bible certainly knows about the post-apocalyptic nightmares in its pages. Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah laid it on pretty thick, as did New Testament writers Peter and John. Fire, plagues, famine, war, demons running amok, pale horses, and bowls of judgment assail our humble planet, purging the world of its wickedness to prepare the way for God’s kingdom on Earth, which is where Heaven will actually be.
Many post-apoc films take cues from the Bible, and some, such as The Book of Eli, make it a central part of the story. But is there any way to reconcile the cynical worldview of Hollywood’s apocalypse with the ultimately hopeful horrors of the Bible?
That depends on where you start. A worldview without God would likely regard the desolation of mankind as an inevitability, with the remnants of humanity rising from the ashes and rebuilding their world which would eventually head back down the same road, or perhaps the entire annihilation of the species. The vehemence with which humanity pursues war and aggression is hardly any cause for hope, especially since the bullets get bigger by the day. The ruination of our planet and civilization seems like only a matter of time.
Someone with a Christian worldview would feel the same way, except there is a hope for salvation at the end of it. I believe with confidence that the human race will not be annihilated, despite our best efforts, because the promises of the Bible, upon which I base my faith, would be worthless. I don’t know what state humanity will be in when God finally returns to establish His kingdom, but there will be something here.
There is rarely any God in Hollywood’s idea of the end of days. Humanity is left to fend for itself, and it usually does endure thanks to the actions of a brave hero. This does not necessarily mean that filmmakers are deliberately ignoring Biblical prophecies when making their films, but the humanistic element in these movies is undeniable. What is worth saving is human civilization and culture, not souls. Morality and conscience are often tossed out the window in favor of survival of the fittest. Staying alive is the ultimate virtue, and the cost is usually great. Theistic fantasies like organized religion have been burned away, leaving the raw human animal fully exposed. It’s a simple worldview – survive at all costs – but the futility often peeks through the rags.
This hopelessness is very prominent in a series like The Walking Dead. As season after season trudges on, there is hardly any hope for the characters to grab onto, and I must confess that even my tolerance for grimness is tested. The human race needs hope to survive, and if you remove God from the picture, the only source of hope is ourselves. When I read the headlines every morning, I don’t see much cause for rejoicing.
A real-life apocalypse would be far less sensational and entertaining than what we see on the screen, but if I am unfortunate enough to experience a cataclysmic event in my lifetime, I know that it won’t be the end. The world won’t end with a whimper, nor with a bang.
It will begin with the cleansing light of God’s glory.