Monday, July 1, 2013

The Cinema File #209: "The End Of The World" Review

As is often the case when trying to articulate my thoughts on a Syfy Channel Original Movie, I'm conflicted. I just watched The End Of The World, a rare lighthearted comedic effort that I have to admit is probably more well written and acted than your typical Syfy flick. And yet, the premise and its execution, chock full of meta in-jokes and goofy nerd references, left me cold and a little condescended to. On the whole I probably enjoyed it more than most of these Syfy movies I've watched recently, and yet conversely it probably pissed me off more than any of them as well.

As I mentioned in my review of Ghost Storm, I'm much more partial to the Syfy Monster movies than the Disaster ones, and The End Of The World is clearly in the Disaster camp. Except, the film isn't just a Disaster movie, but rather a self referential meta deconstruction of Syfy Disaster movies, starring two nerds who've seen every Syfy Disaster movie, and thus know exactly what to do when they find themselves in one. The disaster in question is a relatively boring one, at least compared to a storm made of freaking ghosts, in this case a barrage of meteors made of electricity that like all things that fall out of the sky in these movies, seem to have a way of pinpointing unsuspecting people from orbit. I wish they would have done a movie like this just with a monster instead of a disaster, and I also wish I could ignore my misgivings and enjoy it more as it is.

A couple of years ago there was a movie called Fanboys, about a group of Star Wars fans who, among other things, get into a feud with a group of Star Trek fans. Because, you know, those are two clearly demarcated groups with no intersection between them, and they hate each other, right? The End Of The World made me feel as stupid and angry as that movie did so many years ago, displaying a shameless need to appeal to so-called “geek culture” with completely shallow quotes and references, and no real understanding of the audience to which it is so crassly trying to satisfy. My knowledge of science fiction and general nerdity is probably more encyclopedic than either of the main characters in this movie, but I don't act like they do, because I don't live in a TV movie where my actions are written by someone who doesn't know or care about people like me except as a demographic.

And yet, I still enjoyed this movie in spite of myself, mostly due to the two main leads, Heroes' Greg Grunberg and Eureka's Neil Greyston, who are both affable enough to carry the silly premise and make me forgive its somewhat insulting exaggerations. And of course, Brad Dourif as a crotchety old professor goes a long way to making me forget the slights and just enjoy the ride. Unfortunately the tone is a little too light a lot of the time, especially when the body count starts rising. This movie shares the Syfy movie penchant for unsympathetic brutality, which I typically love, but doesn't really work as well when the characters are expected to keep cracking jokes even after their friends and family die in front of them in ridiculously horrible ways.

Stupid line this week is not so much stupid as groan inducingly on the nose, in which our two main characters watch a movie off screen, and one of them remarks on how good “that guy from Heroes” is in it. Overall, The End Of The World is a better than average Syfy movie that only really bothered me due to a personal bias I have against the approach it took to representing people like me. I wanna say that if you're not like me, you might enjoy it, but then, if you're not like me, you're probably not the kind of person who unironically enjoys Syfy Channel Original Movies. And this is not the kind of movie you can appreciate ironically or enjoy for its riffability or snark value. You either accept it for what it is and get whatever you can out of it, or you don't. Despite my personal problems with it, I still think the experience was worth it. 
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