Monday, May 23, 2011

Review: End of the World - May 21, 2011

We in the Middle Room have a deep seated appreciation of a good apocalypse. We reminisce fondly about DC's legendary Crisis on Infinite Earths, and have a deeply held admiration of zombie uprisings, vampiric plagues, and temporal paradoxes. If we could be so bold, we consider ourselves connoisseurs of the end of days.

Which is why we found ourselves more than a little disappointed in Harold Camping's recent offering, the now infamous "May 21st Rapture and World-Quake."

Before progressing further, be warned that we will need to discuss the events of last weekend in some detail in order to explain our reaction. In short, spoilers lie ahead: those who have Tivoed the weekend's news to watch later or haven't visited in several days may wish to refrain from reading further.

It wasn't that the 21st was bad, per se, merely that it was a victim of raised expectations owing to its own marketing campaign. Ultimately, the day played out like most doomsdays, raptures, and end times before it, with a few twists that - under slightly better direction - might have made this apocalypse stand out. As it stands, May 21, 2011 was disappointing, yet another missed opportunity.

We shouldn't have been surprised, seeing as Camping's first apocalypse, released in 1994, was utterly forgettable and uninspired. However, as we approached the May version, the marketing campaign and teasers gave us hope that this one might be different. Production values seemed unprecedented: we haven't seen a doomsday with this kind of budget since the infamous Y2K fiasco.

But, when the time came, Camping's sequel was as dull as the original. Don't get us wrong: we see what they were attempting to convey. A Rapture without a single ascension, concluding with the bewildered expressions on the faces of the faithful; a fatalistic statement on the utter irredeemable nature of mankind and the hopelessness of the future. Yes, yes; very nihilistic, very clever. Except we've seen it all before. This was precisely how 1994 ended. And, for that matter, every other religious, mythological, and secular doomsday scenario that's played out on the news before and since.

Sure, there's the twist ending everyone's talking about: the non-apocalypse without the usual mass suicide and all that. Which is fine - no one needs that kind of a downer, anyway. Though seeing thousands of Camping's followers broke and distraught isn't too exactly a happy ending, either.

Ultimately, we feel cheated. It's one thing to release something like this in September, but this is May, when we expect more from our entertainment than Camping was able to deliver. He's putting a droll exploration of human stupidity against the excitement of movies like Thor? Come on, where were the effects? Where's the spectacle? Drama alone isn't going to cut it in a summer when Transformers 3 is getting released.

On a scale of one to five, where five stars reflects doomsdays like the Near-Apocalypse of '09, we can only award Camping's May 21st two stars.

It wasn't so much that it was bad... it just didn't deliver anything worthwhile or new. Sure, the twist was better than the alternative, but Camping failed to conceal his hand - we saw the Shyamalan-like ending coming a mile away. This isn't the worst apocalypse we've ever seen, but we still strongly advise our readers to save their money and wait for the DVD.

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