New Movie Trailers: Catching Fire and Riddick

It’s been a boon week for movie news and previews, and I’ve found myself quite behind on a few things. Good thing it’s not my job to stay current, otherwise I would have been fired a long time ago! But as a genre fan, I feel the need to keep up with sci-fi news and pass it on whenever possible. And lately, the big news items have had to do with upcoming adaptations, sequels, relaunches, or all of the above.

catching-fire-movie-posterSo to save some time I thought I’d do a two-fer trailer post today and feature the newest trailers for Catching Fire and Riddick. Though I’m sure the former needs no explanation, for those who haven’t read or seen The Hunger Games, this would be the much-anticipated sequel. Still trying to finish this book myself, mainly because I promised I’d review the whole trilogy. Still, the plot for this one is really quite clear.

After winning the 74th annual Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta are called upon to do the Victory Tour, an event which occurs between games and showcases the winners. During the tour, Katniss is made aware of how their victory has inspired dissent, which puts her in a compromising position. Between fulfilling her role as a symbol of resistance and keeping up appearances, there’s plenty of high drama to be had!

riddick_posterAs for the latter, this would the latest installment in that particular Vin Diesel antihero engine known as the Riddick franchise. It began with Pitch Black, a movie who’s script was originally proposed for Alien 3 but rejected in favor of the whole prison planet plot. It went on to become a cult classic, spawning the much higher-budget Chronicles of Riddick.

In this third installment, its clear the movie makers have decided to recycle the plot from the first movie and have once again put Riddick on some remote planet where he is being pursued by Bounty Hunters and Necromongers. No sooner is he captured that hostile aliens show up and they all have to work together to survive. As he said in first movie, “It ain’t me you gotta worry about now.” At least Karl Urban is back, and Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from BSG) is part of the cast!

Catching Fire is set to be released on  November 22, 2013, while Riddick will be premiering on September 6th. Enjoy!


BSG: Blood & Chrome (Ep. 9-10)

bsg-blood-and-chromeWe come to it at last, the finale of the webseries BSG: Blood & Chrome! And much like with the rest of the show, my feelings were largely positive, with just a few rejoinders. There were some flaws, some weaknesses; mainly things that pointed to some writing and/or production issues. But overall, it was a testament to the enduring appeal of the relaunched franchise and its creative team.

And I look forward to when the Syfy network will be airing it this month, as I imagine an official launch will correct a lot of these bumps. As I’m sure we can all agree, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with bigger budgets and more oversight! But of course, I digress. Here’s what happened in the final two episodes and the culmination of the webseries.

Episodes 9-10:
BSG-BloodnChrome-CottonThe series opens once again with our heroes being held up inside the resort on Djerba after the Cylon attack. Toth is dead, and once again, an argument erupts over what they are to do. Adama and Kelly insist they continue, but Coker raises his weapon at her and demands that she divulge the details of their mission first. She begins explaining that the target is an automated communications hub located on the planet, and her mission is to upload a virus contained in her dogtags.

They proceed on foot to the communications hub and find it undefended. Kelly hops on the Cylon terminal and begins to upload the contents of her dogtags, but Coker shoots her when he sees a Battlestar on the display screen. He tells Adama that she is a traitor, and that the Cylons spared her back at the resort because they saw what she was carrying in her dogtags and realized she was one of them. Kelly shoots Coker and holds Adama at gun point, and explains that her betrayal is necessary since the Cylons are just defending themselves and value life more than humans do.

bsg-blood-and-chrome1Adama shoots Kelly and destroys the array. She leaves Kelly behind and drags Coker away from the array. Together, they wait outside in the snow for a rescue and Coker reveals that he has a wife waiting for him back at home. Coker then gives Adama the photo and apparently dies, and a Raptor arrives to pick them up. Back at the array, a semi-humanoid Cylon comes to Kelly and tells her that her “more enlightened” views do not excuse her from the Cylons hatred, and then snaps her neck.

Adama finds himself aboard the Galactica and is met by Commander Nash, who explains to him that they knew of Kelly’s planned betrayal and moved accordingly. While they were on Djerba and the Cylons were following Kelly’s transmission, the “ghost fleet” struck at a dozen Cylon installations and bases along the front. He gives Adama a pep talk about the need to sacrifice all things, even the facts, for the sake of the war effort, and Adama reluctantly accepts. He is transferred to a Viper squad and is reunited with Coker, who appears to be alive after all.

Adama joins the fleet and begins flying as a combat pilot. The war continues, with Colonial forces winning, and the series ends with Adama sealing a letter to his father.

bsg-blood-and-chrome_fight

Summary:
Like I said, there were some weaknesses in this final installment which I could not overlook. It still managed to deliver and ended on a high note, but the bumps along the way need to be acknowledged. First, there were some scripting errors which were pretty similar to stuff found in previous episodes and evidence of cut corners. This could be written off as due to budgets and the need for quick production, but what can you say? These things tend to stand out.

First off, there was the fact that Toth is written off and is not seen again after his quick death in episode 8. Much time was dedicated to the fact that this man was as a survivor who managed to stay alive in a hostile environment permeated by Cylons and their ugly creations. But as soon as the attack party shows up, he goes down mighty quick and is never heard from again. Feels weak.

And then, in the course of yet another argument of what they are to do, Coker and Kelly discuss the true nature of their mission, and it sounds like a broken record on repeat. Basically, she tells him that their target is an automated communications array not once, not twice, but thrice! All the while, he keeps demanding she tell him everything, but she just says the same thing each time:  “The target is an automated facility. The automated facility is six km from here. It’s automated so it’s undefended.” That’s basically what she says. Did the writer forget to proofread or something?

And they also confirm in these last episodes that the resort was a place where the Cylons were carrying out experiments on human anatomy that were clearly part of their ongoing efforts to merge the organic with the synthetic. So… why was Toth based there? If this was a Cylon facility, why was the lone survivor of the special ops team hiding out there and using it as his personal base? Wouldn’t that be considered bad tactics, since it was a guaranteed way of getting the Cylons to come find you?

And then came the scene where Kelly is confronted by the quasi-humanoid Cylon that is meant to call to mind Caprica Six and the other flesh and blood Cylons from the new series. It is still in production and only has flesh along one arm, the rest composed of an anthropomorphized shell and with a female voice. After finding her wounded, this sympathizer who tried to  help them, it simply tells her that “we don’t hate you any less just because you side with us”, and then proceeds to snap her neck.

Seriously, that was kind of dumb. This is a woman with operational intel of the Colonial Fleet who helped to design them. Why would they kill her, except out of some sense of blind, irrational hatred designed to prove that the Cylons really and truly were evil? That was my feeling in this scene, that it was set up to disprove everything she said about how the Cylons value life more than humans. And I couldn’t help but feel that a much better plot point would be to have them take Kelly’s and use her to further their experiments with creating biological machinery.

But of course, there were good parts as well and plenty of saving graces. For example, I was kind of wondering what happened to the rest of the ghost fleet after the Osiris jumped in to Djerba to do their attack run. Turns out, it was earmarked for a big offensive in other sectors. Made sense, and also provided some simple but effective resolution to the story and explained how the war effort got turned around. What’s more, the ending provided some hints that a continuation would be in the works, a series that follows how the Colonial Fleet went from fighting a losing war to beating the Cylons and sending them into exile.

And sure enough, the special effects, tone and tempo of the show never failed to impress. In the end, as with the rest of the series, you get the unmistakable sign of quality and attention to detail which anyone who loved the relaunched series or Caprica would come to expect. Yeah, at times you get that artificial environment or “that doesn’t look real” feeling, but sure as shit, the CGI has come a long way in the past few years and its shows here.

Well that about wraps up the BSG: Blood & Chrome series. As I said, it is expected to air as a televised movie this month on the Syfy network, and based on the popularity of that, could turn into the next BSG miniseries. Fingers crossed, because I think there’s plenty of potential to be had here! Not only are William Adama and Coker, as portrayed by Luke Pasqualino and Ben Cotton good characters, but I personally felt that Brian Markinson (who played Commander Nash) didn’t get enough screen time and would be an awesome character.

And of course, there’s plenty of story arc to be had. In addition to all the action and warfare, you could also show how Adama and Tigh first met, how Adama worked his way up the chain of command to become an officer. How he and Tigh fell on hard times, and delve into the motivations of the Cylons and how they came to meet the Final Five and were given resurrection technology way back when. Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of prequels, but I tell ya, there’s plenty of material here! Exploit, people, exploit!

BSG: Blood & Chrome (Ep. 5-8)

bsg-blood-and-chromeAnd welcome back! Here we have another installment in the BSG: Blood & Chrome series. Last time out, the show introduced its basic plot concept, most of the principal characters, and left the audience on the verge of a big firefight. This time around, with episode 4 through 8, said action takes off, people live, people die, and then things slow down just enough for some character development, introductions, and revelations.

Episode 5-8:
Blood_and_Chrome_BasestarThe scene opens with Adama, Coker and Kelly flying with their escort down to Djerba. Meanwhile, the Osiris opens fire on the Cylon base ship, but is outmatched. After a desperate fight, the Commander orders her crew to ram the Cylon base ship and detonate their compliment of nukes, destroying both vessels and killing all hands aboard her. The Wild Weasel meanwhile flies into Djerba’s atmosphere and is pursued by Raiders. They lose their escorts, but managed to take out the pursuers, only to then crashland on the surface.

Coker suggests they repair the Raptor and attempt to break atmo, but Kelly insists they continue with their mission. Adama agrees with her, and after another heated argument, they agree their best bet for getting home is to rendezvous with the spec ops team as ordered. But of course, when they reach the rendezvous inside a cave, all they find is bodies. The cave then suffers a cave in and the three of them find themselves in a hole, where a large snake-like creature begins attacking them. They are narrowly saved by the last member of the spec ops team – named Toth – who takes out the snake and pulls them back up to the surface.

blood-and-chrome-tothToth then explains that he was the team’s engineer, and that he was out doing reconnaissance when the snakes attacked and killed his team. As hybrid creatures, the snakes are a Cylon attempt at merging organic and synthetic tissue, and are used as defensive mechanisms. He tells them that they cannot complete their mission at the moment since a massive storm has rolled in, and convinces them to come with him back to his compound to wait it out. As it turns out, he has made a home inside an abandoned ski resort and has surrounded it with mines and trip wires.

Adama, Coker and Kelly make themselves at home inside the resort while Coker takes first watch. Adama and Kelly room together and she explains that her husband was not actually a war hero, but in fact was the victim of friendly fire. For the sake of the war effort, the public was told this lie in order to bolster morale and boost recruitment. Adama and Kelly have sex in front of their fireplace and Adama later wakes up to find Coker playing the piano in the lobby. He joins Coker, who quickly realizes he has slept with Kelly and chastises him for it. Their discussion is ended when one of the perimeter mines goes off and Cylons begin rushing the resort.
battlestar_galactica_blood_and_chromeAdama and Coker begin searching for Kelly while Toth chooses to make a stand in the lobby. He manages to take out two Cylons, but is quickly shot up, and two more make their way into the interior to find the others. One of them pursues Kelly into what appears to be a meat locker, where Kelly finds numerous bodies that appear to have been cut up or filled with cables and tubes.

Adama comes upon the second one in the corridor and loses his weapon after getting a shot off, but manages to find a metal pole and beats the thing to death. He and Coker then come upon the Cylon that has the Doctor cornered, and is attempting to read her dog tags, and shoot it dead. In the process, they notice the Cylon is making noises, which Kelly claims is “screaming”. They finish it off and go off to find Toth.

Summary:Unlike the first installment, I actually found a few things that I didn’t like about these episodes. For starters, the number of technical malfunctions that take place is beginning to get repetitive. It seems that in every fight since the series began, the good guys suffer a malfunction and have to do things manually. This happens twice in episode five, first with the Osiris’ nukes, and then with the Wild Weasel. And the result is pretty predictable: the Osiris has to sacrifice itself to take out the base star, and the Wild Weasel has to crash land on the surface.

Second, there was the fact that the Osiris is alone in orbit at the beginning of episode 5 before the battle, and then it doesn’t even bother to call in the other ships when they realize there’s a Basestar in the area. What happened to the rest of the “ghost fleet”? Was it being used for some other mission, or did they plan to call it in but failed to? Not made clear and I’m left wondering why all the other ships were reported lost if they weren’t even going to be used.

And then there was one continuity error I noticed in episode five during the battle scene. After losing control of their nuke launchers, the Commander orders her crew to set course of the Basestar so they can trigger them manually. The first time around, the helmsman complies, but the second time she says it, he objects because and says its suicide. This made no sense. It was obvious the first time she said it that it was a suicide run. You can’t launch them, so setting them off will mean you die. And the only reason to get closer to the Basestar was so they would die too. Why did he only realize this the second time around?

Also, the fact that the special ops team would be dead seemed pretty predictable as well. Somehow, it just seemed obvious that the mission would all come down to the three of them – Adama, Coker and Kelly. It was good that another character became involved, and Toth’s high-strung, PTSD antics proved to be a good addition to the mix. Basically, he was well-paired with Coker’s war-weary character and Adama’s gung-ho attitude. And while they are forced to rely on him, none of them are sure he’s even sane.

But then, he is killed off quite quickly, which kind of sucked. Shouldn’t this hardened survivor man know how to keep his head down during a fight? Instead, he is shot within seconds of the Cylons entering and is dead. And, I should mention, the “sex scene” between Adama and Kelly is never shown, we just know from the way the camera fades out and from him admitting it to Coker that it took place. Considering the obvious tension between the two from the beginning, I don’t see why we couldn’t even see them kiss.

And as a final flaw, Adama and Coker have a surprisingly easy time taking out the two Cylons. The Centurions who enter the resort looking to kill them were very well rendered and detailed, the kind of stuff you expect to see from the Terminator franchise. But then, Adama manages to kills one with a small pole while Coker kills the other with a few well-placed rounds from his gun. For all their intimidating appearance, their armor is basically shit!

And remember the original series, where a bunch of the new models board the Galactica? They explained that their regular weapons were useless and the only way to take one down was with explosive rounds. So why then do these two fall apart the second they are winged with an iron rod or a small arms bullet? I know, budgets and time constraints meant they had to do this part quick, but talk about unrealistic!

Okay, good points now. As usual, the special effects were pretty top notch. It may even be the result of the production value being so high that I began to get so critical this time around, as I forgot that it was a web series and not a full-blown cable show. The appearance of the Centurions and the attention to detail alone would be well worth the price of admission. The scene were the one had Dr. Kelly cornered and is surveying her was pretty awesome, the Cylon staring at her menacingly while tiny tentacle-like spikes on its mouth bristle. Naturally, some of this was designed to hint at their partially-organic nature.

And of course, there were some rather interesting hints embedded in the plot as to what the nature of mission. The hybrid snakes lent the impression that the Cylons could be working on organic-synthetic beings, which as we know from the original series was a technology they eventually perfected. The appearance of the mangled bodies in the meat locker was another hint, even though that was a little confusing*. And of course, the way the Cylon was screaming in pain after being shot and Dr. Kelly claims that “they feel pain now”. And of course this all helped to preview how the Cylons evolved from the “toasters” of the first war to the hybrid, organic machines they were in the second.

*Wasn’t the resort Toth’s hideout? What were a bunch of Cylon experiments doing in there? Had they been using it before he showed up and he didn’t even know? Or did he realize the Cylons were once there and figured he could hide there and rig it in case they chose to come back? Not explained…

All in all, the show has been progressing quite nicely, albeit with a few bumps along the way, and I am looking forward to the dramatic conclusion! Stay tuned!

Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome

bsg-blood-and-chromeHey there, BSG fans! If you’re like me, then you’ve been in the dark until very recently about the new web series Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome. This show, which began back in November, only came to my attention about a week ago, and since then I’ve been scrambling to get my hands on all the episodes.

So for those who don’t know about, do know but haven’t had the chance to see it, or are just getting into it, I hope this will all prove of interest to you. Over the next few days, I plan to watch all ten episodes and review them in three separate parts (1-4, 5-8, and 9/10). Come join me and hopefully this new series will fill the void that BSG and the short-lived Caprica have left in their wake…

Background:
Set in the tenth year of the First Cylon War, the show follows the exploits of the young William Adama as he joins the Colonial Fleet and begins participating in the twenty year war to rid humanity of the machines. The series stars Luke Pasqualino as a young William Adama and was created by Michael Taylor and David Eick.

Distribution of Blood & Chrome began as a 10-episode online series in conjunction with Machinima.com on November 9, 2012, but a televised movie is slated to air in February 2013 on Syfy. Depending on the success of that, we might just see a new prequel series in the works! Never been a fan of prequels, but based on the strength of the webepisodes thus far, I see some serious potential!

Episodes 1-4:
battlestar-galactica-blood-and-chromeThe story opens with Bill Adama writing to his father, explain why he has enlisted in the war. This gives us a quick precis of how the Cylons revolted against humanity for what appear to be unknown reasons, and how the war to bring them to heel has been going on for some time and at the expense of many lives. We then cut to a firefight in progress where Adama is engaged with two Cylon Raiders and uses some sweet and unorthodox moves to take them down. But of course, it’s all a simulation.

We then see Adama arriving on a shuttle aboard the Galactica for the first time, where he distinguishes himself amongst his peers as a cocky SOB who can’t wait to get into combat. As a result, he is assigned to a Raptor named Wild Weasel where he meets his surly and jaded co-pilot, Coker Fasjovik.

blood-and-chrome-battlestar-galactica-imgUnlike Adama, he is interested in getting out after his second mandatory term is done and has no patience for hotshots. Neither, it seems, does Commander Nash – Galactica’s CO – who assigned him to make a supply run for their first mission. This mission will take them four days and will completely avoid the enemy, it is hoped.

In the following episode, Adama and Coker find that their cargo isn’t supplies but a software engineer named Dr. Beka Kelly. Adama had already met her in the showers, and the chemistry was clear. However, his feeling soon cool when he realized that she used to work for Graystone Industries, the same company that produced the Cylons in the first place. And as one of the people who helped upgrade their CPU’s, she also had a hand in giving them their intelligence.

blood-and-chrome-4They also learn that their true mission, which Kelly informs of them once they are underway, is to rendezvous with the Battlestar Acheron near the front lines, and to maintain radio silence all the way. What began as a milk run quickly turns into a combat mission! However, when they arrive, they find the Acheron destroyed, the result of an ambush.

Three Cylon Raiders then close on them and things get real hairy, real fast! Luckily, their small compliment of weapons and Adama’s crazy flying skills manage to save their asses. Unfortunately, Kelly tells them they cannot return to Galactica and orders them to send a transmission on an open frequency.

blood-and-chrome-fleetIn response, they are given a set of coordinates which will take them into Cylon space. After a heated argument, Adama and Kelly convince Coker to oblige them and they set course. En route, Kelly reveals to Adama that was once married to Ezra Barzel, a war hero who inspired many young people to join the academy. When they reach the coordinates, they find a series of Colonial “ghost ships” – i.e. ships that were reported lost – hiding in a field of asteroids.

Once aboard the command ship, an Orion-class Battlestar named Osiris, Dr. Kelly meets with the commander and they are all briefed on their mission. The fleet is inbound for Djerba, a planet deep within Cylon territory where Dr. Kelly is to be delivered for some special mission. Adama volunteers to fly the doctor in and she insists that they be allowed to say with her since they’ve come this far together. When they reach the planet, a Cylon base star appears unexpectedly. Rather than abort, the Commander orders a full launch and tells Adama and their escorts to make for the surface…

Summary:
Well, as far as first and second impression go, I was pretty impressed. It was nice to see a new that had the old Battlestar feel. The tone, direction, and visuals are all quite superb, establishing a dark and gritty tone to the story which BSG is famous for. The casting is also quite excellent, and its nice to see several familiar faces in there. Aside from Luke Pasqualino, just about every member of the cast was in BSG or Caprica, and David Eik did his usual thing and makes an appearance as a supporting character.

The rest were all Vancouver-based actors that I recognized from other shows. Always nice to see fellow Canucks at work! And the CGI and music, which comes from the same people involved in the shows predecessors, was nothing short of awesome. In fact, despite it being a web series, Blood and Chrome even improved upon the effects of the original show.

But of course, what matters most here (at least to me) is the plot. Given that this is a limited concept show which comes in 12 minute packets, there’s little time devoted to build-up and character development. Mainly, we are given a premise, some background, and then thrown into the thick of things. However, this is to be expected from a web series, where the format just doesn’t allow for much pacing or exposition. And really, who cares when you got a story like this?

Although it”s still taking shape at this point, the overall plot seems pretty clear. After ten years of protracted conflict, the war against the Cylons is not going so well. The mission involving this “ghost fleet” is clearly a last-ditch effort to win the war outright, and just about everything hinges on its successful completion. Of course, there are going to be several twists and turns along the way, and surely some more deep background stuff that will answer some key questions. Like why do the Cylons hate humanity so much? Why did they turn in the first place? And how do events from the First Cylon War play into the attack which took place some thirty years later.

Eager to find out where things go from here! Stay tuned for web episodes four through eight, coming up next!

The Post-Apocalypse in Sci-Fi (Part II)

Akira:
This futuristic tale takes place in Neo-Tokyo, an ultra-modern city that was built on the ruins of the old after an incident touched off World War III. This is a major them in the movie Akira and manga it was adapted from. Throughout the entire story, there is a pervasive sense of shock and horror over the destruction of the old city, and a sense of dread that it might happen again very soon…

Enter into this story the characters of Kaneda and Tetsuo, two orphan boys who belong to a biker gang that is constantly engaged in battles with other gangs for control of the streets. Being children of the system after their parents died in the war, all they really have is each other and the other members of their biker gang. These surrogate families and their ongoing feuds provide a sense of community and an outlet for their pent-up energies, living in a world characterized by boredom and angst and haunted by a past filled with horror.

In addition, you have Colonel Shikishima, a man who witnessed WWIII and has dedicated himself to the rebuilding and ensuring that it never happens again. In addition to being a main character, he is representative of the generational gap in the story. As a stern, disciplined military man who was shaped by apocalyptic events, he is appalled by the sense 0f self-indulgence which he feels has set in with the younger generation.

And the apocalyptic nature of the story is something which is demonstrated over and over through intense scenes and nightmarish visions. In short, it’s an awesome take on the post-apocalyptic scenario, which could only come from firsthand experience.

Alas, Babylon:
This 1959 novel by Pat Frank is one of the first post-apocalyptic stories of the nuclear age and has remained a science fiction ever since. Taking place in small town in Central Florida, Fort Repose, the story opens with a veteran-turned-lawyer named Randy Bragg who gets a cryptic telegram from his brother who works for the Strategic Air Command. He informs his brother that he will be sending his wife and kids to stay with his Randy, and ends it with “Alas Babylon”, a biblical reference which his brother uses as a euphemism ford disaster.

In time, he learns that the bad news concerns a potential Soviet attack, which inevitably takes place after much escalation. After bringing his sister-in-law and her kids to their home, they are all awoken in the night to the sounds of Miami being bombed. They residents awake to witness a mushroom cloud forming over Tampa shortly thereafter, and the events which characterize the following 24 hours they come to name “The Day” – i.e. a one day war.

The story delves into the effects of “The Day”, which are felt differently by people in Fort Repose. Tourists are trapped in their hotels, convicts escape from jails and prisons, the local retirement homes are filled with panicked people, and just about everyone tries to withdraw their money from the local bank and buy up supplies. The only reliable means of news comes through short wave radio.

As chaos begin to set in, Randy begins to organize neighbors to provide housing, food, and water for themselves and organizes the community to defense itself against highwaymen. As an active Army Reserve officer, Randy learns that he has the legal right to exercise martial law, and an order comes in over the short wave from the acting Chief Executive (who is governing from a bunker in Colorado) for any surviving officers to form local militias.

In the end, military helicopters arrive to evacuate people, but are refused as the locals tell them that they want to stay in the new home they have built. They learn the war is over, that the USA prevailed, and that country is now being run from Denver. However, the victory came at a tremendous cost, Millions are dead, entire stretches of the country are irradiated and won’t be habitable for a thousand years, and the US is now a third-rate power that is dependent on third world countries for aid. Faced with this prospect, the people of Fort Repose settle in and decide to face the “thousand year” night that is coming.

This book not only introduced readers to the likely prospect of what would happen in the event of WWIII, it also presented a likely scenario of how that was going to happen. While it the Soviets were apparently planning an attack in the first place, it was an accident that touched everything off. And in the end, how people went about rebuilding and trying to restore some semblance of normalcy was quite classic. In addition to inspiring numerous generations of nuclear holocaust fiction, numerous apocalyptic franchises owe an allegiance to him, not the least of which is the re-imagined series of Battlestar Galactica.

The City of Ember:
This post-apocalyptic story, written by Jeanne DuPrau in 2003, takes place in an underground city named Ember. After many years of continuous habitation, the city is slowly running out of power and supplies. Similar to in tone and structure to Suzanne Martel’s 1963 story The City Under Ground, this city was apparently built to ensure that humanity had a place to live and wait out the effects of nuclear war.

The story begins when a two protagonists, Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow, receive a message which is apparently left by “the Builders” containing clues that could lead them back to the outside world. This message was kept in a box that was passed down from mayor to mayor, with instructions that it be opened after two hundred years. Until recently, the box had been lost, but as soon as Mayfleet and Harrow find it, the race is on to decipher it and find a way to the surface.

In the end, the children follow the note’s instructions through a series of caves that lead them towards the surface. When they see the city from above, they realize that they are underground, something which they never knew before. This scene, which calls to mind Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, provides the story’s big revelation. The story then ends on a cliffhanger note with the girls trying to alert the other inhabitants of what they’ve found.

The Matrix:
The setting and back story of the Matrix revolve around two fundamental facts: One, that a terrible war between humanity and AI’s took place in the future; and two, that what is left of humanity lives underground due to the devastation wrought on the planet’s surface. Enter into this the concept of the Matrix, a simulated reality where humans are kept docile by being fed the lie that they live in the pre-millenial world, at a time when human’s were still in charge.

But of course, not all human beings are able to accept the program and experience a sort of existential crisis as a result. When Mr. Anderson, hacker alias Neo, is presented with the answers he so desperately seeks, he is horrified to learn the terrible truth. Not only was it the year significantly later than he thought, but the world as he knows it was destroyed long ago. All major cities reduced to rubble, the sky itself has been “scorched”, and the surface rendered a cold, uninhabitable shadow of its former self.

This is a crucial element of the Matrix, which is not just a sci-fi story set in a post-apocalyptic world, but a metaphor for truth and “false consciousness”. With reality so displeasing and harsh, there are many who would prefer the warm comfort of a simulated world, which just happens to be a recreation of happier, stabler times. The metaphor is not just thick, but multi-layered!

It is for this reason that the majority of human beings accept the programming of the Matrix, even if they are only aware of this acceptance on an unconscious level. It is also the reason why those who choose to opt out of it, due to an innate feeling that their reality isn’t real, is a choice which must be made many times over. As Cypher himself demonstrated in the first movie, not everyone has the stomach for the real world, and will willingly betray their comrades for a chance to be put back inside. Others however, find hope in the prophecy of “The One”, the person who’s arrival will herald the end of the war and peace for humanity at last… or so it seems!

The Omega Man:
Released in 1971 and starring (once again) Charlton Heston, this movie post-apocalyptic film is a classic amongst film buffs. Based on the 1954 novel, I Am Legend, this story has gone through many adaptations over the years and has been spoofed and imitated endlessly. Though the plot was updated for the most recent version (2007, starring Wil Smith), much of the elements – a post-apocalyptic world, a lone human survivor, fighting against mutants – have remained the same.

Essentially, the plot takes place in a world that has been devastated after a terrible plague was unleashed and wreaked havoc on the world. In the film versions, this involved biological warfare between the Soviet Union and China – or a mutated cure for cancer – but was only hinted at in the book. In any case, the story revolves around a man named Robert Neville, a doctor who seems to be the last man on Earth, hence the term “Omega Man”.

Though technically not the last living creature, Neville appears to be the last human being who has not succumbed to the most dreaded aspect of the plague – transformation into a flesh-eating mutant. Whereas most of humanity died after exposure, a small minority was converted, leaving an even smaller minority of infected to be hunted as prey. Living in a fortified apartment with an arsenal, Neville spends his days patrolling the abandoned city and killing members of “The Family” – the albino mutants who are hunting him.

At the same time, Neville is dedicated to finding other survivors who have not turned. Eventually, he is saved by one such group of people, but discovers that they are not immune as he is. He decides to treat others using his own blood as a serum, while at the same time escaping to the wilderness to start a new life while leaving the mutants to die in the city. Ultimately, Neville is forced to sacrifice himself to stop the Family from overtaking the rest of them, but the survivors make it out, carrying with them a vial of his blood.

Though significantly different from the original novel, all versions of the story deal with a world in which all of humanity has been wiped out by a biological agent, not nuclear war or a natural disaster.

The Road:
This 2006 novel by Cormac McCarthy, which was adapted into a 2009 movie of the same name, takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a father and son wander the landscape together. Though it is not specified what caused the destruction they are forced to witness and endure, what is clear is the effect it had on the survivors. Most people have given up hope in the ashen landscape, while others struggle to stay alive and some even turn to cannibalism to survive.

The plot involves an unnamed father and son who are venturing south towards the coast because they have realized that they will not survive the winter where they lived. Though the father is dying and they have barely any possessions to speak of, and the land in between is filled with horrors, the two keep going, fending off roving bands of cannibals and raiders and maintaining hope that the coast will be their deliverance.

All along, is father assures his son that they are the “good guys” who are “carrying the fire” through a dark terrible land. In the end, they find no refuge when they reach the sea and are forced to venture back inland, but the father finally succumbs to his illness and dies. He tells his son to maintain hope and to speak to him in his mind after he is gone, and the boy holds a vigil for days over his father’s body when he finally passes on.

With no idea what to do or where to go, he is eventually found by another family who claim to have been tracking them. The father of the group assures him he is one of the “good guys” and asks the son to join them. With no other options available to him, he agrees to join them and they set off together to find a new home.

Inspired by McCarthy’s own relationship with his son, and a great deal of speculation about what the apocalypse would look like, this story is a very personal take on the end civilization and the struggle to survive. Whereas a great deal of the survivors have resorted to unspeakable acts in order to stay alive, McCarthy redeems humanity by showing the lengths to which regular people will go to protect their families and ensure that good people live on when all the world goes to hell.

The Scarlet Plague:
Here we have a post-apocalyptic classic that predates the nuclear age. Written by Jack London and published in 1912, this story was the original “last man on Earth” scenario which inspired such works as I Am Legend and many others. In addition to being based on the idea of a plague wiping out nearly all of humanity, the stories resolution involves the main character imparting his knowledge to others to ensure that something survives when he is gone.

The story is set in San Francisco in the year 2073, sixty-years after a terrible epidemic, known as the Red Death,has depopulated the planet. Enter into this the story’s protagonist, a man named James Howard Smith, a survivors from the pre-plague era. As an aging man living in the San Francisco area, he is faced with the unpleasant question of what will happen when he dies. As one of the few people who is old enough to remember the pre-plague days, he possesses rare knowledge which will be lost.

Through Howard’s narrative, we learn how the plague spread throughout the world and of the struggles of the handful of survivors it left in its wake. This is apparently being told to his grandchildren, who he has decided to teach everything he knows to ensure that his knowledge will not be lost.

Much like the novels it helped inspire, the Scarlet Plague’s real value lies in its personal nature, relating how the struggle to survive goes beyond the mere physical. In the end, it is when people are facing death that what is most important in life is realized and affirmed. Or to put it is as Commander Adama did, “It’s not enough to survive. One must be worthy of survival.” Sorry! My mind keeps going back to BSG with all this post-apocalyptic talk. More on that one later…

The Terminator:
Central to the story of the Terminator franchise is “Judgement Day”, the day when humanity was nearly destroyed in a nuclear holocaust that was triggered by the sentient machine known as “Skynet”. This serves as the backdrop to the story, along with the ensuing war between the human resistance and the machines its spawned.

Though the majority of the story takes place in modern-day Los Angeles, a great deal of attention is dedicated to the war in the future and what life is like for those who survived Judgement Day. Kyle Reese described his life in the following way: “There was a nuclear war… There were survivors. Here, there. Nobody even knew who started it. It was the machines… I grew up after. In the ruins… starving… hiding from [Hunter-Killers]. Patrol machines built in automated factories. Most of us were rounded up, put in camps for orderly disposal. ”

Eventually, these camps were liberated by John Conner, the leader of the Resistance. After training and equipping the survivors, effectively turning them into a fighting force, Conner led them in a protracted war against the machines. For the most part, the resistance lived and operated out of underground facilities and went out at night to fight HK’s and Terminator’s, guerrilla-style. Survivors and refugees were gathered in these facilities, and their defenders were forced to constantly be on guard against infiltrators. Eventually, John Conner organized all his fighters into a massive offensive force and led them against the Skynet’s central HQ, destroying it and winning the war for humanity.

It was for this exact reason that the machines built their time machine and began sending Terminators back into the past. Since they could not defeat Resistance in the present, they reasoned that eliminating their commander before he was even born was their only recourse. This provides the set up for the entire franchise, with both the machines and the Resistance sending people back in time; the former to kill him and the latter to protect him and ensure that the war could be prevented.

The Walking Dead:
Fans of this franchise will know instantly why I’ve chosen to include it on this list. Not only is it a gritty, realistic take on the zombie apocalypse, but it also manages to capture the essence of survival and the struggle to stay human when everything around you has fallen. Part of what makes this show so bang on is the fact that the character’s personal struggles go well beyond the need to stay alive.

In addition to finding food, ammo, and a place to set down, there’s also the constant battle to keep hope alive. This takes them at first to the CDC, where the expect to find answers, a cure, and some protection. But of course, all they find is a single scientist who can explain how the zombie illness works, but has no idea how to cure it.

And of course, the familiar and realistic themes of loss, suicide, procreation, betrayal, and brutalization play a central role to the development of the story. Everyone who has survived the zombie apocalypse has lost people near and dear to their heart. As a result, many people have a hard time going on, some of whom commit or actively contemplate suicide. Rick and Sarah, the show’s main protagonists, also face a tough choice when they realize she is pregnant. Essentially, they’re not sure it would a good idea to bring a baby into this post-apocalyptic world. Much like the decision to carry on, it often seems that embracing death would be a far more merciful decision.

Amongst the other main characters, there is also the extremely difficult choice between survival at all costs and maintaining one’s humanity. Whereas Shane seems to favor survival, and becomes a hardened, amoral man who will kill anyone who gets in his way, the elderly Dale is committed to not being pulled down into a world of misery and letting it change him. With everyone else, the decision is the same, with people falling to one side or the other and divisions setting in.