Let’s Talk Apocalypse: The Road

by Irma Arkus

I understand that the economy is bad, and as per usual, when that happens we turn our attention to the post-apocalyptic visions of future, or even worse, corporately-owned future in which we feel entirely powerless to resist our pinstriped overlords. And during the last few years, we’ve seen some real movement on the post-apocalyptic stage in terms of entertainment.

On TV, we’ve watched Lost, a group huddling together, fighting unknown people and mysteries after a horrific plane accident. Then we watched (correction, some of us did) Jeremiah, travelling across the lands wiped by a deadly plague, and Jericho, a town surviving in a land after a massive nuclear war across 30 American cities.

On the silver screen we’ve hungrily watched Will Smith battle transformed remnants of humanity in I Am Legend, and much more importantly, we experienced Children of Men, a masterful depiction of post-apocalyptic society facing loss of all hope.

But now awaits us something equally delightful, and I hope, as equally important. Penned by Cormac McCarthy in 2006, The Road is meant to engage us in another human survival story. The feature film by the same title has an enviable roster of actors, including Viggo Mortensen, Guy Pearce, Molly Parker, Robert Duvall, Charlize Theron, and Garret Dillahunt. Yes, that’s 2 for Deadwood, but I digress.

The Road is a simple story that packs a punch. A father (Viggo Mortensen) and a son are facing a harsh landscape in a post-apocalyptic future. Nature packs a punch, even when cities are intact. Many lost hikers and misguided adventurers are lost on annual basis, because surviving tends to be more difficult than most suspect.

In this world though, nature is corrupted by an event that covers the sun with its thickened ash cloud covers, so much so that breathing is often difficult, and even plants have given way to death rather than life. The world that the father and the son are attempting to survive in bears the remnants of human depravity. The only remaning social graces are cannibalism and willingness to commit acts of gruesome violence.

The father’s only goal is to ensure the survival of his child, and with that, perhaps gain a vision of a more hopeful future. They traverse great distances, going south.

McCarthy is a master of the written word. The last film production that was based on one of his novels was the masterful No Country For Old Men. The Road received that many more positive critical responses.

It is also an important work from an environmental perspective. While many tout climate change as a great force for building more tourist locals closer to polar bears and penguins, most scientists are concerned with disturbances to climate patterns that may result in death of countless species of animals and plants, ultimately destroying not only their habitat, but our own as well. The Road succinctly cuts through our ignoble ignorance and presents us with the worst case scenario in harsh, realistic terms. And the end result is simply Horrifying Hopelesness.