Armageddon at the Millennial Dawn

  • Author(s): Conrad Ostwalt
  • When: 2000-04
  • Where: Journal of Religion & Film
  • The new year has come and gone and presents a time for reflection on popular culture's fascination with eschatology and apocalypticism. In the few years leading up to the year 2000, we witnessed a growing interest in end-of-the-world scenarios as they were portrayed in the movies and other forms of popular entertainment. Looking back but a short while, our imaginations were stimulated by such movies as 12 Monkeys, the critically abused Waterworld, the comedic Independence Day, and the visionary Contact. These promising movies suggested the last couple of years of the millennium would see a crop of creative movies that would be based on the eschatological drama. Movies such as Deep Impact and Armageddon promised to explore the idea of the end of existence by drawing on a culture's rich tradition of symbolic imagery associated with Jewish and Christian apocalyptic upheaval, but they were generally perceived to lack depth and originality. The release of the controversial and dazzling The Matrix added a new twist to the various conceptions of the end of civilization. As one looks back at some of these films, a few general characteristics stand out that frame a contemporary and popular millennial imagination as it has been communicated through popular cinema. I will use this paper to explore such themes in four of these films (Contact, Deep Impact, Armageddon, and The Matrix) and to discuss what insight this brings to contemporary cultural studies.

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