Judge Kent Dixon prefers the Dr. Seuss predictions of Apocalypse Who.
Revealing the end of the world.
Whether we're on a collision course for extinction or not, trust the Discovery Channel to wrap a wide range of theories of how we might buy it into one light-hearted package with Apocalypse How. As time rolls onward, we're creeping more closely towards December 21, 2012, the date prophesied by the Mayan calendar as the end of the world. Depending on which interpretation, if any, you ascribe to, we're really open to any number of spectacular climactic curtain calls; a handful of which could squash us like bugs with little, if any, notice. Director Roland Emmerich seems to think we may build a futuristic fleet of giant arks that will carry us to safety as the polar ice caps melt and the Earth is largely submerged by water. Or if you feel the Mayans have a handle on it, the planets will all align and something really, really bad will happen.
Viewers are greeted with the following disclaimer when they pop the disc into their player: "The following program contains scenarios that describe the potential for the end of the world. This material may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised." Whether Discovery expected a rash of lawsuits and petitions from angry parents in the wake of airing this documentary or they simply wanted to ramp up the apprehension factor, who knows? Will our untimely demise come at the hands of Mother Nature, an unseen force or due to our own stupidity and carelessness? To their credit, the producers explore several scenarios, managing to squeeze in a whole lot more than just Mayan predictions into the list of ways mankind might finally buy the farm.
• Yellowstone National Park—Underneath all that beautiful scenery lies a super volcano that could erupt any time and without warning. Steam, volcanic ash and heat from the enormous eruption would devastate the entire globe as we experience a volcanic winter.
• Nuclear weapons—Many of the world's nuclear weapons are currently unaccounted for and remain as a lasting legacy of the Cold War. If just a few of these weapons were launched, as they could be with current tensions between India and Pakistan, it could result in catastrophic global consequences.
• Germs and biological warfare—With significant population density in many cities and global transportation virtually eliminating boundaries to transmission, a biological agent or antibiotic-resistant virus could spread around the world in virtually no time, potentially claiming many victims. It's worth noting that during this segment, one scientist comes dangerously close to offering free advice to psychos who just might act on his guidelines for using biological weapons to achieve the most effective and devastating result.
• Alien invasion—Umm…yeah. We'll just leave that one alone.
• Apophis—Predicted to come dangerously close to Earth in 2029, Apophis is a 450 meter-long asteroid which, if it impacted the Earth, could obliterate an entire continent. Fortunately, scientists are well aware of the risks and have some time to hopefully come up with a way to avoid an interplanetary risk.
• Global warming—A global temperature increase of just one to six degrees would cause the polar icecaps to melt, sea levels to rise, severe storms and hurricanes to increase, deserts to expand and the Earth in general to become a whole lot less pleasant to live on.
• Intelligent machines—Technology is advancing at an almost incomprehensible rate as machines take on more and more tasks that were previously completed by humans. What happens if artificial intelligence gets away on us and our own technology ultimately takes over the planet? (Wow! I almost managed to write that with a straight face.)
• Recreating the Big Bang—In an effort to recreate the conditions that formed matter and the universe as we know it, scientists might inadvertently create black holes that would consume the Earth.
• Cosmic forces—A massive release of radiation from the sun, a black hole or gamma radiation could spell lights out for Earth as quickly as you can say "The Clapper."
• A new Ice Age—Earth is currently in what is known as an inter-glacial period and the pendulum will eventually swing back to a deep freeze that would make human survival next to impossible.
In typical documentary fashion, the production includes a mix of on-screen commentary by scientists and other experts, standard footage and computer-generated disaster simulations. With a handful of other narration credits to his name, Aaron May lends suitable foreboding and drama to the subject matter, as long as you can forgive the often corny writing. Apocalypse How was nominated for an Outstanding Individual Achievement In A Craft: Graphic Design and Art Direction award at the 30th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards in 2009, definitely giving a nod to the visual quality of the content. The audio mix is above average here as well; blending narration, score, effects and on-screen expert commentaries effectively.
Despite being somewhat sensationalized, Apocalypse How is an engaging feature that delivers many possible world-ending scenarios with a mixture of science and popcorn. There's enough science here to create a credible documentary and enough speculation and imagination to keep your attention for 90 minutes.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Discovery Channel
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