Being the Last Man on the Earth would suckPosted on February 27th, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann
Fox is set to start airing the simply titled Last Man on Earth series this Sunday (3/1). Last Man on Earth stars Will Forte as the titular last man on the planet who gets to eats whatever he wants, loots fine art and searches for anyone else left alive.
Which got me thinking, while Last Man on Earth looks to take a serious/goofy take at being alone what would it really be like to be the last person on the planet?
We’re never really more than a phone call away from help. One call to 911 from just about anywhere in the US and the emergency services will come running. Even people on the sides of mountains trapped there after avalanches have been able to call 911 and be rescued soon afterwards.
But imagine if that was gone, that we were really and truly on our own and the last person on the Earth. There’d be no one to help us if we needed it and even worse resources that we depend on to live would slowly be depleted/perish leaving us to fend for ourselves.
Yet these ideas are very rarely used in all the various last person on the planet stories that have been popular the last half century.
Those stories take place in a mostly bloodless environment, where our male hero, and the last man is almost always a man, must fight against the elements/some sort of ghouls to survive. Where are the other 6.99 billion bodies? There NEVER around or if they are around they’re in the form of some zombie/monster.
But in reality the last man would have much more to contend with than being alone/monsters.
First all the things we take for granted like electricity and heat and food water and medicine would all eventually drain away. If there’s no one throwing switches at the electrical plant there’d be no more electricity. And while a smart person would be able to live off of whatever food stores were left after the end, fresh food would spoil almost immediately but canned food would last years and years, eventually everything left over after the end would be suspect since everything, even the stuff in cans, spoils. And eating some spoiled food can kill.
Since water only requires gravity to flow from the taps and most municipal supplies are designed to refresh a city full of people rather than just one person that would last much longer than the food. But eventually it too be it by a burst water main from a cold winter or a clogged pipe somewhere in the line and the supply would run out.
With no more supermarkets or water coming out the taps the last man would have to revert to the skills our pioneer ancestors had in growing their own food, hunting animals and digging wells. Only there’d be no one around to teach the last man things like how to stalk a deer and everything would have to be learned on the fly.
And one bad harvest could lead to starvation.
All of which is terrible, but is nothing when compared to what would happen if even a minor medical crisis would arise. Things today that result in taking a trip to the ER to get a shot to prevent tetanus, taking of a few pills to clear up an infection or outpatient surgery to remove an inflamed appendix would result in death to the last man. Sure, all the medicines would probably still be around after the end but I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t know what to take if I cut my finger on a rusty fence to keep tetanus at bay without consulting Google, would you?
Which is all why most last man stories take place pretty near the end of the rest of us. I Am Legend takes place a few years after the end where nature has just started to take back over while the New Zealand movie Quiet Earth starts moments after the rest of humanity sans one person has vanished. In these stories survival is still interesting, Neville’s driving a boss Mustang in I Am Legend and Zac in Quiet Earth spends time shotgunning his town when survival has yet to become desperate.
Which is how all of these last man stories would end. You can’t be on your own forever. Eventually some vital supply would run out, a sickness would take hold that’s more serious than an amateur could treat or old age would finally catch up with the hero leading to his demise. There’s no limit to the ways that our hero might meet his end.
That’s how all of the last man stories would have to end. Come to think about it, that’s how the story will probably end for the rest of us too.
The Last AmericanPosted on February 25th, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann
With Fox set to debut their new Last Man on Earth TV series this Sunday (3/1) I wanted to look back at another last man on the Earth story that’s all but forgotten today; The Last American (1990).
This four issue comic series written by Alan Grant and John Wagner with art by Michael McMahon follows Ulysses S. Pilgrim, a US soldier placed into cryogenic hibernation on the eve of a third world war. He’s ordered to spend 20 years asleep, awaken and then venture out to the US where he’ll bring together whoever’s left and reform the United States of America.
Except that when he’s awakened by three robotic helpers and they venture outside two decades after the last bomb fell, 1999 in this story, they emerge to find, well…nothing. It’s as if someone literally burned down everything on the planet from sea to shining sea. The sky is full of dust and is a noxious red while everything else is burned to a blackened crisp.
The highways are full of blasted cars and there are skeletons everywhere of those killed in the war or whom soon died afterwards. As the story progresses, Pilgrim begins to lose his mind and starts seeing living manifestations of things like George Washington and the turtle from the Duck and Cover civil defense movies from the 1950s.
That is until the group receives a mysterious message from a bunker located nearby.
Where The Last American is different from every single last man on the Earth story that’s come before, or at least all the ones I’m aware of, is that Pilgrim really is the last America, if not the last person on the planet. He never finds anyone else and other than his three robot helpers and his imagination never gets to talk with another living soul.
In The Last American there are no gangs of motorheads blasting down freeways battling over gasoline, heroes hold up in fortresses staking vampires or groups of people who mysteriously survived the end. There is only Pilgrim.
I discovered The Last American when it was originally published and it quickly became on of my favorite comic stories – I own two sets of the series. But over the last 26 years The Last American has been all but relegated to the back bins of pop culture history. Part of this is because soon after the publication of the comic the threat of world nuclear annihilation by the US and USSR quickly diminished. While that threat still exists today it’s nothing what it was like in the 1980s when the series was written and without that threat looming overhead The Last American turns from a threatening “what if” to a relatively benign fictional footnote.
Also, I’m not exaggerating when I say that The Last American is one of the most depressing comic series I’ve ever read. Not only are there no other living people in the series other than Pilgrim there isn’t even much of anything that’s living period. Other than a few insects and a deformed eagle Pilgrim spots in the story there’s not much left alive after the apocalypse of The Last American.
Worse still, the last issue in the series is told from the diary of a woman stuck in a bunker after the war. She’s there as things go from bad, no power, to worse, cannibalism, as her group delves deeper and deeper into the bunker complex looking for escape
Even so the series does end on a bit of hope, even if it’s at the tiniest scale from a flame of a Zippo lighter.
The Last American might be depressing but it’s also a great story. A collected edition of The Last American is available online via ComiXology and back issues of the series are still available at comic stores and eBay.
A Most Wanted Man – a new way to watch moviesPosted on February 20th, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann
Recently, I bought and watched the movie A Most Wanted Man. As I’m oft to do I began formulating my opinion on the movie as the ending approached.
“It’s good flick, but a bit slow,” I thought.
I think most movies need to generate a certain velocity with the stories they’re telling. And while A Most Wanted Man told a good story there was no “velocity” to push the story forward through to the ending. Then I took a step back and thought again, “If this were the first episode of a TV series I’d have thought it was brilliant, would be telling all my friends about it and wouldn’t be able to wait for the next episode.”
How messed up is that?
Ultimately, A Most Wanted Man is probably going to be remembered as the last starring performance by actor Philip Seymour Hoffman who died before the release of the film. Based on a book by grand spy novelist John le Carré (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), A Most Wanted Man takes place in Germany where a secret division of government spooks lead by Günther Bachmann (Hoffman) is following a Russian who’s inherited millions of dollars and the Germans suspect he might donate that money to terrorist causes. Much of the film deals with Bachmann following the money while battling elements of his own government who wants to arrest and question the Russian now lest he disappear and even the CIA who operate with their own motives in mind.
A Most Wanted Man is kind’a like the spy version of the TV series The Wire, and until I realized that connection I thought it was a much lesser film that it really was. In fact, coming to this realization might just make me question a lot of assumptions about movies I’ve been making since, well, forever.
Not much of A Most Wanted Man is action. It’s a lot of Bachmann’s group following the Russian and trying to figure out what he and his German lawyer Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) are really up to. And as the film progresses and people like Richter find themselves caught up in something they have no real part in, the question becomes how far are governments allowed to go to keep the public safe if it means steamrolling its citizens?
When it comes to movies I’ve always thought that they were different than TV series. TV series generally have a lot more story and a lot less action than with films. That’s partly because TV shows are usually telling stories over many years while movies are mostly self contained stories told over a few hours. And movies generally have bigger budgets than TV series so I suppose that too lead to me thinking that movies should be different, somehow “bigger” than TV shows.
But after watching A Most Wanted Man and realizing that if it were a TV show I’d think it was brilliant but since it was a movie it was only so-so made me realize that I need to start thinking about the two generas the same way.
Some movies do have more money to spend than TV shows meaning that they can do things with spectacle that TV shows usually cannot do on their budgets. But on the same hand, does that matter? Is A Most Wanted Man any less of a work since it has more in common with a great TV series than a cruddy movie that just happens to look great? I think not.
All this does make me wonder about all the movies I’ve written off for being slow and boring over the years, if they were really telling good stories, but it was just me and my bias over what I thought movies should be like that was really getting in the way of me enjoying them? From now on I’ll have to watch movies with a different eye than in the past.
Pitch Black was released 15 years ago todayPosted on February 18th, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann
I adore this movie and have been writing about it on and off ever since.
From 2000: Superbowl trailers
From 2014: The Riddick Pitch Black trilogy, or, two out of three ain’t bad
Quotes of Note – The Americans: “Open House”Posted on February 12th, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann
Stan Beeman: “People love hearing how right they are.”
Gabriel: “Not everything is worth the risk.”
Gabriel: “There is always a choice.”
Quotes of note – The Americans: BaggagePosted on February 6th, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann
Phillip Jennings: “And that is exactly why I do not want Paige ever entering into this. I don’t want her putting people into a suitcase and I don’t want her ending up in a suitcase.”
Elizabeth Jennings: “What do you want Phillip, a guarantee that life’s going to be easy?”
Phillip Jennings: “For my daughter, yeah.”
Stan Beeman: “At EST they said that almost getting killed is one of those things that makes you feel really alive. I don’t know about that.”
Star Wars: The dark decadePosted on February 6th, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann
For about a decade Star Wars was decidedly not cool.
After the original trilogy was completed in 1983 series creator George Lucas tried moving Star Wars to TV with a series of Ewok themed television movies in ’84 and ’85 and Saturday morning cartoon series Droids from ’85-’86. But neither of these two ventures caught on and after ’86 Star Wars was gone and out of the public eye.
Sure, the movies were still available to rent and they’d also appear on TV from time to time to mark special occasions but for the rest of the 1980s and most of the 1990s there was nothing new being released on the Star Wars front.
Well, almost nothing.
During the dark decade when Star Wars was decidedly uncool and missing from the public eye Dark Horse Comics picked up the mantel dropped by Marvel Comics when they stopped publishing their line of Star Wars comics in ’86 and started publishing a new line of stories starting in ’91.
In the late 1980s Dark Horse had made a name for themselves by publishing licensed Aliens and Predator comics with new expanded storylines from those two franchises. Writers for Aliens and Predator comics continued the threads from the films and took readers to new and exciting places and with Star Wars they did much the same thing.
Dark Horse’s first Star Wars title, Star Wars: Dark Empire, continued the story from the movies in comic form. Here, just because the Emperor and Darth Vader are dead and the second Death Star destroyed doesn’t mean that the Empire was defeated or that the galactic war was finished. Luke Skywalker, now a powerful Jedi like his father, along with the droids, Chewbacca and Han and his wife Leia all continue the good fight.
There were Dark Horse stories that took place during and after the movies and there were also stories of what was happening to the Jedi millennia before the films too. These comics went places the films with their limited running times never could and expanded the Star Wars universe a great deal.
But earlier this year something odd happened.
When it was announced that Lucas had sold Star Wars to Disney and that there was going to be a new series of movies it was also announced that Dark Horse would lose their license to produce new Star Wars comics. Marvel, who’s also owned by Disney, would regain that license and would start producing a line of new comics this year.
Which wasn’t completely unexpected. Even though Dark Horse had been one of the lone Star Wars lights through most of the 1990s when no one else cared that much about the property it’s not like mega-corporations like Disney are known for their loyalty so the Marvel switch seemed inevitable.
And when it was also announced that the only “official” Star Wars stories would be from the six movies and anything new produced by Disney, effectively making 37 years of novels and comics an sort of unofficial fever dream, that wasn’t totally unexpected either. The mantra of Hollywood seems to be, “Where’s the fun in telling new stories that fit with the past when you can make it so that the past didn’t really happen and start over with a clean slate?”
What WAS unexpected was that on midnight on December 31st when Dark Horse lost their license all their Star Wars stories vanished from their online store and a few days later appeared in the Marvel store with their logo on the cover. This isn’t totally uncommon since recently Dark Horse began releasing collections of the original Marvel Star Wars comics. What was a bit weird was that it seems like whereas Dark Horse was releasing new collections of stories, Marvel simply took what Dark Horse had created, placed their logo on the material and stamped “Legends” across the cover to indicate that these stories are no longer “official.”
Overnight the Dark Horse material became comics non-grata.
Still, simply having the Dark Horse material available in Marvel form is better than the alternative; that Marvel would shelve the the comics and they would eventually be lost to time.