Fourteen years ago, the summer of 1998 was pummeled by a pair of big-budget disaster flicks. There was the sibylline Deep Impact, which featured Morgan Freeman as the president and a tidal wave that toppled the World Trade Center and the rest of the New York skyline. A month later, Michael Bay’s Armageddon wreaked havoc on cineplexes nationwide, and the sappy Diane Warren-penned, Steven Tyler-crooned “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” played on a loop in most of our heads. While disaster porn was nothing new at the time, it seemed particularly crazy that two movies about the Earth’s intergalactic demise were released within months of each other.
Last fall saw the trend’s return, but with a much more artistic and introspective sensibility. Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, in which the titular planet collides with ours, puts the impending doom in the backseat, focusing more on a pair of sisters (played by a despondent Kirsten Dunst and a raving Charlotte Gainsbourg) dealing with their own depressive tendencies and inabilities to cope with the end of the world. Following in its footsteps is Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, the directorial debut of Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist scribe Lorene Scafaria, which opens on Friday.
Seeking a Friend has a similar premise as Melancholia, only it eschews von Trier’s bleak world view for something much more lighthearted and humorous. It features a star-studded supporting cast, with Connie Britton, Rob Corddry, and Patton Oswalt all making appearances as existential characters reacting to the news of a destructive asteroid by burning familial bridges, embracing free love, and trying heroin. But at the center of the film are Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley as an unlikely couple traveling the country after fleeing riotous New York City. The duo come to terms with the looming destruction by reflecting on their past relationships while experiencing a budding romance. Their world ends just as the Mayans predicted, only with an extra dose of passion. The apocalypse has never been so uplifting.