With the current state of affairs in the world and the crazy influx of traffic that streaming sites are seeing, it appears that people are genuinely interested in watching pandemic movies. The main ones that I’ve seen the buzz around are 2011’s Contagion, which is on Hulu, and 1995’s Outbreak, which is on Netflix.
And while these are two fine pandemic movies, I want to take this time to be a bit snobbish, and talk about not only two of the best pandemic movies, but two films that I think can slide onto any top 50 list. I’m talking about 2006’s Children Of Men, and 2002’s 28 Days Later.
Children Of Men
Children of Men is a pandemic movie where you don’t see the pandemic run rampant, nor do you ever find out what actually caused it in the first place. The entire movie takes place about 20 years after infertility has swept across the world’s population, and we’re thrown right into watching how civilization has responded to this threat. As I already stated, we never find out what caused the infertility, but you understand the gravity of the situation right away when we see the world mourning the death of the youngest human on the planet, who was an 18-year-old boy. This boy was a beacon of hope to the people in this society, and his death represented the end of their existence.
However, the loss of hope only lasts until the protagonist discovers a pregnant woman, and they embark on an exhilarating journey to meet up with a fringe group of scientists who are working to restore balance to the world, all while being chased by a corrupt government and selfish guerrilla groups.
How Children Of Men Relates To Our Current Situation
Now while we’re not currently dealing with rampant infertility, nor are we 20 years into our pandemic, I feel like there is a lot that can be taken away from watching Children Of Men, both literally and metaphorically.
Children Of Men is set in a dystopian London, and with nobody knowing how the infertility spread, the government is hyper-aggressive towards refugees of any kind. Now we aren’t locking people away in shantytowns just yet. Still, with the shutdown of international travel and the uncertainty of where Covid-19 is spreading from, it’s easy to see how after a prolonged panic, the actions taken in Children Of Men are not very far away from what we could slip into.
Another thing that I noticed right away in Children Of Men were billboards in the background that read, “Avoiding fertility testing is a crime”. And not going to get Covid-19 testing isn’t a crime, but having Covid-19 and going into work is something that can get you thrown into observed isolation. Or even in my city of Tampa, I’ve seen many billboards that detail how to prevent contracting Covid-19 or centers where you can go if you think you have it. And it’s just interesting to see how in times of panic, regular advertisements and entertainment go out the window to make room for this new pressing issue which has taken over people’s minds.
The last interesting bit is a line in the movie, “Even if they find a cure it’s too late, the world already went to shit”. This line both resonated and scared me a bit because seeing what had happened to this version of London made me think of our economy. I’ve heard people say that we can’t handle a four-month shutdown without causing irreparable damage to our economy, and maybe four months isn’t an accurate figure. Still, I wonder if Covid-19 hanging around for an extended period of time will have the ability to make us feel that even finding a cure won’t be enough.
28 Days Later
The first thing that I would like to say is that it is a total coincidence both of these movies take place in London, but I’m not mad at it because it may be one of the most fitting places for a post apocalyptic feel. 28 Days Later is different from children of men in many ways, most importantly, 28 Days Later tells us how it’s pandemic started, and it’s a zombie movie, a genre I’m a complete sucker for.
28 Days Later starts with a group of animal rights activists breaking into an animal testing facility and freeing a rage infected chimp who subsequently spreads a zombie virus to all of London. Then… 28 days later, our protagonist awakes from a coma and strolls through a desolate version of London, only to be met by rage-fueled zombies. What ensues is the classic zombie tale of our protagonist meeting up with a group of survivors, journeying to a sanctuary they heard about on a broadcast, and then being screwed over upon reaching the said sanctuary.
How 28 Days Later Relates To Our Current Situation
There are two main things in 28 Days Later that popped out at me for seeming eerily familiar to our current situation with Covid-19. The first being where the virus originated, which is from infected monkeys in a lab that were set free. Now I know monkeys aren’t to blame for the spread of Covid-19, and I’m not sure I can pinpoint what the exact cause is with the overwhelming amount of information pouring in every day. But, it seems like the consensus is that it comes from animals and may have something to do with wet markets in China. This means the the situation in 28 Days Later is another interesting example of life imitating art. And while we don’t have zombies flooding the streets, we have a new way of looking at the world around us.
The second similarity comes from how London in 28 Days Later is effected by their outbreak. When the protagonist wakes up from his coma, he immediately leaves the hospital and ventures out into the streets. What he sees is a city that has been completely shut down, there’s not a person in sight, buildings are burning, and buses are flipped in the street. And again, while this isn’t quite our situation, there are some odd resemblances between recent pictures I’ve seen of New York & Los Angeles, and London in 28 Days Later. Hopefully, in a few months, our cities can get back to being fully operational, and the time where they resembled something out of a zombie movie will only be a memory.
I can understand how it might seem a bit macabre to develop a likeness towards pandemic movies in our current situation, but I think there is a lot of relief that can be found in them. Movies to me are magic. They can provide an escape, or make you feel things you aren’t currently experiencing. I think that same logic can be applied to pandemic movies in this climate. We can watch them to remind ourselves that we’re still not to far gone, or to help us cope with the unlikely but possible futures ahead of us.