Who would’ve ever picked little old New Zealand as potential destroyers of the universe? And yet in this film it looks like they are (“it’s always the quiet ones”, as they say), or at least them in conjunction with the US government, thanks to some only partly-described project involving energy that creates an “effect” which somehow wipes out almost all life on Earth. Maybe. Cos the (apparently) last three surviving humans all seem to otherwise have died in various ways just as the effect happened. Are they really in Heaven? In Hell? In another dimension altogether? Or just in downtown Auckland? Where’s everyone else? Why were there so many changes from the novel on which the film was based? These questions and others I can’t be bothered asking will not be answered by the film, which is a more curious item than I was expecting; obviously I knew it was a post-apocalypse affair, and I knew it had a good reputation within the genre, but I must admit to just finding it frustrating. Commendable of Geoff Murphy to try a SF film, but it strains for something it can’t quite achieve, this seemed particularly so early on in the scenes where Bruno Lawrence’s character goes mad, reminiscent of The Noah but far less convincing (though he’s better than his two gradually introduced co-stars). And it doesn’t exactly do anything new with the whole sexual and racial tension thing between the survivors, which trope dates back to the early 50s at least. Still, it does a good enough job depicting the emptiness of a world suddenly vacated by humanity and the ambiguity about exactly what happened, why and where it’s left them keeps the film more engaging than a proper explanation might’ve done… but I can’t say it struck me as the genre classic I’ve thought for years it was supposed to be.
The Quiet Earth (1985)