Apocalypse as revelation.

Pardon the etymology geekery, here.  Apocalypse, broken down to its Greek roots, means revelation (from apo-, “from, away from; after”, and kalyptein, “to cover, conceal”.)  So it’s a sudden shocking understanding, a tearing back of the shrouding curtain of ignorance; in Middle English it referred to a sudden vision or insight.

So.  Going back to the post about the lack of end-of-the-world movies; half of the ones I listed came with a sudden revelation that cast the events of the movie itself in a different light, and of the two Dead movies, Day had a pretty shocking (within the genre) revelation right around the climax.

I suppose it’s easy to have everything go wrong.  But it’s harder to have everything go wrong and have people not feel cheated.  Paying attention and following a story and then having the protagonist fail and the things you cared about be undone regardless of your caring about them is annoying.  But paying attention and following a story and then having all the little details you picked up and absorbed mean something new and different while the protagonist fails; that can work.  It’s a different pay-off; rather than vicarious victory through the story, you get personal understanding of the story.  At its best, it’s that brilliant “oh my god, that’s what was happening!” at the end of The Usual Suspects.

I wonder if it’s easier to do in speculative genres because the audience is more prepped to pay attention to details of the setting, so it’s easier to seed things for them to pick up.  Or possibly in crime/mystery stories, because the genre invites people to try and figure it out; there’s the expectation of some kind of puzzle, even if it’s not necessarily a world-twisting puzzle.

I suppose the advantage of doing this in stories rather than movies is that people will generally feel like they’ve invested less in a story that suddenly twists to become something different, and are less likely to resent it if they don’t like the change.

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