I began 2012 with dread. See, I don't believe the world is ending on December 21, 2012. I don't think the Mayans or any other civilization could pinpoint the exact moment catastrophe could/would strike. What I do fear, though, is people. Stupid, stupid people, the type who are so stupid that NASA has to make a webpage debunking hoaxes, rumors, and other doomsday prophecies. I'm also none too fond of the fact that this is an election year, with people of the whack-a-doo persuasion saying some religious boogeyman is going to rise to power or reveal him/herself. Antichrist this, meteor that, polar shift and/or solar flare whatever, it's rather tiresome. If anything, our own stupidity as a species will cause the only damage that day, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I think eschatology is interesting, though, due to our natural mortal fear of death, of the end, the bright light at the end of the tunnel. Consciously or not, fear of the end does motivate us, though it may not be due to the end of the world, as smaller ends, the cyclical end that sprouts a new beginning is often a scary mystery to enter into. That's why the premise of 'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World' intrigued me. It's a human tale, which begins by informing us that the CSA space shuttle Deliverance has exploded, the last ditch attempt to save humanity from incoming asteroid Matilda is no longer viable, leaving mankind fully aware that it has just three weeks until the end of the world. A big part of me wondered if, much like a 'The Simpsons' episode ('Bart's Comet,' from the sixth season of the program), if this impending doom from above would somehow be averted, a moral lesson to us all, or if the film would stand by its premise without any form of cop out.
'Seeking a Friend...' is a very human tale, that doesn't quite categorize readily, with its quasi-science fiction premise intermixed with a human relationship drama on top of a romantic comedy plot. The easiest way to describe the film would be to call it a depiction of a world existing entirely of unabashed id, with almost the whole of humanity accepting its fate and living every minute of every day as if it were the last, consequences be damned; the great motivator, as it were. In the midst of the chaos, two beings of pure ego suffer from their internal maladies that prevent them from taking part in the reckless abandon surrounding them, as Dodge (Steve Carell) and his downstairs neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley), both of whom have seen their relationships disintegrate in front of them, seek solstice in each other in their final days, despite being strangers for the years they lived within mere feet of each other.
The depiction of what would come as the final countdown begins in this film is really quite intriguing, as we see people finally acting on the urges and whims that they've held in due to the constructs of civilization and decency. In the opening scene, Linda (Nancy Carell, Steve's real life wife playing his fictional wife) opens their car door and takes off running, abandoning the life they shared. As minutes tick away, larger cities fall to rioting. People seek shelter, abandoning their jobs (unless it is their job that defines their very existence), with friends and family, and even that sometimes turns into orgies. Everything they've been afraid to do, they do. Heroin, unprotected anonymous sex, you name it.
Without a doubt, watching the various ways people cope with such horrific news is what makes the film enjoyable (or at the very least passable), as scene to scene, new character to new character, you never quite know what's coming, and what to expect. There are a few comedic set pieces, but for the most part, this introspective journey is more dramatic, a chronicle of just living. The construct of the film as a road trip type movie, as the two strangers bonding together have similar plans, brings numerous cameos or one-shot characters (Adam Brody, Patton Oswald, Gillian Jacobs, Derek Luke, Martin Sheen) and settings, and as such, stays fresh and inventive. It's also curious, as we have entire sequences that, looking back, did not have to happen, whatsoever. What is really intriguing, though, is the way the film skips over the analysis and lets its characters live, as guides, in a manner of speaking, watching the way everyone else reacts differently, seeking faith or seeking a good time.
'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,' the directorial debut of Lorene Scafaria (writer of 'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist,' another off the rails tale of self discovery), is an interesting movie experience, albeit one that is often entirely unnecessarily aggravating. There is a notable lack of chemistry between the leads, but one has to wonder, due to the manner in which they're another comedic odd-couple, if that isn't somewhat intentional, the way two polar opposite people wouldn't naturally just "mesh." The leads do a great job emoting, as there's never an issue where one wonders about their motivations due to the way they wear them on their faces, but they fail at the important things, like making us give a damn about them. This isn't a film about the end of the world as much as it is a film about finally living, though it is one that may make you wish you spent the time watching it actually living your own life instead.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World' comes to Blu-ray on a BD50 disc with no Region markings (coming from Focus Features, an imprint of Universal, though, infers that it should be Region A/B/C). The disc uses BD-Live to pre-load trailers, annoyingly, and features trademark Universal menu navigation, right down to the stupid ticker. The menu loop is short and incredibly awkward and annoying. It alone is reason enough to root for any world to end.
I wasn't expecting a stunning looking picture from 'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,' though I'm glad this disc delivered it, as the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer provides plenty of jaw-dropping realism with very few problems. The life in characters' faces, the hyper-realistic textures (they're beyond amazing in clothing!), the routinely deep picture, and the warm, well saturated colors provide high def candy scene in, scene out. Sure, a few brief moments where edges didn't look proper were a little annoying, but this disc makes mundane look gorgeous. There's no way to pinpoint a single scene when the next (and the next after that) would astonish equally. Simply put: for video quality alone, this disc is a must see.
The movie may sometimes be aimless and confused, but the audio for 'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World' is actually quite pleasing. This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track boasts powerful bass, strong volume spikes, solid and believable/realistic dynamics and very clear, consistent dialogue throughout. The rear channels don't get too much activity, but the localized effects are solid, with the one scene of gunfire bringing fantastic random directionality for the impacts. The soundtrack/score bleed lightly to the rears, but never truly gain any power, with the dialogue taking the ball and rolling with it, including some of the warmer spoken word heard in some time.
This two disc set includes a bonus DVD copy of the film.
'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World' is a flawed film, make no mistake. There's something seriously missing from the movie, and those seeking a laugh out loud comedy will note that "the funnies" are, for the most part, what is seriously missing. This is a road trip buddy romantic comedy set at the end of the world, and it doesn't quite know how to handle its unique set up. The Blu-ray boasts gorgeous video and solid audio features, and the extras are best left unwatched, since they're entirely useless and pointless. Due to the way this film can frustrate even those who are genuinely into it, I'd advise a rental before a blind buy.