BY SHARON HOFFMANN
THE KANSAS CITY STAR
The Mayans were apparently wrong about a 2012 doomsday. So Hollywood is busy trying to end the world in 2013, over and over and over again.
We've already faced Tom Cruise's sci-fi "Oblivion" and alien and zombie incursions in "The Host" and "Warm Bodies." And now, Will Smith's "After Earth." Soon: more aliens, more zombies, more end-times.
Meanwhile, TV is filled with apocalyptic mayhem - "The Walking Dead," "Revolution" and, returning for its third season June 9, Steven Spielberg's "Falling Skies."
What's going on here? Is popular entertainment toying with our post-9/11 insecurity? Our pessimism in a down economy and the relentless 24/7 news cycle? Or is this trend just more evidence that directors love to blow things up?
Whatever the reason, our planet is in for a rough patch on screen.
In movies, of course, Earth has been a long-suffering victim. After the Cold War wave of alien invasions, global destruction came back with a vengeance in the 1990s with "Independence Day" (Will Smith again), "Armageddon" and other blockbusters. Since then, every year brings more doomsdays, in the form of natural disasters ("2012," "The Day After Tomorrow"), aliens (the "Transformers" series, "Battleship"), zombies ("I Am Legend"), etc.
But this year, Hollywood's global annihilation has picked up the pace. And here's a Revelation: The End can be funny as well as fearsome. Three doomsday comedies will attack funny bones this summer:
-"This Is the End" (June 12): Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and other comedy stars, playing their raunchy selves, are partying at James Franco's house, until apocalyptic cataclysms interrupt.
-"The World's End" (Aug. 23): Childhood friends become our only hope for survival after a trip to the pub. Silliness from the "Shaun of the Dead" team: director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
-"Rapture-Palooza" (sometime this summer): After Armageddon, the atheists are stuck on Earth with zombies, demons and Craig Robinson as the Antichrist.
Still, what keeps the world ending again and again is the thrills. After "After Earth" comes:
-"World War Z" (June 21): Brad Pitt races against time to save the world from rampant zombies.
-"Pacific Rim" (July 12): Guillermo del Toro's epic battle between giant human-piloted robots and giant alien monsters.
-"Elysium" (Aug. 9): In 2159, Matt Damon lives on a withering Earth, but Jodie Foster and the other rich elite get to kick back on a posh orbiting space station.
-"Ender's Game" (Nov. 1): Aliens nearly destroyed us once. Now it's up to young Andrew Wiggin to make sure they'll never try again. With Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley.
-"Thor: The Dark World" (Nov. 8): What is it with these aliens? Thor is trying to bring order to the universe, but the pesky denizens of Svartalfheim have other ideas.
-"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (Nov. 22): Jennifer Lawrence and cast mates are back in post-apocalyptic Panem, where the rebellion is simmering.
Plenty more global disasters are on the horizon: Next year brings us another "Robocop," another "Transformers," another "Hunger Games" and, going back to our earliest tale of Earth's destruction, "Noah."
So 2013's end is only the beginning.
Sharon Hoffmann: email@example.com