Ah, the Super Bowl. A time for Baltimore and San Francisco to prove their municipal superiority, for Beyoncé to prove the haters wrong after her lipsyncing fiasco, and for 90 million+ TV viewers to watch football players touching each other’s butts while gorging on an endless array of calorie-larded snacks and dips. In short, the perfect time for an apocalypse-themed movie teaser! At least that’s what Paramount has been thinking, because they’re debuting a new 30 second teaser for Brad Pitt’s zombie thriller World War Z (out July 3) during the game, the latest in a long lie of apocalypse-themed Super Bowl commercials. Because really, the only natural follow-up to “Are you ready for some football?” is “We’ve lost the East Coast!” and “China’s gone dark!” Check out the ad:
You could argue that the history of Super Bowl commercials that double as “end of the world” fantasies stretches back to Apple’s iconic ad imagining IBM customers as enslaved minions of an Orwellian overlord. I know, I know, you’ll say it’s more a dystopian commercial than an apocalyptic one. But how is living in a world dominated by IBM not a kind of apocalypse?
2012, the year of the Mayan-predicted catastrophe, is when End of Days scenarios really took hold in Super Bowl commercials, however. One ad for the Chevy Silverado presented an SUV so dependable that it could withstand some kind of humanity-extinguishing robot war and a plague of locusts. You may be living in a burnt-out hellscape, but you can damn well still buy American.
Time Warner Cable also imagined an apocalypse triggered by the, likely frequent, event of Ricky Gervais rejecting a “friend request” on Facebook. Suddenly, he’s dodging mortar fire, and Mary-Louise Parker is being menaced by zombies.
With this track record, the new World War Z teaser will fit in perfectly. Now, mind you, you could say that these ads appeal to TV viewers’ latent fear of sudden destruction to inspire some kind of “live for the moment” feeling. And in our consumer society, “live for the moment” roughly translates to “buy all you can while there’s still time!” But the zeal, even joy, with which these ads imagine our collective doom suggests not a fear of a hypothetical apocalypse as much as a desire for one. A Freudian reading would say this is the “death drive” in action. Because after you’ve spent hours devouring pork rinds, pigs in blankets, 10-alarm chili, and countless brewskies — not to mention listening to Terry Bradshaw for hours on end — there’s really nothing left to do but degenerate into Hieronymous Bosch-like chaos. Or maybe these ads just prove we’re a nation of teenage boys and like to see s**t blow up. Either way, the new World War Z ad fits in perfectly.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures]