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Okay, so they've spent the entire series talking about it, and it finally happens: The giant, crazy, blow-the-budget scene where they show the apocalypse.

Or, y'know, they open the movie with it. Whatever.

This can't just be a brief shot of a planet popping out of existence like bubblegum -- the sound, fury and destruction should be as spectacular as it is complete and total. Disaster Porn if you will.

In an academic sense, this trope has a wide variety of uses, from Ending Tropes to the Cold Open and everywhere in between. Equally capable of introducing a setting or establishing a character, it can be used to underscore how brutal a situation has become, or render an Eldritch Abomination Deader Than Dead. Often an After the End scenario will have one as part of the Flash Back Backstory. When it comes right down to it, the only true constant between all the uses of this trope is the spectacular nature of the event itself.

This trope is the visual, descriptive embodiment of The End of the World as We Know It[1]. Said event will usually be on the Apocalypse How scale, but not always. Often invokes the Distant Reaction Shot, since that's the cleanest way to show something of this magnitude. If it's a recording in-story by a firsthand observer, it doubles as an Apocalyptic Log.

Compare Story-Boarding the Apocalypse, which uses a (generally hypothetical) description[2] of an apocalyptic event to create dramatic tension. Contrast Scenery Gorn, which has a rather specific narrative use.

There are, of course, some very serious spoilers detailed below.

Examples of Apocalypse Wow include:


Anime and Manga

  • This is how Neon Genesis Evangelion ended.
  • This is how Akira started... and ended (the movie at least).
    • Same with the manga (although the ending was under very different circumstances)... except that the manga has yet another Apocalypse about halfway through. All three have the same cause though (namely Akira).
  • It wasn't permanent, but late in Fullmetal Alchemist Father succeeded in turning the souls of everyone in Amestris into a giant Philosopher's Stone (Including shots of Dying Winry, Gracia, and Elicia, among many others), turned himself into a giant Living Shadow covered in eyes, ripped open the door to Truth, ate it, then turned into a younger version of Hohenheim.
  • Bokurano shows an Earth being consumed by an exploding sun, followed by every star in its universe blinking out of existence.
  • In Kurohime, the end of the world is this plus Mind Screw. The Gateway to Hell opens and drowns almost the entire world under an ocean of corrosive blood. Skeletons and dead souls are running rampant eating people, trees are dying and to cap it all off, the Head God is eating the sun.
  • The final chapter of Elfen Lied has ten or so pages dedicated to Lucy initiating The End of the World as We Know It while simultaneously repairing Kouta's gunshot wound. While singing. For comparison, an entire two or so chapters are the destruction of the research facility, ending with it being annihilated from below. Why so short? Because that's how long it lasted.
  • Go Nagai's Violence Jack, after the introduction of its title character, spends the first chapter of the manga destroying Japan via massive earthquake and mass volcanic eruption before introducing us to the Crapsack World that the Kanto region has become.
  • In the final episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka's wish causes one of these in the process of rewriting the universe multiple times - with Homura watching the whole thing.
  • Angel Sanctuary loves this trope.
  • Dragonball Z's Frieza Saga had Frieza blowing up Namek, only for it to have a five minute delay (and a much longer one episode-wise). It also should be noted that this is the only time that the destruction of a planet is not instantaneous in the series.
  • Heartcatch Precure, a usually happy-go-lucky magical girl series, has one. When the true Big Bad, Dune, arrives, he promptly curbstomps the heroines, kidnaps the lead's grandmother, regains his full power and turns Earth into a massive desert, the only survivors being the main heroines and the people whom they purified from being monsters.
  • Gundam Seed Destiny has the infamous Break The World incident. After the previous episode was spent fighting a rogue faction of Omnicidal Maniac ZAFT soldiers, most of the cast gets a prime view of the fragments of Junius 7 carpet-bombing Earth with each impact producing a fireball visible from orbit. All the while Lacus is singing this to calm down a group of children on the verge of panic from their underground shelter being shaken up by the impacts' seismic shockwaves. It's pretty obvious where the writers got the idea for this scene...


Comic Books

  • Many Superman continuities open with the destruction of Krypton. This serves the purpose of establishing Jor-El's character, and actually getting Superman to Earth.
    • All-Star Superman averted this with Krypton but played it straight with a certain character.

Film

 Often this section is preceded by the words In a World [Earth explodes] but sometimes not.

    • Played straight in the TV miniseries, where Earth heats up to a brilliant red before detonating.
  • The basic premise of 2012.
  • Escape From L.A.. "He did it, he shut down the Earth."
  • The original Nihon Chinbotsu(1973) featured an extensive sequence of Tokyo being swallowed up in the disaster done by Teruyoshi Nakano, who is nicknamed "Japan's Michael Bay" for his love of Stuff Blowing Up.
  • Lars Von Trier's Melancholia does it twice. At the start of the movie, the titular planet engulfs Earth while classical music plays. The movie also ends this way, but now we see the collision on a human scale from the Earths' surface.
  • The start of Superman Returns shows the destruction of Krypton.


Literature

  • Mark Geston's novel Lords of the Starship is about a vast rocketship that takes well over a century to complete, at which point two immense armies fight for control of it. Then the ship uses its rocket exhausts to incinerate the armies, and then reverses thrust to incinerate itself. Then the shadowy enemy that designed the ship in the first place sends a couple of city-sized fireballs to finish the job.
  • The great freezing at the end of Cat's Cradle, which sounded like "the great door of heaven being closed softly" and, within moments, caused the sky to fill with tornadoes.
  • At the end of Greg Bear's The Forge of God, the Earth's destruction is described in loving, agonizing detail.
    • Same for the asteroid colliding with Earth and breaking it into pieces in Remnants, near the end of the first book.
  • Though the actual Shattering is not described, the vivid imagery of huge fragments of landscape tumbling through the Void in The Shattered World makes it clear that the titular world's breaking must have been an Apocalypse Wow. The collision between two fragments in the sequel, The Burning Realm, gives an ominous preview of the surviving fragments' impending doom.
  • It should be no spoiler to note that this happens in the 1933 classic When Worlds Collide, in the kind of spectacular fashion that you'd probably have guessed from the title. The 1951 film adaptation did the best it could with this, but the upcoming remake certainly should provide more of the disaster porn as described in the book, to say the least.
  • Arthur C. Clarke's novel The Songs of Distant Earth had its doomed planetbound inhabitants set up cameras to record images of the end of the Earth for the posterity of those stargoing vessels which just managed to escape its final destruction. Michael Oldfield's album The Songs of Distant Earth which is meant as an accompaniment to that novel has a music track that chronicles the Earth's destruction.
    • Clarke's early story (in fact, the first story he sold) "Rescue Party" also had the people of Earth set up cameras to beam images of Earth's end to the huge escape fleet in which they evacuated. It was following the line of those transmissions that led the alien rescue ship to the fleet.
  • The last remaining normal human broadcasts this at the end of Childhood's End.
  • The Bible: The Book of Revelation is one huge Apocalypse Wow: disasters unleashed on the world, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the rise of The Antichrist, the final battle of Armageddon, the last judgment, a visual tour of New Jerusalem... Evidently, the Trope Namer and the Trope Codifier.
  • The end of Narnia is described in detail at the end of The Last Battle -- which, by no coincidence, heavily draws upon the Biblical Apocalypse.
  • The Ciaphas Cain novel Caves of Ice ends with the detonation of a gigaton range Fuel Air Explosive. It completely obliterates the sole settlement on the planet, and the shockwaves are felt by ships in low orbit.
  • The demolition of Vavatch Orbital in Consider Phlebas is so spectacularly done[3], it almost qualifies as performance art.
  • In Lucifers Hammer, Niven and Pournelle detail the end of the world with beautiful descriptions. The meteor leaves behind a fiery rainbow trail that blinds anyone who looks at it. The resulting multiple-impacts cause earthquakes and giant tsunamis all arond the earth, flooding entire mountain ranges.
  • The aftermath of Operation Oyster Bay in the Honor Harrington series is described in substantial detail, despite being "only" a set of class 0 events.
  • In Cerberon, the complete destruction of Loethess and everything around it is described in detail from multiple perspectives, from a mage in the center of the city paralyzed with Oh Crap, to a family nearby hoping they'll survive, to a distant overview by a pair of people being carried away by a flying dragon.

Live Action TV

  • Battlestar Galactica starts with one in both the original and the reimagining. Galactica 1980 starts with a computer simulation of one, and goes downhill from there.
  • Dollhouse deconstructs its premise to this conclusion: after a season of ridiculously, incredibly Misapplied Phlebotinum, the Season One finale skipped forward 10 years and revealed that the Dollhouse's technology would literally destroy civilization if used just a little bit more creatively.
  • The end of the final episode of Walking with Dinosaurs.
  • An alternate universe episode of Star Trek Enterprise shows the Xindi super weapon kabooming Earth.
  • Shows up in the end of the pilot episode of SGU, and again about halfway through the 19th episode.


Radio

  • Given, it doesn't last particularly long, but the sound of the Earth exploding in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is absolutely perfect.
  • The Halloween broadcast of The War of the Worlds should be mentioned. An hour long description of Humongous Mecha from another planet destroying everything in their path. Bonus points for making people actually believe it was happening.


Video Games

  • As can be seen here, Xenogears does this with Weltall- Id fulfilling its programming and taking out main parts of the superstructure of Solaris. The resulting "reaction weapon" explosion leaves a significant hole in one of the nearby continents on the game map.
  • The glassing of Taris near the beginning of Knights of the Old Republic.
  • The moon crashing and destroying the world in a fiery inferno in The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask.
  • The opening of Meteos, involving a number of planets getting obliterated in seconds.
  • The ending of Mother 3, which features lingering shots of all of the places you've visited crumbling away to nothing.
  • Nie R opens up with an intro beginning shortly after the apocalypse hit, with the hero scraping by to support himself and his daughter, fighting monsters off in the process. The game then skips forward thousands of years after the apocalypse, with humanity now struggling to scrape by.
  • The end of the mission "Shock and Awe" in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which comes complete with satellite images of the nuclear detonation that kills your character and most of his unit.
      • A striking point...the people who made the game really showed us how you WOULD die if you were within about 3 miles of ground zero and not vaped in the blast. Yes folks, expect your death to include barfing (or crapping) your organs out as the "feeling" of your skin sizzling off pervades your last moments on earth to the sound of radioactive wind blowing away the last of your Organ of Corti, that is, the organ that does the actual hearing in your ears.
    • Things get even worse (or better, in way of trope examples) in the sequel. We see the US East Coast being invaded by the Russians, Washington DC in ruins, and an EMP occurring over the city wiping out all forms of electricity on the US East Coast!
  • Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne. The planet turned inside-out and all but five people on the planet were wiped out and replaced with demons before you enter a single battle.
    • Six if you count Hijiri. But he was Dead All Along, so not really.
    • Seven if you count Dante, since he's only half-demon.
  • The Play Station 2 version of Deus Ex has its New Dark Age Ending cutscene showing the lab explosion being seen from space, and the lit cities of Earth all going out.
  • Darksiders opens with the Biblical Apocalypse. Angels, Demons, the whole shebang. You get to run around and kill things (briefly).
  • Losing to Lavos in Chrono Trigger will "treat" you to a scene where you see the world getting fried by Lavos's explosive fury. The most iconic scene is watching the viewscreen in the dome fill up with red dots that each represent a destroyed city, basically driving the point home that the world is now FUBAR.
    • "{{{1}}}"
    • The Fall of Zeal is also a pretty destructive scene in its own too.
  • Warhammer 40000 is the setting that gave us Exterminatus, so when it gets adapted in a visual medium expect to see major fireworks. Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior features a spectacular orbital bombardment for its ending, but was recently one-upped by Dawn of War II: Retribution, where the sudden death of a world serves as a potent Wham! Episode.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, after Kefka destroys the balance of the Warring Triad, the world is torn asunder. This is depicted as the land shaking, shifting, mountains rising and chasms opening, all while helpless people run for their lives. Then the view changes to a distant view of the planet, covered in hundreds of explosions... and all of a sudden, to drive the point home that everything has changed, a chain of explosions travels across the planet and splits the continents apart.
  • In Super Metroid, after defeating the Mother Brain and successfully making it back to your ship, the camera zooms out, showing massive cracks in the surface of the planet Zebes, which are apparently even visible from high orbit, before the planet is reduced to space debris. There is a secret sidequest at the end where the last surviving natives of Zebes escape with just moments to spare.
    • SR-388 in Metroid Fusion, the Biological Research Laboratory space station plummets into the plant and self-destructs, wiping out both in a titanic Earthshattering Kaboom. Planet Phaaze in Metroid Prime: Corruption, with added drama with the Galactic Federation fleet trying to escape in time. Subverted in Metroid Prime: Echoes with the destruction of Dark Aether, we only get a space view of the half-visible Dark Aether fading from Aether.
  • The aptly named "End of the World" stage in Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. You see some really trippy colors while playing the level as it slowly gets more and more screwed up. Orbs appear as it gets more intense, and then there is a purple glaze that goes over the levels you are playing, until it is a very dark green all over. Somehow, statues with eagles on them can reverse this effect temporarily. It's intense, but for all the wrong reasons. Accompanied with very echoey music which is incredible.
  • Nobody does nuclear apocalypse like the guys behind Fallout. Ron Perlman's narration is just the icing on the cake.
    • Especially since Fallout 3 displays said narration as a yellowed, faded slideshow (you can hear the projector in the background). The only scene which is not stopmotion is the one with the rising mushroom cloud - and which also features the screams of the terrified civilians of the town...
  • And what about the LC campaign ending from Earth 2150?
  • Final Fantasy IX Kuja destroys the entire world of Terra at the end of the third disk. This makes him one of the few FF villains to actually succeed in destroying a world.
  • Final Fantasy X has (Sin) do this regularly. The fun comes when the rest of the world fights back.
    • The sequel has this as one of the optional endings. Lose the final battle on purpose to see it.
  • Freespace 2 ends with the Sathanas Fleet causing Capella to go supernova.
  • In Mass Effect 3, you are right in the middle of the action when huge swarms of Kaiju-sized Eldritch Abominations descend on planets and start to rip them apart while swarms of Cyborg Zombies pour through the streets.
  • Tiberian Sun's ending of the Nod campaign has Kane teleporting off the world while his Apocalypse missile starts, then launches its capsules and finally unleashes the Tiberium bomb that sets Earth's atmosphere ablaze and turns everything into pure Tiberium.
  • The ending cutscene (one of only two not rendered using the game's engine) in Assassin's Creed Revelations shows exactly how the First Civilization was destroyed. There's a Kick the Dog moment with a terrified mother clutching her child as an explosion slowly engulfs them. After this, the hologram simply mentions that out of two civilizations (humans and the First People), only about 10,000 individuals survived after only a few days of the catastrophe.
  • In the opening cinematic of X3: Albion Prelude, Saya Kho blows up the Torus Aeternal, a giant space station around Earth's equator. In a minor case of Gameplay and Story Segregation, the station disintegrates in utter silence.


Western Animation

  • Transformers: The Movie: Unicron, while on-camera, graphically and messily devours a small planet, a moon, and rips into a larger planet with his bare hands. It's kind of like The Worf Effect, but with a planet...
    • The Unicron Trilogy version does it a bit differently: he generates sort of a suction that causes a planet to be torn apart as it's pulled toward him. By the time it reaches him, the planet is in chunks small enough to be pulled inside the (relatively) small circle on his body. Ouch.
  • The Beast Planet, at least twice a season in Shadow Raiders.
  • The Critic. Starring Marlon Brando.
  • One episode of Captain Planet and the Planeteers ("Planeteers Under Glass") has the Planeteers and a female scientist (Dr. Derek) enter a virtual planet where pollution is sickening the planet in centuries (sped up in minutes), starting from Class 0 up to Class 3. But then Dr. Blight traps them all in the rapidly wasting virtual planet, bringing the Apocalypse Class up to 4 and closer to Class 5 before destroying them all (not even Captain Planet can save them)... or so Blight thinks. (The scene after they vanish is pure horror (complete with a futuristic flying cyborg-demon as a Crowning Moment of Awesome, for a short while) as the Apocalypse Class is spiked up to Class 6!) Fortunately, the team of Planeteers have a backup spot before they vanish so they can return safely to stop Blight.

Notes

  1. For when "Take Our Word for It" just isn't good enough
  2. visual or otherwise
  3. A Culture starship slices the ring in several places, and the Orbital's own spin makes it fly apart. Then they bombard the chunks with antimatter until they're smashed to atoms. Don't Fuck With The Culture.
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