I love a good apocalyptic movie, especially one that combines great characters and story with great effects. HOW IT ENDS has great effects and a promising premise to boot but otherwise was fairly forgettable due to lackluster characterization and story.
Will flies to Chicago to visit his fiancee Samantha’s parents and ask Tom, her taciturn retired Marine father (Forest Whitaker), for permission to marry, as they’re expecting a child. The dinner goes poorly. Tom is a jerk and Will is belligerent, and he never gets around to asking.
While Will is talking to his fiancee the next morning, the cell goes dead. Some type of global natural disaster is occurring, disrupting the country. With all flights grounded, Tom plans a road trip to Seattle to rescue his daughter, and invites Will along. Together, they cross an America sliding into anarchy.
This is a great setup, with plenty of possibilities between the highly competent jerk prospective father-in-law and the well-meaning but incompetent millennial. Unfortunately, it’s barely explored as they run into one set piece scuffle after another.
The problem here is the characters aren’t very strong, they don’t have any real conflict between them, and many of the situations they find themselves in come across as contrived. Samantha in particular has so little depth she comes across as a placeholder. Will’s character arc basically involves him trusting the wrong people until he toughens up enough to protect his fiancee and unborn child. Otherwise, there really isn’t a character you can really invest in, or a strong enough story, like there is for fantastic end-of-the-world movies like THESE FINAL HOURS. The ending, meanwhile, feels tacked on.
That all sounds harsh, but to be clear, I didn’t hate it. The movie was edible, and it has some great set pieces and apocalyptic scenery. Its biggest sin is one rife in Hollywood these days, which is weak characterization and contrived plotting that eliminate empathy and feel like a “movie by numbers.” But for apocalyptic movie fans, it’s worth a watch and can be fun.