Until the release of the movie 2012, I was holding out a measure of hope that the New Age-ish obsession with this new myth of the apocalypse would prove to be nothing more than entertainment. I no longer hold out such hope. Sylvia Browne and the rest of the New Age crowd have won. They and so many others are convinced that “the end” is to come in just three years. Failing that, they’ll be satisfied with a few natural calamities and credit them as being predicted events once they hit the news. I don’t know what else to do but write about it and laugh at them.
The Christians once went the same route, and this was WAY before that shameful hoax known as Y2K. That had some of us (not me!) storing toilet paper and bottled water and canned goods in basements, closets, and bathrooms. Some of you yo-yos went outside and started your cars and revved the engine until the ball dropped to welcome in the New Year. Some of you goons actually thought the world’s computers would stop working, ushering in the age of The Anti-Christ. I pity you.
Christians were “calculating” to predict the return of Christ long before that. Riots were suffered in 1099 as the Jesus sheep sold their goods, quit their jobs, and traveled to the Holy Land to meet their returning savior. In the early 1800s, the Dave Miller and Ellen G. White movements were getting started. They had followers from coast to coast claiming that 1850 and every year following would be the year of Christ’s triumphant return. Every year that it didn’t happen fostered no sense of worry. They just “miscalculated.” Better luck next year.
The Christians haven’t really learned their lesson, but they’ve gotten smarter about being too vocal with their eschatological views. The New Agers have yet to learn that lesson. The Mayan calendar restarts on either December 12th or the 21st of 2012. The earth’s time of “rebirth” will then begin. That’s what we’re supposed to believe. It is the latter date that the movie hones in on.
Geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) discovers from a scientist colleague in India that neutrinos from the sun are heating up the earth’s core, the results of which are to be disastrous. This is supposed to be due to the discredited idea of “Earth Crust Displacement.” Helmsley gets before a cutthroat antagonist of a White House chief of staff (Oliver Platt) and an unbecomingly munificent president (Danny Glover) on a solution to the problem. Hundreds of thousands of people of the best genetic and educational stock are to be selected so that the species can survive, but plenty of room is made for the wealthy to pay their way on board and “fund” the survival efforts. This leads to a morality question struggle.
John Cusack is Jackson Curtis, an under-sold author and part-time limo driver for a well-to-do member of Russian high society. He takes his two kids on a camping trip where he meets a wild-eyed, hippi-fied conspiracy theorist (Woody Harrelson) with a blog, a radio show, and too much to say. Curtis has an ear for unusual claims. Meanwhile, Kate, Jackson’s ex (Amanda Peet), is with her new boyfriend Gordon (Thomas McCarthy). One trip to the supermarket and one ripped apart house is going to make her a believer in the apocalypse!
From camping trips and kooky conspiracy theorists to international incidents and fake Russian accents, 2012 is one very long film about a cataclysmic event that, against expectations, isn’t that exciting. A serious plot calls for serious consideration, but the film has no sense of gravity. You never feel the urgency of the impending doom, nor do you feel for the lives that are lost.
As far as cataclysmic destruction goes, there isn’t much of it if you take into account the fact that the movie is so unbearably long. For the length of time spent watching, there isn’t that much action or excitement. The soap opera-level attempts at drama only result in boredom, and the failed (and sometimes juvenile) attempts at humor don’t belong: “Women pay me thousands of dollars to handle their boobs. You get it for free!” The occasional inflated moment of comic relief does get by, but the seriousness befitting a movie of this type is nowhere to be found.
Heads of state meetings, presidential appearances, gloomy-but-never-impact-ful announcements by scientists, streets collapsing, families exchanging platitudes, cutaways to a Chinese family chopping the heads off of chickens, more catastrophe, more streets collapsing, more talking, more reassuring crying kids, “Save more people! Show our humanity!” That is 2012.
The only close-to-redeeming quality is the massive loss of life on a crazy scale. Granted, if it ever happened, it wouldn’t happen to this degree, but it is no less satisfying to witness an entire coastline slip right into an ocean. The visuals are faultless and will keep your eyes busy taking in the details.
I myself found it odd that the entire world is being enveloped by earthquakes and newly made volcanoes, and Curtis and family are making cell phone calls to one another. The servers would not be able to handle the frantic flood of calls of nearly 300,000,000 people (not counting non-Americans), but I guess it’s no more odd than the idea that neutrinos could heat the earth’s core up enough to make unlivable all surfaces on planet earth at once.
If the obsessions with 2012 are this bad in 2009, I can only step back and imagine how much worse things will get as the date approaches.
Grade: C- (2 stars)
Director: Roland Emmerich
Summary: A global cataclysm that brings an end to the world and tells of the heroic struggle of the survivors.
Starring: John Cusack “Jackson Curtis,” Amanda Peet “Kate Curtis,” Chiwetel Ejiofor “Adrian Helmsley,” Thandie Newton “Laura Wilson,” Oliver Platt “Carl Anheuser,” Thomas McCarthy “Gordon Silberman,” Woody Harrelson “Charlie Frost,” Danny Glover “President Thomas Wilson”
Genre: Action / Drama / Sci-Fi / Thriller