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Review: 2012

November 28, 2009 1 comment

Warning:  spoilers aplenty!

It has been awhile since I’ve posted anything (drat my genetic inclination towards procrastination!) but I am pleased to announce my return to the silver computer screen with my first review: Director Emmerich’s gigantic cornball 2012!

This is, without a doubt, the best dumb disaster movie ever made.  It somewhat transcends the total inanity of Volcano and its special effects are far superior to such noteworthy achievements as Independance Day and Armageddon.   Until you’ve seen about 3/4 of Yellowstone blow up simultaneously, you can’t say you’ve seen a decent movie explosion (and my favorite thus far was the fantastic annihilation of the Gotham General Hospital in The Dark Knight.).

Talk about your special effects.   All sorts of familiar places are destroyed in perfect CGI: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, the statue of Christ in Rio, Sistine Chapel,  the Vatican (Emmerich is apparently laboring to get to his obvious point about opposition to organized religion), the White House.  In the case of the White House, it’s not enough for it to merely fall to pieces–oh no!  In typical 2012 fashion it must not only be crushed, but CRUSHED BY GIANT AIRCRAFT CARRIER BEING PUSHED THROUGH WASHINGTON D.C. BY A MONSTER FLOODWAVE!!  And Vegas is not merely broken up by an earthquake, but a MONSTER EARTHQUAKE THAT LEAVES CREVASSES THAT DWARF THE GRAND CANYON!!  And all rendered in spectacular CGI, where even the deepest cracks in the crust of the earth are lit with a beautifully colored glow.

The premise makes no logical or scientific sense–something about neutrinos interacting with the earth’s core in a way they never had before, causing the crust to become unstable (this inspires typical dialogue along the lines of: “That’s completely impossible!”  “I know.  But it’s happening.”), but hey, we need some sort of reason to systematically allow the destruction of the globe!  The plot offers almost no surprises beyond the death of someone I thought too unimportant to show dying.  And it’s riddled with fantastic movie clichés.   Let’s go through the list:

1.  Divorced dad at odds with ex and children.  Cusak is a hapless, little-known sci-fi writer who experiences tension with his beautiful but crabby ex-wife and her new boyfriend, a snivelling L.A. plastic surgeon.  Cusak’s young son is a complete and total brat, initially inspiring audiences to root for his death until the movie forgets this part of his characterization half-way through the film.  The little girl is cute and the only thing we know about her is she wets her bed.

2.  Cute dog who never, ever dies no matter how dire the circumstances surrounding it.  This so-ugly-you-laugh-when-you-see-it lap dog (with the tongue sticking out the side of the mouth) is so obviously a candidate to survive the destruction of 99% of mankind that the movie becomes a game of “how will little dog survive this time?”.   Even as the dippy blonde owner becomes trapped in a compartment rapidly filling with water, she has the presence of mind to throw the dog over a rising wall and voila!  dies while lap dog survives!  I can only wonder if Emmerich was aware of the “dog surviving disaster” element of movies, and deliberately decided to include it in 2012 for laughs.

3.  Main characters escape disaster upon disaster without a scratch.  No fireball is too big to singe the hair of this family, and no earthquake is violent enough to wreck their vehicle!

4. The Theory of Presidential Portrayals in Film.  This theory is that if a Democrat is president, film portrayals of the American president will be inclined to be positive, whereas if a sitting president is a Republican, portrayals of the president become increasingly negative.  See Independence Day, circa the Clinton era, in which the American president is not only a tough-talking Cool Guy but an action hero,  piloting a high-powered jet straight into the innards of the alien mother ship.  Then see the first Transformers, circa George W. Bush,  in which the president is reduced to a cameo appearance of red sock-clad feet and a Texas-twanged request for an assistant to “wrastle [him] up some Ding-Dongs.”  Now see 2012, circa Barrack Obama, in which the African-American president (which I think was a good choice, as it would have seemed awkward otherwise) heroically sacrifices his life in the place of others.

5.  Onscreen destruction of only famous landmarks.  You can’t, for instance, show the capital of Tajikistan in ruins, even though it is a part of our planet, because no one can picture the capital of Tajikistan unless he has been there.  The audience will only understand the full impact of the annihilation of the globe if they see the White House going under.

6.  Crazy outcast hippie guy who was right all along.  Self-explanatory.  And, might I add, that you can always tell the crazy outcast hippie guys by their hair, the loads of technological equipment they can somehow afford, their lava lamp or two, and at least one mention by them of Roswell.

There are more, but this post will get far too long otherwise.  How could you not love this movie?  I ask that sincerely. 

In spite of its dumb fun, there are a few things about it I didn’t particularly appreciate.  For one thing, while this doesn’t surprise me at all, the only religious landmarks shown being destroyed are Christian (or, more specifically, Catholic).  I’m sure the Hollywood special effects team took great joy in lovingly crafting every detail of the Vatican as it fell upon the shrieking, candle-holding crowd who were only seeking spiritual comfort.  I’m sure I saw a tiny red speck that was the Pope going down in his balcony.  No doubt the crew high-fived each other after finishing this bit of CGI wizardy, and Emmerich wiped away tears of appreciation upon beholding the final product.  That’ll show organized religion–which mostly means Christian churches–or heck with it just those superstitious Catholics–by gorry!

To be fair, Emmerich was equally interested in destroying the Kaaba, the most sacred place of all the Islamic holy places.  However, he was concerned about the possibility of a fatwa, and decided against it.  There are so many conclusions you could draw here that I will just leave it to your imagination.

People of eastern faiths, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, are given a pretty reasonable treatment.  They kneel piously and pray in the face of coming death, or else look upon advancing waves with eyes of calm.  Catholics, on the other hand, scatter screaming as the dome of St. Peter’s crushes them to smithereens.  Thanks, Hollywood.  Thanks a lot.

Not that I’m surprised by the above, mind you.  But it is grating.

2012 is a great popcorn experience and deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible.  And it’s surprisingly easy to lose yourself in a movie that deals with troubles more pressing than, say, co-workers who leaves extra work for the evening shift.  Check it out, and for heaven’s sake don’t try to do any thinking while you’re in the theater.~

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