Posted on November 17, 2009 by Steven Dawes
I’ve been hearing about this Mayan predicted apocalypse flick called 2012 for months now. The barrage of commercials on TV and in the movie house and all the controversy on the news concerning the accuracy of the Mayan calendar has stirred up a lot of publicity… and another guaranteed box office hit in Director Roland Emmerich’s back pocket. But what I get from all this is something much more terrifying than Mayan predictions; it meant another trip to the movies with my natural disaster film obsessive wifey.
You see, I’m not a fan of all these natural disaster films that keep cropping up. In my book, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all. And yet my gal can’t get enough of ‘em! Back in our “young love” days I learned early on about her second love; natural disaster films. I once had a “stay at home” date at her apartment and during a conversation I confessed that I’d never watched Armageddon. After getting a look from her like I had Bruce Willis crawling out of my left ear as Ben Affleck crawled out of right one, she whipped out her copy of the film and “strongly requested” that I watch it that very moment. Over the years since then, I was subjected to many others of its class by her hand like The Day after Tomorrow, 10,000 BC (both of which were directed by Roland E. coincidentally), Posidon and so on. To me these films are about two things; watching titanic loads of people die as a few choice survivors issue speeches about humanity before they pull heroic stunts that get usually get them killed.
And what was my verdict after watching 2012? It’s a movie about an EXTREME amount of people dying as a few choice survivors babble on about humanity before they pull heroic stunts that may get them killed. I also have a thought that we got this film as a preview of what’s to come in a few years, but that’s probably just the conspiracy theorist in me… or is it?
Anyway, 2012 holds the title as the biggest natural calamity on film yet, a film says Roland was determined to out do his previous efforts. It’s old recipe in his cookbook of cinematic death and disaster at this point and yet he decided that there’s got to be more ways to watch the masses become disaster fodder as the White House goes up in smoke at some point. Obliterating the White House would be his trademark, if his nature of creating nature’s fury on steroids for the Box Office hadn’t already claimed it. And that’s where my issues lie with this film… its all been done before and really didn’t need to be done again.
As I watched 2012 I couldn’t help but find familiar ground with Roland’s previous work, much less other big destruction films. In fact, I was almost disappointed that his old pal Godzilla didn’t show up to destroy Tokyo before the earthquakes & tsunamis could. It might have been a more entertaining movie if he had. To me, this movie felt old, it felt over inflated, it felt like watching a series of peeps repeatedly escaping doom by mere inches (more on that in a paragraph or two), and at a few points, I found it offensive to watch.
The offensive parts came in during a few of the many disaster moments. As I sat there in the theatre, people were laughing all around me (my wife included) at the absurdity of the cataclysmic shenanigans going on. In reality this should have been a horrific and terrifying aspect to behold as million of people are dying right before my very eyes. But Roland has the cast spouting one liners as they constantly dodge death by mere inches while all sort of visual humor keeps getting shoehorned into the scenes. People like to tell me to relax as it’s only a movie, but these type of films LOVE to pull these horrific bits and then throw in these “humanizing” moments to try and make you feel for all those people who just died while the audience laughed at all the visual humor and absurdities that killed them. I guess I just don’t get the joke.
Outside of the offensiveness, you have all the common fixins’ for this kind of stew. A few choice survivors to focus on and route for, a few antagonizing @$$holes you’d like to shoot to kill within minutes of meeting them, the scientific eggheads that predict the end of the world, and ungodly amount of near misses and every animal you see in the film survives. It seems to be the grand irony that animals MUST not suffer and die in movies, even as billions of people perish all around them.
The familiar faces of the cast come in to do their job well enough, but honestly they should as there’s lots of these kinda movies available for them to use as study materials. John “Doe” Cusask keeps his everyday Joe impression going as good as ever and is always a welcome addition to any film. Amanda Peet plays his ex-wife who looks as tasty as ever while playing protective mom to the ex-couples two kids. Danny Glover gives us a properly emotive President of the USA as Thandie Newton wastes her underappreciated talent as his daughter.
Oliver Platt plays that “evil side of humanity guy whom you wish would die a horrible and slow death but never does” character that shows up in every one of these films (but if he didn’t make it to the end, who else would listen to those speeches about Humanity?) He played this role a little too well for my liking, so I guess I gotta give him props for that. But the golden egg to look out for is Woody Harrelson as the nutty radio show host. He was a hoot AND a holler with this role and I kinda wished the film as all about him. Between this role and his recently starring in “Zombieland”, he’s had a good year. Can’t wait to see what you do next broheem!
Of course the real star of the movie goes by the name of “Destruction… Mass Destruction”, who apparently prefers his drinks shaken AND stirred. The special effects militia must have lived on coffee and cigarettes to churn out so much visual apocalypse. The California fault lines, Yellowstone National Park, giant cruise ships, Las Vegas, Rome and India go the way of the dodo as the film carries on. The CG crew appropriately conveys that no one is safe in this picture; I know I believed it. But as I really did care about the majority of the people (or the animals) that took a back seat to the gluttonous chaos, it didn’t matter how over the top or believable the CG effects looked.
By the end of the film, the title 2012 meant something completely different to me than what it was intended to. To me, the number 2012 meant the following;
-the number of special effects scenes used in the movie.
-the number of minutes the running time felt like (this movie went on and on.)
-the number of time I tried to figure out the scientific crap they dribbled on about and gave up tying. I’m still wondering what the hell a “neutrino” is since nobody bothered to explain them (even thought they’re what effectively pulled the apocalyptic cork.)
-the number of popcorn kernels in my popcorn bucket.
-the approximate dollar cost of said popcorn bucket and large drink (Orville Redenbacher must really stick it to the movie theatre business.)
-the number of near misses the protagonists face during their quest for survival.
-the approximate number of people that survived the planets’ temper tantrum.
-the number of times I feel like I’ve seen it all before.
I guess it all crumbles down to this, 2012 is a type of movie that obviously has a built in audience and it’s calling out to them. If you’re into these sorts of flicks, then you’re in for a treat. If not, it will do nothing to change your mind about them. That being said, here’s a word of warning to you producers and directors planning on making more disaster flicks. You only have till the year 2012 to make ‘em and get ‘em in the theatres to make a quick buck. Eventually the Mayans will get the last laugh on us as the world blows itself up, so get crackin’!
Review by Steven Dawes