If the World Really Were Coming to an End, This Is Probably What It Would Look Like.

2012 is awesome. You buy into it. Like all great science fiction, it kind of works like this: You have no idea if the premise is well-founded (neutrinos or something from the sun are acting like a microwave oven to heat up and melt the earth’s core, and the earth’s core is the cement that holds the whole surface of the earth together, so now we’re all screwed), but you don’t care; the movie has a gravity that makes you want to accept it, and once you do, everything else has internal consistency. The characters behave as they very well might. The destruction plausibly could happen exactly as the film depicts it. Etc. It’s very easy to get caught up in this film, and not only because the effects are convincing (which they are). Special effects are cool, but unless you build them on a foundation of dramatic verisimilitude, they’re stupid. 2012‘s delivering on both is why I found myself involuntarily muttering “Oh, my God” more than once.

The shots in the movie are extraordinarily well planned and laid out by director Roland Emmerich. You are never confused for a second about what’s happening in the many action sequences. Whatever your own imagination or unconscious dream-state could conjure up if you were trying to terrify yourself — whatever visual information you need to get totally freaked out — Emmerich anticipates that and shows it to you.

Plus, you want a disaster movie to contain lines like, “All our scientific knowledge, and the Mayans called this right a thousand years ago.” 2012 doesn’t deprive you of them.

The movie resonates on another level. Even if the scientific principles behind it are absurd, it taps into our fear of terrorism. You know that if our enemies ever have the means, something not far afield from what you see in the movie might just happen in real life. 2012 is a safe way to see your world destroyed, because afterward you can go get a hamburger.

A layer of religious symbolism also seems embedded somewhere in the movie’s crust. After all, if the earth’s core is melting, that’s rather like “all hell breaking loose,” isn’t it? And after a while one notices that the central character, a science-fiction novelist named Jackson Curtis whose book espouses the basic goodness of man, has the initials J.C. (For that matter, so does the actor who plays him, John Cusack.) That’s fine.

Cusack is very good in the film, and Oliver Platt deserves a Best Supporting Actor nomination.


3 Comments on “If the World Really Were Coming to an End, This Is Probably What It Would Look Like.”

  1. rovronr says:

    Actually, this is what the end of the world looks like:

    There’s a better version on the SNL website.

  2. Saw it last night. I’m mixed. Very cool effects–some of the best I’ve ever seen–but then they start repeating. Thought I would plotz after seeing the 20th sidewalk start to split. Some great acting (agree about Platt) and some of the worst (the fake Russian accents were comical). Some great script moments (Glover doing the Lord’s Prayer) and some that were beyond stupid (Cusack pulling himself out of the runway crevasse after the Winnebago does a wheelie–puhleeze). Some novel bits (the “ships” as arks) and some virulent cliches (why do old Asian men have to wear round black glasses the way Jerry Lewis used to?)

    Two-and-a-half stars.

  3. Ted Naron says:

    BIll, I agree that the “climbing out of the runway crevasse” was ridiculous. But by that time, I was so caught up in the movie that I basically said, “Oh, what the hell…so it’s ridiculous.” Glad you found things to like about the flick.

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