Sunday, November 15, 2009

The End of the World. Again.

I am imagining this conversation taking place, somewhere in Hollywood, maybe 2007 or so...

Hollywood Director Roland Emmerich:  Yas, yas, I need to uh... come up weeth a new movie.  I vant to to deestroy the planeet agayn...

Assistant:  Um, what about aliens?

Emmerich:  Nah, nah, I did that already.

Another assistant:  Oh, I got it, what about global warming?  That's a hot topic?

Emmerich:  Is good topic.  Global warming.  Yas, yas, we could do movie with George Bush and hurricane machine and he causes global warming.  But I did global warming movie already.

Another assistant:  What about a big lizard who comes and destroys the country?

Emmerich:  Is called Godzilla, and I did Godzilla.  I make'ah Matthew Broderick into action star.

Yet Another Assistant:  Oh, how about... cavemen?  That Geico Caveman has been around for like, ten years and...

Emmerich (cutting him off with a wave): Nah, nah, no more cavemen!  I deed cavemen!

The First Assistant:  Wait... Mr. Emmerich... what about... the Mayan prediction that the world will come to an end? 

Emmerich:  Mayan... prediction... world end?  Hmm... tell me more, First Assistant...

The First Assistant:  It says that in the Mayan civilization, they created the Mayan calendar, and in that calendar, it predicts that due to alignment in the planets that happens only once in ever 400,000 years, our planet will be destroyed.

Emmerich (rubbing chin):  Hmmm... what if sun put forth solar flares that boil the planet meedle?  I like it...

The Second Assistant:   Uh... but Mr. Emmerich... this "end-of-world" theory is really a Western idea, not a Mayan one. Mayans insist that the world will not end in 2012. The Mayans had a talent for astronomy, and enthusiasts have found a series of astronomical alignments they say coincide in 2012, including one that happens roughly only once every 25,800 years. Once every 25,800 years, the sun lines up with the center of our Milky Way galaxy on a winter solstice, the sun's lowest point in the horizon. The next time that will happen is on December 21, 2012; which happens to be the same day the Mayan calender expires. In addition to the Mayan calendar, the modern doomsday myth is bolstered several ostensibly scientific reasons for a disaster. Examples include a pole shift, the "return" of Planet X or the Sun's sinister counterpart Nemesis, a galactic, planetary, or other celestial alignment, global warming, global cooling, a massive solar flare, a new ice age, and so on. None of these have any basis in respected science. For example, the "galactic alignment" between the sun, Earth, and galactic center happens every December. The best alignment was reached in the 1990s and was accompanied by its own set of doomsday theories. Alignments since then have been increasingly poor.

Emmerich (waving him off):  Man made global warming have no science to back it up either, but audience make me millions from my movie.  I like this Mayan movie.  We make!

And thus, "2012" was born. 

The Lovely Steph Leann and I returned from our weekend-like excursion to Pensacola on Friday evening, ran some errands, unloaded our laundry and watched about 45 minutes of a Dateline NBC special, then The Lovely Steph Leann expressed her interest in going to see a movie.  Sometimes there are movies she/we want to see, and other times, she/we just want to get out of the house and see a movie.  Never mind was had seen "Couples Retreat" the night before (quite a funny movie, by the way), we wanted to just get out a see a flick.

We went through the list of movies, including "Paranormal Activity" (The Lovely Steph Leann: No.  I want to sleep tonight")... "Law Abiding Citizen" (Me: I want to see that and... crap!  It starts in 20.  We'll never make it)... "Men Who Stare At Goats" (Me:  I have heard that's a terrible film)... "A Christmas Carol" (The Lovely Steph Leann:  Not in the mood for that one)... and finally, "2012".  She piped up and said, "Ooh.. what about that?"  I was undecided, because I knew what it would be... but it did have John Cusack in it.  So, after doing one of those twenty second decisional debates in my head, I said, "Alright, let's do it!  Should be fun watching the world fall apart!"

The movie starts at 10:15p, and clocks in--before previews--at about 2 hours and 38 minutes.  This means we will be out late late. 

Essentially, it starts in the year 2009, with a scientist in Bangladesh who discovers that in just a few years, the sun will heat up the Earth's core, the Earth's surface will become unstable from the heat and the Earth's plates will shift.  And of course, everything will be destroyed. 

Unlike most other disaster movies, the President actually believes the American scientist, Chiwetel Ejiofor (he plays Dr. Adrian Helmsey here, but he was Denzel's homeboy in the New Dave100 film, "Inside Man"),  and he and his Chief of Staff (Oliver Platt) begin to deal with this global crisis... and they don't want the news to get out.  We see a montage of 2009, 2010 and 2011 and into 2012 as countries start to build something fancy to save part of the human race.  John Cusack is writer Jackson Curtis, who faces the danger along with his kids, his estranged wife and her new boyfriend--usually the "new man" is played as a jerkface, but here, he's refreshingly portrayed as a nice guy.  Oh, and somewhere in here, Woody Harrelson is a crazy mountain guy named Charlie who "saw it all coming, but no one believed me!" 

In other disaster movies, the tidal wave wipes out the countryside, or the bomb blows up an entire city, or Michael Moore does another movie, or any other number of disasters, it all hapens in one scene, and the survivors deal with the aftermath.  In "2012", the disasters happen one after the other all the way through the movie. 

Are there problems with this movie?  Absolutely.  In one scene, a guy is flying an old airplane, relying on his instrument panels to help him see through the smoke and fog--but if the Earth's surface plates are shifting to the point where the North and South poles are going to be relocated, surely those instrument panels are going to be shot to poo.  The sheer practicality of most of this movie is out the window, all common sense given way to lots of special effects of volcanos and California falling off into the ocean and lots of near-misses... there are at least a dozen times when Jackon Curtis and/or his family narrowly escapes flames or smoke or falling buildings or an old RV falling into a pit or hot molten lava or tremors and everything else.

Bottom line is... I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would.  I hated "The Day After Tomorrow", as I thought it was preachy and stupid and just poorly done... and really so serious, with a "hey, wake up, we'd better do something about this!" message about it...

(Don't believe me?  Says the film's IMDB Page... "The Coming Global Superstorm", a non-fiction novel by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber, was used for reference... In keeping with the movie's ecological theme, Emmerich paid $200,000 from his own pocket to make the production "carbon-neutral" - the first of its kind in Hollywood - all carbon dioxide emitted by the production was offset by the planting of trees, and investments in renewable energy.")

"2012" isn't an Academy Award possibility by any stretch... but... its fun.  Its a popcorn film.  Though "Day After Tomorrow" has Emmy Rossum, a much hotter ingenue compared to Amanda Peet in "2012", I'm old enough to be a John Cusack guy over Tomorrow's Jake Gyllenhaal (though I do love me some Maggie).

Want something meaningful and thought provoking?  Run from "2012".  Want something silly, better than "Transformers 2: Revenge of the Wallet-Raiders" that you can much popcorn, eat Twizzlers and enjoy the North Pole relocating to Wisconsin?  "2012" might just be the movie for you.

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