Eschatology at the movies
This week's movie rental was the science fiction film 2012, starring John Cusack and Chiwetel Ejiofor, with smaller roles going to Oliver Platt, Danny Glover and Woody Harrelson, among others. It was directed by Roland Emmerich, who also directed Independence Day, and in many ways its very similar to that movie.
- Chiwetel Ejiofor as Dr. Adrian Helmsley
The basic plot .... Scientists come to the conclusion that neutrinos from solar flares will cause the Earth's core to heat up, triggering volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and massive tsunamis in the year 2012, as predicted by the the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. The world's governments secretly prepare by building four huge arks in the mountains of China that will save approximately 400,000 people. Geologist Dr. Adrian Helmsley (Ejiofor) struggles to save humanity in general, while science fiction novelist Jackson Curtis (Cusack) struggles to save his family.
- the Sistine Chapel begins to collapse in 2012
I'd like to say the movie was good, but sadly, I can't. It did have some nice special effects and dramatic images, and some of the characters, especially Dr. Helmsley, were really likeable. The emotional aura was kind of weird, though - zillions of people met their destruction in horrible ways, but the film rarely encouraged us to feel the angst that should inspire (as was done in Deep Impact or The Day After Tomorrow) and sometimes even made light of the circumstances (as did Independence Day, but at least that had Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum :) So I can't really recommend it unless, like me, you're happy enough to watch almost any science fiction.
- California crumbles into the Pacific
But ... Roger Ebert liked it better than I did and gave it three and a half stars. Here's just the start of his review ....
It's not so much that the Earth is destroyed, but that it's done so thoroughly. "2012," the mother of all disaster movies (and the father, and the extended family) spends half an hour on ominous set-up scenes (scientists warn, strange events occur, prophets rant and of course a family is introduced) and then unleashes two hours of cataclysmic special events hammering the Earth relentlessly.
This is fun. "2012" delivers what it promises, and since no sentient being will buy a ticket expecting anything else, it will be, for its audiences, one of the most satisfactory films of the year. It even has real actors in it. Like all the best disaster movies, it's funniest at its most hysterical. You think you've seen end-of-the-world movies? This one ends the world, stomps on it, grinds it up and spits it out.
It also continues a recent trend toward the wholesale destruction of famous monuments. Roland Emmerich, the director and co-writer, has been vandalizing monuments for years, as in "Independence Day," "The Day After Tomorrow" and "Godzilla." I still hold a grudge against him for that one because he provided New York with a Mayor Ebert and didn't have Godzilla step on me and then squish me .....
- the three surviving arks sail happily into the sunset