May 24, 2010

Review of 2012

I finally saw 2012, the apocalyptic thriller based on the Maya calendar. Here are some reviews that reflect my reactions:


By Mark Pfeiffer With Earth on the eve of destruction in 2012, we can't stop the impending apocalypse; we can only hope to contain it. Conspiracy theorists, such as Woody Harrelson as the film's resident nutjob, believe that the Mayan calendar foretells the end of the world on December 21, 2012. Scientists may not put any stock in the predictive power of an ancient civilization, but they notice that the planet is heating from the inside at an alarming rate, which may cause the crust to crack.

Of course, the powers that be don't bother informing the public about the forthcoming catastrophe. Rather, they plan for how to save their own skins and ensure the future of humanity. Failed author turned limousine driver Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) happens to be in the right place at the right time when hell on earth arrives. Armed with knowledge of a long shot survival option, Jackson scrambles to save his former wife Kate (Amanda Peet), kids, and their stepdad.
2012 (Columbia Pictures) (2009)

When the World Hangs in the Balance, a Reliable Calendar Is Needed

By Manohla DargisAlas, the clichĂ©s of the disaster narrative remain in place. To that ruinous end, the larger catastrophe in “2012” functions as both the trigger and backdrop for a soap opera about a fractured family, standing in for the rest of humanity, which heals as the world falls apart. That’s the idea, anyway.

In truth, the central family here is as disposable as the billions of computer-generated humans that soon pile up after disaster hits. Written by Mr. Emmerich and Harald Kloser (they last collaborated on “10,000 B.C.”), “2012” takes its plot points and shifting plates from both science and fiction, and its title from doomsday prophesies, including a myth about the end of days derived from a reading of the Mayan calendar. Though not much is made of the Mayan angle, the most amusing character, a doomsday prophet and radio broadcaster played by Woody Harrelson, seems in hair, beard and interests to have been drawn along the predictive lines of the real author Daniel Pinchbeck (“2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl”).
Review:  2012

By Peter Hall[W]hat the willing don't inherently know, and this is the most crucial piece of information one can be equipped with before hand, is that 2012 is 158 minutes long.

Granted, one would expect the end of the world to take more than 90 minutes, but the biggest failing of 2012 is that it barely has enough story to span half an hour, yet alone two more beyond that. Sign up for all the California-sinking, supervolcano-erupting mayhem you want, but what you're signing up for comes packaged with banal, one-dimensional characters who are only ever allowed to spew groan-inducing dialogue like so many fireballs from a, well, supervolcano. And considering the spectacle is unfortunately a fraction of the length, the audience is given more than enough time to wonder how so much mediocrity came to be from such talented people.

Which is a shame, because 2012 opens well enough.
And:Cusack shows none of the enthusiasm he's historically thrown into his roles, which renders our obvious hero character nothing beyond being the guy who keeps narrowly escaping every collapsing road, falling building, and erupting volcano whether he's in a limousine, a prop plane, or a Winnebago.

Despite Cusack's character being the must underwhelming one in the entire production, the first 50 odd minutes of the film are perfectly satisfying. The audience gets to meet and greet with a wide array of ancillary characters in orbit of Ejiofor and Cusack's storylines while also being treated to two outstanding, extended escape-the-apocalypse sequences that are thrilling enough to have you convinced 2012 may not be so bad after all. But then the tension winds down and we get to meet and greet even more ancillary characters, which serves not to provide the extended emotional attachment Emmerich is clearly shooting for. Rather the time spent with them does nothing to propel the core storyline while simultaneously diluting what minimal attachment the audience had with Cusack and his immediate family.

About midway through, 2012 has not only lost its characters but its spectacle trump card to boot. Nothing from that point on comes close enough to even touch toes with the film's first two effects extravaganzas, condemning the remaining hour plus of the film to meandering storylines with wholly predictable resolutions; which is a situation the co-writer/director does not have the skill set to make even remotely interesting.
2012 AU Review

Oh, it's a disaster alright.

By Patrick Kolan
Cue the rollicking silliness. You know those scenes that play out in every action movie made since 1980? The ones where the bus jumps the broken bridge? Or a man falls over the edge and everyone thinks he's dead—but it's okay because a single hand suddenly appears, clinging to the cliff? Or how about the plane that's trying to escape from an explosion and gets enveloped in smoke--only to come bursting out with impossible speed? What about the eleventh-hour miscalculation that results in the timer speeding up towards impending disaster? Then there's the grandpa with regrets, the 'ultimate sacrifice' guy, the wormy scientist who makes good, the noble daughter who outlives the father, the divorcee who falls back in love, the evil rich dude, the ethnic stereotype village, the holy man on the mountain, the beauty queen with the handbag dog, the dude with two day's pilot training who must repeatedly fly everyone to safety at street level, through a collapsing city? What about the obligatory heroic kid, or the water escape scene, the tacked-on happy Hollywood ending where it's all sunshine and laughing and nobody really feels too remiss about the death of 5.9 billion people?

And that's not even the half of it. Seriously. It goes on and on like this, piling on so much rehash that you will laugh.
Comment:  It's funny to watch the "making of" featurette and hear everyone laud Roland Emmerich as a master of sweeping epics and character-based dramas too. Translation: He's a master of special effects that have landscapes and people in them. His movies have been going downhill ever since his first success--from Independence Day (8.0 of 10) to The Day After Tomorrow (7.5) to 10,000 B.C. (5.5).

2012 is somewhat better than 10,000 B.C. But the characters are barely two-dimensional, the CGI alternates between good and phony-looking, the big finish (escaping the destruction in arks) makes little sense. Emmerich is a great filmmaker except for his plotting and characterization.

The Native aspect

2012's Native references includes: One "Mayan 2012" sign held by a protester, a mass suicide at Tikal shown on the news, a couple mentions of the Maya, one mention of the Hopi, and a brief explanation of the Maya prophecy.

The explanation is bogus; it isn't what the Maya believe. But it's what New Agers believe the Maya believe, so I can't fault the movie for that. The thing that annoyed me was the mass suicide. I couldn't tell what race the bodies were, but the implication was negative. Either the Maya themselves committed suicide or they presided over a New Age death cult. Because the Maya are all about human sacrifice, you know.

It's a shame 2012 didn't take the Maya angle one step further. How about including a Maya Indian to tell the scientists what was going on? He could've even been a Maya scientist.

Whatever he was, he could've said the 2012 end-date was hokum, but many indigenous cultures believe we're destroying the world. That would've added a welcome bit of depth to this popcorn movie.

Rob's rating:  6.5 of 10.

For more on the subject, see Report on Comic-Con 2009 and 2012 Trailer.

Below:  John Cusack races from a green screen impending doom.


dmarks said...

I thought the Native content in the movie was negligible.

So, what makes you lock down some items for comments and not others? I would have had some answers on the Christian Conservative questions, and some anti-Ron Paul material to add.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you mean Rand Paul, dmarks. Ron Paul believes the Federal Reserve is an evil conspiracy. Basically the old conspiracy about banks with the antisemitism filed down. Of course, after Goldman Sachs, a non-antisemitic bank conspiracy theoery may have a chance.

Anyway, as for 2012, it's New Age crap, just like 10,000 B.C. with the "ancient astronauts" building Egypt. At least they didn't have "collect the 13 crystal skulls before 2012". Ooh! An RPG quest!

dmarks said...

Anon: You are correct. I mixed up the names. Ron Paul (father) has also forayed into actual antisemitism with speeches in which he used well-worn Stormfront-style code words.

Ron Paul (father) wants to alter the Constitution to strip citizen away from American citizens whose parents were illegal aliens. Since he speaks mainly of Latino immigration, this is probably part of his plan of attack there.

Ron (not Rand) Paul on African-Americans:

"If you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be..."

"Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the criminal justice system, I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal."

" We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, but it is hardly irrational."

(from his newsletters)

Has son Rand ever repudiated father Ron?