Movie Review: 2012

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to set up a bank of TVs and simultaneously play a bunch of disaster flicks on them? The Towering Inferno, Earthquake, Armageddon, The Poseidon Adventure, Dante's Peak, and Hard Rain on a stack of six big screen TV's... I'm sure you haven't, but just in case you have wondered - Roland Emmerich was thinking of you.

Emmerich threw down the gauntlet when he blew up the White House in Independence Day. He is the man who set the standard for the modern era of the disaster genre. Yet, he's never quite lived up to the expectations he created. His movies have been more hype than substance (the quirky Godzilla and the plodding Day After Tomorrow are a couple of examples). Now with 2012 he aims to out do himself (and every other apocalyptic movie ever made) in both it's epic scale and epic duration.

Yes I said duration. It is a long movie. I'd recommend using the facilities immediately before the opening credits. Despite the long running time (158 minutes) Emmerich fills that time wisely. It's not the "when will this movie ever end" kind of Transformers 2 long... just the "my bladder is going to burst at any moment" kind. If it wasn't for the one liter of Mt Dew I chugged prior to the movie's beginning, I would have barely noticed the length.

The scenes of destruction (of which there were many) were evenly spaced - unlike some other movies that pack it all in to the fist 20 minutes of film (I'm talking about you The Core). While the dialog is not Oscar worthy, it's not a distraction. The conversations were practical (all though mildly predictable), punctuated with intentional humor, and a self-parodying outlook on the concept of cataclysmic events.

There are a couple of cheese ball moments (The Governator Schwarzenegger's cameo and an obnoxious fissure that splits a couple after the man mentions feeling like there is something separating them) but those clips are few and do not take away from the grandeur of the total and inescapable destruction that Emmerich celebrates for nearly an two hours and forty minutes.

As California sinks into the Pacific, a cruise ship and aircraft carrier are upended in tidal waves, buildings collapse, Yellowstone explodes, and Woody Harrelson goes crazy, you can't help but think how awesome it all looks. And while we know the story is completely implausible, we enjoy it. We know a puddle-jumper plane can't outrun (outfly?) a pyroclastic flow, but we sit on the edge of our seats to see it happen. We know that the earth will not open up to swallow the Vatican, but it makes compelling cinematography. And amidst the chaos is a plot. A decent one. And while some disaster movies center on one story, 2012 takes on a few. The strength of family, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Political and humanitarian ethics. Sacrifice and hope.

And with all that is splayed on the big screen during 2012, one of my favorite moments came after the movie was over (and I'm not talking about Adam Lambert's caterwauling during the closing credits). On my way out of the theater, I overheard two teen-aged girls talking.

"What sucks is like this is totally going to like happen like three days before Christmas," one of them said. (I wish I was joking.)

First of all... it's not. 2012 is a work of fiction - not a documentary. I won't get into the details, but the world will not end on 12/21/12. Astrophysicists, anthropologists, geologists, and many other scientific peoples have easily discounted the proposed meaning of Mayan prophesies. It is well documented. Google it. So I got a good laugh at the girls' academic naiveté, but I am also a bit puzzled by their arithmetic. The end of the Mayan long count calendar is December 12th of 20012. Last time I checked, Christmas falls on the 25th of December... every year. So, if I do my math correctly, 25 minus 21 is 4... not three. And the movie wasn't vague about the date. But I digress. The movie is well worth the price. Emmerich not only lives up to the expectations, but surpasses it. The sad misguided conversation of two girls who are prone to believe anything is just icing on the cake.

(And (Warning: plot spoiler) good news for dog lovers, a few corgis survive along with a king charles cavalier. Good news for alien lovers, so does District 9)

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