Jul 5, 2010

[Movies] 2012 (2009)

2012 MovieIt's funny how the advent of better and better CGI as a special effects medium, it has also helped solidify the place of disaster porn as a movie genre. Sure, it's fun to use the power of modern movie-making technology to recreate historical locations, it's even more fun to use it to destroy historical landmarks and other popular locations. Sure, we can age a young actor to look like he's in his late 50's or we can try to add as much detail as possible to the destruction of the Eiffel Tower or something. The list goes on and on.

There are few directors out there who can be better associated with these types of movies other than Roland Emmerich. Ever since he shocked the world with his destruction of Washington, D.C. by an alien mothership in Independence Day, Emmerich has being doing his very best to determine bigger and better ways to destroy the world over and over again. I have no idea if there's a personal reason for why he chooses to do these movies beyond the money the studios probably offer him. However if there's some sort of personal drive to his desire to work on these movies, then well, he probably has some serious anger management issues.

I'm not totally complaining here - as far-fetched as a lot of these movies end up being in terms of the plot, they're still pretty fun to watch. That's the only reason we choose to head out and watch these monstrosities - to see how the special effects artists will destroy the world this time around. And here's the latest iteration of the Emerich's brilliance.

2012 is yet another crazy movie about an end of the world scenario. Instead of obscure weather shifts and items of this nature, this time around Roland Emmerich to dig into ancient mythology - or maybe just the usual tripe we get in email chain letters. I'm going to try and take a lighter approach to reviewing this movie since even calling it science fiction is a bit of a stretch.

So in line with the old myths about how the ancient Mayan Calendar mysteriously ends in 2012, it's discovered that (wait for it!) strange neutrino activity from the sun has started to boil the planetary core. Don't ask me how that happened, but it just did and it somehow managed to bypass the ozone layer and the Earth's crust in order to melt the core and result in the tectonic plates to become untethered and thus chaos. So what initially appears to be earthquakes and strange tectonic activity turns out to be, um, the crust falling lose like a gryoscope or something. So yeah, chaos is inevitable, the world is doomed and there'll be no saving everyone.

And now for the required human element in the story so we can all follow along with some degree of emotional attachment to the plot.

American actor John Cusack at a Dow Jones' D C...Image via Wikipedia
So the world's governments with less than two years' worth of lead time start preparing a way to save humanity in secret in order to avoid a worldwide panic. By amazing coincidence, a largely unsuccessful and divorced author Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) stumbles across the not very well secured research location in Yellowstone Park while trying to take his kids camping. There he meets geologist Dr. Adrian Helmsey, who is studying the steady rising of the temperature of the Earth's core. He is only able to mention that the entire area is unstable and the useless fact that he's a bit fan of Jackson's one and only book, which sold less than 500 copies. He then stumbles across the seemingly insane conspiracy theorist Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson) and this convinces him that the world is about to end and so he goes on to save his family.

There are a bunch of other side stories like the one with the Russian rich guy and his somewhat cute bodyguard / pilot, his wife's new boyfriend who also happens to be a part-time pilot, a depressing version of the president of the United States (Danny Glover for the win!) and even a Tibetan monk and his family. The campiness goes on and on but don't worry - you can forget all about all these nonessential characters and just enjoy the disaster porn element to things. 

Oh yes, see California sink into the ocean! Watch the Sistine Chapel get destroyed! Enjoy the sight of the Washington monument breaking in half, only for the entire area to get him with an aircraft carrier. And what about that massive tidal wave sweeping away the old monk, just like we saw in the trailer? Of course it's there too! Who cares if the science doesn't work and the sequences get downright ridiculous - it all just works to some degree and it makes for entertaining viewing. The CGI is indeed rather top-notch and the attention to detail is pretty spectacular.

And then they all get into pathetic versions of the old Seaquest vessels that have very sensitive gears and engines that require all doors are closed securely. Good job Chinese engineers. The world's richest only paid for speed and not really quality after all.

I made sure to turn off my brain before I started watching this movie and that probably saved me a lot of disappointment. If you're a major fan of stories like the Mayan Calendar myth, then this is not the movie for you. That's just part of the feeble premise they throw at you in the beginning and then it's all disaster sequence after disaster sequence after that. You don't really need anything else. Hell, there's even a little romance to boot.

2012 is a great addition to the library of mindless disaster movies and definitely won't be the last one either. It gets 3 ridiculous airplane stunts that a novice pilot could never manage on his own out of a possible 5 just for the CGI alone. In the future the special effects team should probably get top billing for these movies instead of the actors. Seriously.
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