2012 (2009)

Rated R. Our ratings: V- 0; L- 8; S-3/N-7 Running time: 2 hours 38 min.

And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to
make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled
with violence because of them; now I am
going to destroy them along with the earth.
4Make yourself an ark of cypress* wood…
Genesis 3:13-14a

As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ 2Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” Mark 13:1-2

Jackson Curtis is told by a half-mad radiocaster of the impending doom at Yellowstone.

2009 Columbia Pictures

Keep in mind the date of December 12, 2012. If director Roland Emmerich and co-writer Harald Kloser are right, it will not matter who wins the elections that year because the Earth will be toast. Well, maybe soggy toast in places because of the giant tsunamis that will be so high that they will reach even into the Himalayas. How do they know this will happen? The Mayans say so. Seems there is a Mayan calendar that stops at that date. Sure.

Like all good disaster films—many of which were directed by Mr. Emmerich—there are spectacular effects depicting great landmarks being destroyed: Los Angeles and Las Vegas; the Empire State Building; St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the Christ the Redeemer statue high above Rio, and the Washington Monument in D.. Oh yes, as you have probably seen in the preview, the White House, smashed flat when a tsunami carries and drops the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Kennedy on it. The CG-generated destruction is so spectacular and so frequently occurring throughout the long film that the meaning of the death of mere humans—millions of them seen as tiny running or plummeting figures—is largely lost.

Like all disaster films, there are individual stories. First Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a government scientist who first informs White House chief of staff Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), and then President Wilson (Danny Glover), whose daughter daughter Laura Wilson (Thandie Newton) is also brought into the story. Out in California there is divorced father Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), trying to bond with his sullen son and little perky daughter by taking them on a camping trip to Yellowstone despite their lack of enthusiasm. He has written science fiction novels, but to make ends meet, works as a limousine driver for Russian billionaire Yuri Karpov (Zlatko Buric. Jackson’s ex-wife, Kate (Amanda Peet) is now married to plastic surgeon Gordon (Thomas McCarthy), and it Jackson is trying to deal with the fact that his son feels closer to the stepfather because he shows that he cares for the boy by spending time with him. Probably the most interesting character, however, is Charlie Frost, a maverick broadcaster and end of world enthusiast, played over the top by Woody Harrelson.

As in so many science fiction films, the government has kept secret the coming destruction of the Earth’s surface, triggered by raging solar storms and flares that are heating up the planet’s subterranean core and plates. Joining with virtually every major power, the US has helped construct six giant arks in the remote Himalayan section of China, the locals being told that the disruptive project is another dam. How all these characters converge on the arks (and I haven’t even mentioned the Budhist monk and his brother and the bratty sons and the mistress of the Russian oligarch) adds up to one wild ride. Although many of the narrow escapes are not very credible, most viewers are not going to mind. There are a couple of moral dilemmas, such as the President deciding whether to remain with the people or flee to the sanctuary of the arks; and the decision about delaying launching the ships in order to allow additional refugees to board—while the giant tsunami is just minutes from engulfing them.

For Reflection/Discussion

1.How is this a film that’s best enjoyed if you check your critical faculties at the door? What incidents did you find hard to believe?

2.What references did you see to other disaster films? (Such as to The Poseiden Adventure.)

3.Compare this to the recent apocalyptic film Knowing. Some regard this as apocalyptic, but is it really, or is it just a disaster film on a larger than usual scale? What conventions of the genre does the film follow (and which Knowing does not.)?