Posted by: jahfrey | November 29, 2009

2012: The Movie

I saw 2012 the movie the other night in Hartford with a friend. I really enjoyed it! It was a great movie!

You may well be saying to yourself, “McJeff!?! Like a movie? Not grousing about it like a curmudgeon? What has happened?!”

Well dear reader, after years of being a movie crab, McJeff has realized that relaxing and enjoying a movie for what it is can have loads of benefits. Fun. Friendship. No heartburn. Laughter and smiling come to mind…

Anyway, I think 2012 is a such a quintessential Hollywood product that I can’t help but like it!

Ever since CGI and other graphics tools have become available, Hollywood has been entranced with special effects. Think of many of the blockbusters recently. Transformers, Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, even Terminator. All relied heavily on special effects. It’s been great. One frustration I had as a youth was that the movie effects never lived up to the story.

Now however, the effects have become the story! It’s a triumph in film-making!  Of course, you still need a “story” to fill the gaps in between special effects, and for that you need “characters” and the story needs to be “compelling”.

Many times the “characters” are portrayed by “actors”, especially when the story has “human interest”, so computer characters don’t quite cut it, Tim Burton notwithstanding.

And oh yeah, you need “writers” to write the “story”.

I can imagine the way that 2012 was made…with director Roland Emmerich (Godzilla, Independence Day, 10,000 B.C.) sitting around with the writers, thinking up a loose plot, filling in the gaps. Let’s see…we need some kinda science…I know! We’ll use Fingerprints of the Gods!

To quote Emmerich:

“I always wanted to do a biblical flood movie, but I never felt I had the hook. I first read about the Earth’s Crust Displacement Theory in Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods.”

Right. Throw in some passing references to the Mayan Prophecies, hint at aliens and government conspiracies, a little more dubious science about the sun, magnetic poles shifting and stuff, and you have a great premise for the End of the World! And a movie.

Anyway, the script serves to kinda move us along from one really over the top destruction or escape-from-destruction scene to the next. Who cares about the story really, when the slo-mo cataclysmic wrecking of everything is really neat!

So, we get a lazily written story that includes John Cusack as the lead, a struggling writer estranged from his wife and kids. They’re living with some plastic surgeon guy, who is the substitute daddy. Compelling drama and stuff ensues as both guys deal with each other, subtly compete for the wife and kids, and get to be heroes, n’ stuff. I forget the characters’ names. Oh yeah, they both get to drive or fly through all kinds of crumbling buildings and freeways and cars and stores and mountains and water and stuff! One of them dies! Guess which one?

What else…oh yeah, there’s the rich Russian. He’s perfect. Ruthless, earthy, crude. Ultimately a heart of gold. Pretty much. Well, maybe a heart of stainless steel. Anyway, a heart. Sorta.

Then there’s the Russian kids and girlfriend of above wealthy Russian guy. Kids are spoiled brats. Period. Girlfriend is blonde bimbo with cute little barky dog. Girlfriend loves stocky brave Russian he man stud guy pilot of rich guy’s airplane, who saves everyone else. Guess who dies? More than one!

Danny Glover gets to be president. New rule in Hollywood. All presidents must be black. Or a woman. Personally, I think it’s a good thing. Can’t wait for a short gay Asian woman to be president. (Yoko?) Or a box turtle!

Hollywood often reflects the zeitgeist quite well. Since Hollywood is trying to appeal to the broadest base, it follows that it reflects the cultural temperature. Distorted somewhat perhaps, but a reflection nonetheless.  If we are seeing characters and demographic types reflected in the movies and marketing, we can be sure it reflects something going on in society. I mean really, Jeff Spicoli was a pretty accurate reflection of a large demographic in the 80’s!
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
, anyone?

There’s a kinda Cheney white-guy (who is pragmatically ruthless) who sorta takes over, an intelligent young African American scientist guy who ends up with the President’s babe daughter. Both those characters are good looking, articulate and intelligent.

Woody Harrelson is the hippie/redneck crazy living in an RV in the woods and doing a radio show guy who figures it all out and tells the world, and then gets killed in a really cool volcanic eruption, man. I mean…dude!

There’s some old musician geezer guys on a cruise ship. Not sure why they are in there. They kinda hit the old person demographic, so I guess everyone in the audience has somebody to relate to. They are old jazz guys. One of ’em is the Daddy of the afore-mentioned African American scientist guy. There’s some tearful phone calls. I guess it was compelling.

I think there might be some other characters as well, but I forget. Oh yeah…some Tibetans, and a Buddhist monk or two.

Pretty much everyone dies in the end. Not those who count, but you know…it’s like the red-shirted guy in Star Trek who always died during the episode. You can pretty much guess who is gonna die, and you’ll scratch your head over some that do die. Die they do, for some reason, most likely a random choice by the director.

All in all, Emmerich does not let the story get in the way of a wonderful rush of special effects and overwhelming sound. The White House, Los Angeles, the Vatican, pretty much every reasonable target in the Western world gets crushed. Plus the Taj Mahal. India, Hawaii, Rio de Janeiro.

Oh yeah, and the Eiffel Tower. Damm Frenchies…

As Roger Ebert says, the movie…”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.

Of course, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone says: Beware 2012, which works the dubious miracle of almost matching Transformers 2 for sheer, cynical, mind-numbing, time-wasting, money-draining, soul-sucking stupidity.

I think it lands some where in the middle. It’s a good movie for the kids. Scary, but not too much; no sex. Cartoon characters. Lots and lots of things getting wrecked. I can’t think of a better movie to fulfill a young man’s desire for destruction. And loud noises.

As for having fun, screw Travers. Go to this movie and laugh and enjoy it for the sheer spectacle it is. That and nothing more.



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