Not to be confused with 2010, the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, nor with 2112, the dippy and vaguely Ayn Rand-influenced but nonetheless ass-kicking hard rock album by Canadian power trio Rush, 2012 is a new disaster epic from disaster-epic enthusiast Roland Emmerich, and presumably the disaster epic to end all disaster epics. At least until the next one.
It’s the end of the End of the World Movie as we know it! Things fall apart in a big way in 2012.
Did I say “disaster epic” too much just then? Not for Roland Emmerich! I was going to call him a maven of the form, but to reflect on Emmerich’s career is to be reminded of the important differences between ardor and adroitness, between prosaic and poetic. We know he is a guy who enjoys making movies about moments on calendars, like Independence Day or The Day After Tomorrow or 10,000 B.C. or indeed 2012, the year in which the current millennia-long cycle of the Mayan “Long Count” calendar will conclude, possibly prompting apocalypse. And we know he has a taste for Our Worst Fears Brought to Life, having directed Godzilla in Godzilla and Mel Gibson in The Patriot.
But by now the banality of Emmerich’s calamitous imagery is so entrenched that even complaints about it have become banal. And so you may say you’re fully jaded to gaping urban earthquakes, mile-wide ash clouds, super tsunamis and other soulless digital obliterations of man-made landmarks and large crowds of people, but Emmerich and cowriter Harald Kloser will insist that you just have a look at a few more anyway. To this end, they employ the charitably game actors John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover, Oliver Platt and Woody Harrelson for a chore-like parable of turbulent political progress, multicultural cooperation, variously unpleasant deaths and, most importantly, the healing of a broken family.
And here, as told in 10 choice lines of dialogue, is how it goes:
“Nutrinos have mutated into a new kind of nuclear particle. They’re heating up the earth’s core.”
“It’s the biggest solar climax in recorded history.”
“Don’t you see the signs?”
“California’s going down!”
“All our scientific advances, our fancy machines! The Mayans saw this coming thousands of years ago.”
“We’re gonna need a bigger plane.”
“It’s a brave new world you’re heading for, and the young scientists are gonna be worth 200 old politicians.”
“The director of the Louvre was an enemy of humanity?!”
“Everybody out there has died in vain if we start our future with an act of cruelty.”
Yes, one of those lines is a nod to Jaws, the original blockbuster. So is cinema officially, apocalyptically extinct now, or what?
Well, 2012 certainly does seem evolutionarily far removed from the speculative fictions of Arthur C. Clarke. Yet Emmerich’s methods, at least, do still remind of Geddy Lee shrieking, “Our great computers fill the hallowed halls!” I guess we’ll see what happens in another hundred years.