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Movie Review: 2012

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2012 is a wonderful bit of preposterous entertainment. Have you seen the movie Speed? It has a scene where a runaway bus jumps across an expanse of missing freeway, totally defying the laws of physics. And yet the moment is still exhilarating. All of the action in 2012 is like that.

The movie is filled with people frantically fleeing from flying debris and with people, cars, and trains falling into canyons that didn’t exist a few seconds earlier. Los Angeles – where else? – splits open and its denizens tumble toward the Earth’s core while our heroes, led by the always appealing John Cusack, escape in a tiny plane, buildings collapsing within inches all around them.

Narrow escapes continue with Yellowstone going volcanic – as my wife frequently reminds me could happen any second – with lava everywhere and a mushroom cloud the likes of which hasn’t be seen since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Why though does molten rock never seem hot in movies? And why does a blast big enough to take out a national park only create enough wind to barely muss the hero’s hair?

Still, it’s all entertaining and the special effects are quite stunning. It’s the sort of movie where you sit back and go with the flow. I don’t usually eat popcorn during movies, but I did so this time with glee. And I wasn’t even all that bothered when my daughter texted me asking to buy her four tickets to New Moon. That’ll teach me to not forget to turn the darn thing off though.

Cusack plays Jackson Curtis, a divorced fledgling writer. He takes his two kids on a camping trip while his ex-wife Kate spends time with her boyfriend. And it is in this subplot that we best see what the movie is really about, a Noah-like punishment for sins.

There is a bit of corniness while Kate and her boyfriend are shopping for groceries. He is worried about their relationship and says, “It feels like something is coming between us.” Then, a crack in the earth – that we’ve long seen coming, setting off car alarms in the parking lot – opens up a crevasse between them, thrusting them apart.

Later, Kate suggests to Jackson that everything that is happening is their fault. It’s a throwaway line meaning something entirely different in context, but its implication is that all of this destruction has been caused by their divorcing and squabbling over their kids. The punishment seems ridiculously out of proportion, especially since they get along remarkably well, as far as divorced couples go.

But big disaster movies are often elaborate contraptions built around just such small human issues. All of Jackson’s fleeing is his running away from responsibility. All of the tearing of things apart is so a family can be put back together. All of the other subplots are variations of good and bad people getting what they deserve.

My favorite moment in 2012 came near the end. With civilization swallowed whole, one of the few books to survive is a novel by Jackson titled Farewell Atlantis. No, it’s not a copy of Hamlet or Catcher in the Rye or The Holy Bible. And this begs an interesting question: What books will survive the end of the world as we know it?

Leaving the theater and walking past about a hundred teenage girls camped out in the lobby, I wondered, “What if the only author to survive the end times turned out to be Stephenie Meyer?”

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About Todd Ford

  • John Lake

    If it hadn’t been for that great guru Woody Harrelson (With whom I humbly admit I Identify) I wouldn’t be able to say that this was the BEST MOVIE I’ve ever seen in my life!

  • Tenzin

    The world is ending in a matter of hours, yet justice and humanity don’t penetrate through the brain-shells of politicians. In order to save their own lives, the government officials keep the secret from the rest of human kind and also lets the man whose knowledge saves their lives die. This is the premise of 2012.

    But if the viewer is a Tibetan or someone who is aware of the Tibetan culture and the sensitivities of Tibetan issue, one could feel that the justice and humanity are not occurred in the director’s thought either.

    There is a scene long enough to mention that takes place in Tibet. In fact the last human beings die there and the new seed of the future human race starts at the neck of Mount Everest, “The People’s Republic of China” the movie calls it. Perhaps what no movie reviewer noticed or saw the importance of mentioning is that the prophetic fictitious story of the movie not only makes a statement that Tibet is completely a part of China, but also it totally misrepresents the core culture of Tibetan people. A Tibetan woman killing animals in Tibet is taboo, it never happened except during the Cultural
    Revolution when some women were forced to do so. Women killing chickens in the Chinese market is an everyday event, but a Tibetan woman killing a CHICKEN reflects the director’s cultural ignorance and it makes the movie even more ridiculous.

    And in real life ethically speaking, Mr. Emmerich failed to hire Tibetan actors who can speak their own language. All the actors who play Tibetan characters are Chinese very poorly pretending to be Tibetans. Their Tibetan is hundred times worse than Zhang Yi’s memorized English or Leonardo DiCaprio’s Swahili (well I can imagine!).

  • a Tibetan

    Tenzin, I agree with you! How difficult is it to find Tibetan actors to portray Tibetans? There are at least a thousand or so tibetans in california, don’t even need to venture far.

    And maybe we Tibetans are not all vegetarians, but what really was the purpose of the Tibetan woman killing the chicken? It just seemed so unnecessary and pointless, unless it was to make Tibetans look violent and inhumane, which I doubt we are more than any other group of people.

    Lastly, we Tibetans are Tibetans and not Chinese.