Saw 2012 the other day. You all know that the Mayans never predicted the end of the world in 2012, right?
A point pithily summarized recently by Brewster Rockit:
As far as the movie goes, it’s too late to point this silliness out, so following is my review of 2012.
(We’ll get into the whole “end of the world” controversy below.)
It was a fairly entertaining movie if you like special effects — F/X of large geographic regions being destroyed loudly and in great computer-generated detail.
From the character perspective, the movie could be called “Pinball World,” because the people in the movie exist just to carom from one dire emergency to the next. In the process the main family at the center of the story uses up about 144 lifetimes’ worth of luck (and no, there’s no significance to that number).
Speaking of numbers, I paid $4 to see it at my local Karasotes Theater. 2012 is worth that — maybe $5. But $8 or more? Nah. Wait for it on Blu-ray and watch it at home on your HDTV. (I don’t review in stars, I review in dollars.)
But if you really like graphics-intensive, jaw-dropping effects and want to see it, click on the movie poster at the top and you can get tickets on Fandango.
But I digress. There is no really standout performance in the film except maybe Woody Harrelson, and if you’ve seen the extended trailers you’ve already seen the best of his performance.
The Russian billionaire is okay and the Russian pilot has some moments — actually, all the Russians in the film are pretty good.
Danny Glover as POTUS begins his role in the the film looking stunned and becomes more stunned-looking as events unfold.
There’s a Tibetan worker who’s smart but kind of pissed off; he was okay. (Actually, all the Tibetans in the movie started out sort of pissed even before learning that the world was going to end, but who can blame them? Their world already got screwed over by the Chinese. All the Tibetans were PO’d… except for the clichéd old Buddhist monk who just couldn’t give two raspberries because he’s so freakin’ detached from the worldly illusion.)
John Cusack plays a Nice Guy with a Bit of a Flaw. He’s an artist — a writer — obsessed with his art to the point that he hasn’t paid enough attention to his family. Well, boo hoo — all real artists are obsessed with their art, aren’t they? Most of us are grateful for their obsession if they’re any good. Who cares if Bach or Picasso went to his kid’s soccer game?
This Bit of a Flaw that John Cusack has has led to a Divorce (the horror) and now his relationship with his children is strained. Well, actually his 7-year-old daughter still loves him but she wets the bed and obsesses over hats.
He’s estranged from his son, too, who is resentful and uncommunicative. Of course, the son is also an American teenager.
Now where have I seen these plot devices before? I mean, I appreciate how the screenwriters were able to create this very original divorced-dad-who-makes-his-ex-wife-unhappy-and-is-estranged-from-his-kids-except-for-his-immature-for-her-age-daughter-who-still-loves-him situation in a really fresh way so that we can appreciate how the Nice Dad with a Bit of a Flaw turns out to actually be a Perceptive and Surprisingly Cool Guy Filled to the Brim with Gumption.
Anyway, you can guess how this ends up. The sullen son becomes willing to actually text his dad after the regretful but smart dad saves them all from Armageddon about 50 times.
And of course the rival boyfriend of the ex-wife [spoiler coming — don’t finish this sentence if you haven’t seen the film] conveniently gets shredded by some giant mechanical gears. A poor way to treat him after he heroically flew an airplane through the worst disaster in history. But this just goes to show how the entire universe takes umbrage when you get involved with the hot ex-wife of a Perceptive and Surprisingly Cool Guy Filled to the Brim with Gumption.
Anyway, that’s enough about the acting. Did I mention the special effects?
The real heroes of this movie should be the engineers who build huge craft to save a sample of humanity and other mammals (apparently only mammals) — lavish Technology That Is Secret Until It is Required to Save the World. But do we ever meet any of these engineers? Nah. Instead, we get many scenes with politicians and bureaucrats who are too stupid to realize that it’s the engineers and scientists who matter and who have the Proper Perspective on Things. Venal bureaucrats — there’s an unexpected characterization, eh?
Bottom line, the actual real heroes of the movie are the numerous special effects artists, rotoscopers, CGI programmers, matte painters, animators, and model-builders whose effects made the movie worth $5 and whose names appear in the end-credits scrunched together in a small font. I am happy that they will no doubt receive millions for their work. Or at least a pat on the back.
Seriously, this idea of the world coming to an end has become a cliché.
When did people start predicting the end of the world? I’ll bet cave-dwellers living through the ice age in 14,000 BC didn’t worry about it. They were too busy surviving. So who’s responsible for getting that ball rolling? Who was the first person who one day looked around at the big, wide world and thought, “This could all go away?” (Maybe some antediluvian equivalent of Woody Allen?)
Someone recorded their thoughts on the imminent demise of the world on an Assyrian clay tablet around 2,800 BC. That might be the oldest we know of. Apparently, this person was feeling disgruntled and so predicted that the world was soon coming to an end.
That’s generally the way it’s worked ever since. The notion of an “end time” has commonly arisen after a society has adopted monotheism. If you’ve got one “correct” belief, then you’ve usually got a privileged class of believers and a down-trodden class of non-believers. Generally, the non-believers (or any minorities in a society) get a raw deal, and so soothe their discontent by predicting the ending of the “unfair” situation.
In other words, they actually hope for the end of the world so their wrongs will be righted. People who are having a good time are not usually encouraged by the idea that the world will soon go kaput.
The notion that the world and its ills has an expiration date also makes up for the apparent contradiction in the idea that, if God is a good guy, why does so much shit hit the fan? (It’s kind of like that mathematical anomaly in the equation for the Matrix that the Architect discusses in The Matrix Reloaded.) Another early prediction for the world’s end was written in the Hebrew Book of Daniel around 165 BC. At the time, the Jews were being brutally persecuted.
Then you have the opportunists who lay claim to authority by predicting things. These opportunists are often known as “pastors” (and sometimes astrologers and psychics). And what more impressive prediction can you make than the end of the world? Even if it turns our you’re wrong, in the meantime there are always people who will believe your prediction, especially if they’re generally unhappy with their lives, and they will do nice things like giving you donations and kudos.
What is certain is that none of these predictions has ever come true. Yet people go right on making them and others keep believing them. It’s kind of like Lucy and Charlie Brown: year after year, Lucy tells Charlie Brown that she will hold the football and he can come running up and kick it. And every time she pulls it away.
People still believe a guy like Nostradamus could foretell the future, though none of his predictions has ever been undeniably accurate. (If you can even understand what the heck he was talking about.)
So who got the predictions started with respect to the end of the world in 2012?
There are a number of “authorities” (i.e., authors of books) responsible for that. Predicting that bad things will happen in 2012 has since become a growth industry.
As far as the movie 2012 goes, the end credits state that its disastrous events are based on the book Fingerprints of the Gods, by Graham Hancock, a book published in 1995 that suggests that an ancient civilization is responsible for much of the culture and artifacts found throughout the world and that these ancient beings warned of a coming cataclysm.
The idea that 2012 would be a show-stopper was more or less kicked off by José Arguelles, who was a prime motivator behind the “Harmonic Convergence” event in 1987 and who has written a number of books, among them The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology, published in 1987.
John Major Jenkins added a lot of momentum to the 2012 bandwagon with his 1998 book Maya Cosmogensis 2012: The True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End-Date. (Good to know somebody knows the “true meaning,” eh?)
And a tributary in this river of apocalyptic speculation is the idea that the year 2012 will actually usher in a spiritual transformation, as opposed to a civilization-collapsing one. Daniel Pinchbeck’s book 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl is foremost in promulgating this idea. A lot of New Agers prefer Pinchbeck’s take on it (and isn’t it reassuring to know that John Cusack, star of 2012, tends to agree with Pinchbeck?). His book certainly offers an interesting account of a personal journey of discovery and shamanic revelation — if you can manage to wade through the ponderously pontificating style with which he presents his thoughts.
Now, academics like to debunk things (at least until they’re forced to admit by accumulating evidence that the things are true) and doomsday-2012 is no exception. For that we have Bob Waxman, author of 2012: The Ultimate Meaning, which is being released on — hey, who would have guessed — December 21, 2009. Waxman thinks we owe an apology to the Mayans for getting the meaning of their calendar so incorrect.
But we’re not making these mistakes willfully, you know. People just like to have something non-boring to look forward to.
You ever notice that children instinctively shy away from the idea of the end of the world? It’s only jaded, disappointed, hysterical older folks who comprise the fan base. And this fan base never seems concerned about all the kids who would be wiped out by such an event — but then again, why would they? The end of everything is preferable to living in this world, right? That seems to be their premise.
It kind of makes you wonder: if doomsday is indeed coming, then why would all those kids, those souls, choose to be born at a time right before the end of the world — like, say, 10 minutes before? On the other hand, if you don’t think children personally choose the moment of their birth, why would God send them here right then? Presumably, births are not going to slack off any time before midnight, December 21, 2012. Of course, if you think births are random biological events without any metaphysical basis, then you don’t believe the world will end in 2012 anyway.
Well, I suppose that’s reassuring. But NASA’s special effects are nowhere near as good as 2012.
Wouldn’t it be funny if nothing happened on December 21, 2012, but the world ended on January 7, 2013? (If that happened, at least a lot of us would have had the chance to redeem our Christmas gift cards.) In that respect, I hereby make a prediction of my own: new predictions about when the end of the world will really occur will appear shortly after December 21, 2012.
Actually, I like the following take on the year 2012 from Abraham-Hicks. Let’s leave it at that.