Roland Emmerich is a German-born movie director who loves disaster and special effects. His 1996 movie “Independence Day” was a whiz-bang scenario of aliens invading Earth. His 2004 movie “The Day After Tomorrow” made Al Gore happy. It was Emmerich’s interpretation of global climate change killing us all.
This weekend, I saw his latest offering, titled “2012”. It was standard Emmerich fare - lots of over-the-top special effects, a soundtrack that will temporarily deafen you, huge cities destroyed, and our attempt to escape from the destruction. John Cusack trying to save his family from certain death, battling every obstacle imaginable. I was, however, disappointed. The plot stinks and the effects are good, but not great.
As some reviewer said, Emmerich gets an “A” for special effects, and an “F” for science. I’ll give him a “B” for special effects, and “F” for science, but an A+ for three direct references to Wisconsin. And Woody Harrelson is pretty good as a crazy talk-radio guy.
The movie is based on the incorrect belief that the ancient Mayan calendar “runs out” on the 21st of December, 2012. Some say Nostradamus made a similar prophecy. The problem is, even the Mayans know their calendar doesn’t “end” in 2012. Mayan archaeologist Guillermo Bernal says there are Mayan calendar inscriptions that go out well beyond the year 4772.
A Mayan calendar cycle, the 13th Baktun, ends on 12-21-2012, but - as any Mayan can tell you - that just means another cycle begins.
But that would wreck the anticipation Emmerich tries to set up in the movie.
Long before this Hollywood blockbuster was even in pre-production, there were plenty of novels published about December 21st 2012 being the “end of days”. Google “2012 end of the world” and you’ll get more than 35 million hits.
Some people - gullible people - take this sort of stuff really seriously. The media are full of stories of people who are actually worried that the world is going to end in a couple years and they’ll never see their kids grow up.
Shortly after the release of “The Day After Tomorrow”, my wife and I were at a dinner party at a friend’s home on the fashionable west side of Madison. Several of the people there, and this was before the second drink, were talking about how the movie is “proof” of global warming. And these were partially-educated adults!
Rather than be my usual snarky self and embarrass my wife, I resorted to stronger doses of Crown Royal.
We do love to be scared at the movies, though. And the special effects for “2012“, while not much better than the stuff in his 2004 movie “The Day After Tomorrow”, are still good. But I expected better stuff. The effects in the “Terminator” and “Transformers” movies are much better, if you ask me. The plot development is often tediously predictable.
The run-time of two hours and 35 minutes is excessive; but, most “blockbuster” movies are way too long these days. Add in the six trailers and the ads they run before they roll the feature film, and you’ve got nearly three hours invested.
Worth it? Yah, but barely.