Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
In a few days, the world is going to end. Or it won’t. Either way, the debate will be over, and we will move on with our lives (or not). But before this day of climactic anti-climax comes, Gabe from Beer And A Movie joined me to celebrate the misinterpretation of the Mayan Calendar with great beer, good food, and a middling movie: Roland Emmerich’s 2009 disaster movie “2012.”
In the 30 seconds it took you to read the Robert Frost poem at the top of the page, you learned more than you would if you watched all 158 minutes of Emmerich’s film. The movie stars John Cusack as a man with the uncanny ability to stay seconds ahead of large natural disasters by driving bigger and bigger vehicles; by my count the order was a limo, an RV, a plane, a larger plane, and an ark (like Noah’s, except made of metal). He’s joined by a cast of secondary characters who are utterly forgettable and ultimately expendable. These people exist only so the audience can have someone familiar to watch as Emmerich ham-fistedly destroys as many famous landmarks as he can.
Emmerich has the dubious distinction of being the person who has destroyed the White House the most. But after he runs into it with a battleship called the “John F. Kennedy,” you get the impression that he’s just running out of good ideas. What little meaning there is to be dredged out of this movie can be found in heavy-handed destruction scenes. When the Vatican is destroyed, a crack forms between the hands of David and God on the Sistine Chapel. When South America falls, the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Jeneiro collapses into the sea. (Wait, is this movie really an anti-Christian New World Order conspiracy? Finally, the TRUTH!)
Conspiracy theories aside, maybe “2012” is better examined as an example of Armageddon filmmaking. As I’ve stressed before, films are not made in a cultural vacuum. Horror and disaster movies especially are windows into contemporary society’s fears. During the Cold War, most of our disaster films were centered around outside forces attacking us – alien invasions etc. Starting with the AIDs crisis in the 1980s, epidemic movies have been more and more popular (and remain so). Since the 1990s, our fears and guilt over the specter of climate change have given way to a tidal wave (sorry) of environmental disaster films like “2012.”* These are sweeping generalizations, of course. But “2012” is a sweepingly general film, so I stand by my point.
As always, Gabe has more humorous things to say about “2012” in his review here. The beer we drank was the special edition Vertical Epic 12.12.12 by Stone Brewery. I’m not the beer expert, but I will say that I enjoyed it more as it warmed, not only because it began to taste like cinnamon, but also because it was a 22 oz. bomber with a 9% ABV. Good beer makes bad movies bearable.
Happy Holidays, and see you next weekend (or not)!
*For more on the subject, I suggest “Disaster Movies: The Cinema of Catastrophe” by Stephen Keane.