26 January 2012

2012: A good film but a shit doomsday

Yesterday, my wife and I rewatched the 2009 disaster film 2012.
Witty caption pending
Though generally this film was lambasted by critics, I cant help but take the line of US film critic Roger Ebert who at least seems to get these kinds of films, without trying to pretend that they are an exemplary example of what all films should be (which I feel is a problem with many critics out there).
Check out his review here, or just read this quote:
"This is fun. "2012" delivers what it promises, and since no sentient being will buy a ticket expecting anything else, it will be, for its audiences, one of the most satisfactory films of the year. It even has real actors in it. Like all the best disaster movies, it's funniest at its most hysterical. You think you've seen end-of-the-world movies? This one ends the world, stomps on it, grinds it up and spits it out."
Like the man suggests, unless you missed out on Independence Day, Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow, you should know what a Rolland Emmerich film has in store for you. Leave your brain at the door, and just enjoy yourself. These films aren't looking for realism, they are just looking to entertain; and at the end of the day there isn't anything wrong with that. Not every film needs to be a masterpiece; not every character needs an arc.
I think of films like this as the equivalent of MacDonalds, or one of those microwavable pizzas; its not a great meal, and you wouldn't want to subsist on this for the rest of your life. But every now and then you just want a quick, easy, and tasty meal.
Sometimes its best to just think of these films as set in an alternate reality, where things are different, people always beat the odds, and so on. That way at least you can let a lot of things slide and just enjoy the ride (hey that rhymes).
That all being said, I still cant help but cringe at a few points in the film.
Like the opening montage of shots set in space, showing the alignment of the planets. Now I can look past the whole 'alignment of the planets causing catastrophic problems for earth' theory, but the fact that the solar systems planets are either shown as being much more massive, or else much close to each other, than they effectively are ruins the moment for me (especially when the films plot relies so little on this fact).
Then, right near the start of the film again, we have an astrophysicist talking about neutrinos, and studyting them in a subeterranean laboratory. This had its promise, because I know this is exactly what they do. But then we hear some nice 'sciency' buzz words, as we are informed that these nuclear particles are behaving strangely, and are interacting with matter in a way that they usually dont. The astrophysicists explanation: they are mutating.
Nuclear particles, mutating.
Why not just say they are degrading into other particles, or transforming, or something like that. Anything but mutating, a term which should sit firmly in biology, and not physics.
As you can see, this evidence clearly shows these neutrinos are going through puberty.
I could go on all day about the scientific inaccuracies in the film, but I don't want to give the impression that all of this bothers me too much. As I said, brains at the door fun. Its just that these little things could easily have been avoided or changed without altering the film pretty much at all. I can let the objections to tsunamis making waves in the middle of the ocean big enough to knock over ships, and the improbability of a limousine being able to drive through a building as it collapses, fly out the window; because this is the entertaining stuff I wanted from this kind of movie, and it wouldnt be the same without it. But the  astrophysicist could have just said something more sensible, and the planets aligning could have been shown to look more like stars, than actual planets in the near distance.
On to the next cringe worthy moment, and this time it was due to technical buzz words, as opposed to scientific ones.
In every scene that he is in, much like his role in Zombieland (also released in 2009); Woody Harrelson steals the show. This was a great year for fans of Woody (that doesnt sound right), one of which I happen to be ever since growing up in the 90's when he taught me that in fact white men can jump.
Two prime examples of how not to wear a cap so as to keep the sun out of your eyes
Anyhow, childhood references aside, Woody Harrelson plays Charlie Frost, a deranged conspiracy theorist who turns out to be pretty much right about everything in the end. The thing that bugs me here is only a minor point, but it irked me on re-watching nevertheless.
When Charlie is trying to inform the protagonist of the worlds impending doom, he tells him to 'download my blog', to which John Cusack clicks a few buttons on a laptop, and ends up watching a nice little flash animation outlining the films basic disaster plot.
'Download my blog'? Is that really how we talk about it? Perhaps I am being picky, perhaps I am wrong, or perhaps this was just meant to be the crazy characters quirky way of talking; yet I cant help but be annoyed that he didnt at least say 'look at my blog', or 'watch this video', or something that makes a bit more sense. It really just seems like someone who isnt savvy with todays technology trying to write some dialogue. [p.s. I know Woddy's character to be computer literate as he made the animations himself].
"Stand back; I'm about to do some internets"
My last gripe with this movie involves the President of the United States character played by Danny Glover.
After he gallantly decides to remain with the American public as their nation comes to an end, rather than flee with the other main notable actors to the ships in China, he delivers his stirring last address, and utters this little line:
"We are a nation of many religions, but I believe these words reflect the spirit of all of our faiths: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall..." [dramatic cut-off]
This is what he was quoting, Psalm 23 from the Bible. Tell me, how does that reflect the spirit of all faiths? Also, what about the 30 million atheists in the United States? Do they not warrant a mention here? I know past American presidents have shown a less than accommodating stance toward us unbelievers ("I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God" - George Bush Snr.), but at least Obama's inaugural speech mentioned them on equal footing with other citizens ("We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers." - Obama).
I mean it isnt really a big deal, but like everything else in this rant; it bugs me all the same. How does such a quote reflect the spirit of Buddhism for instance? They arent really fans of the whole 'Lord is our shepherd' thing. Nor are Hindus, or Sikhs, or to a degree Muslims. And what about the poor Scientologists?
"I'm too old for this comparative religion shit" President Murtaugh
Something I also noticed on the news the other day is this report on the suns solar activity, which is at its highest peak since 2005. Spooky huh? After all, it is 2012, the year the Mayans famously predicted the end of the world.
Except for it isn't. The Mayan long count calendar ends in December 2012, but then again so does the calendar on my desk at work. When that time comes, I wont be cowering with the ones I love, converting into a dodgy Christian and appealing to my shepherd to look after me; I'll just order another calendar.
Note that this is also what happens with the true Mayan calendar. 2012 doesn't signal the end of the world, but rather just the start of a new long count calendar.
So like most end of the world scares, this too is quickly dispersed with a healthy dose of logic. NASA has a great article debunking the whole 2012 over here.

Rant complete.

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