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November 28, 2009

The End of the World in Our Ordinary Multiplex on a Night Full of Rain

2012 To reward myself for working on Black Friday, I finally saw 2012 this evening. Having watched the trailer, I knew it was going to be stupid, but I was up for that. So was our intrepid video journalist, Eva Sollberger. We both have a high tolerance for stupid disaster movies and enjoy watching the world end.

As we grabbed coffee at Starbucks, Eva told me about the local news reports of Black Friday shopping she'd just watched. According to stories like this one, many Vermonters are still struggling to get by this holiday season, and they lined up at 3 a.m. to shop at deep discounts. One interviewee Eva had seen spoke of trying to feed two parents and a couple kids on $150 per month.

We went into the Majestic feeling rich and lucky. And found our theater packed with folks also eager to watch the world end.

After about 45 minutes of cutesy kids, hamming character actors and annoying exposition, the destruction finally began. The people on either side of me were snorting and giggling when L.A. started falling in pieces, as was I. With John Cusack and his annoying family always barely on the leading edge of the chaos, somehow dodging flying debris without being choked by smoke, it was more like a virtual theme park ride than an even vaguely plausible simulation of disaster. (I can't wait till the good folks at Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics get hold of this one.)

Remember back in 2001 when they said there would be no more movies where big glassy buildings collapse? Yeah, so do I. (See still above.)

When you see a movie with a big audience like this, you can feel them sort of rippling, like grass in the wind. Emotions are contagious. Ripples of laughter for the "money shot" destruction scenes and the cheesy laugh lines. Ripples of "awwww" for the cute kids. Ripples of disapproval when good people die. (This happened often, and every single death was bloodless, no charred corpses to be seen. Usually a tsumani just kinda rolled over somebody and they were gone, perhaps after crossing themselves or whispering, "I love you, Mom. I'm sorry we never reconciled".)

Basically, the message of the movie is that if the world ended, only the rich and powerful would survive, and possibly also a brilliant scientist and trashy novelist or two. But they have to be careful and make sure they don't lose their humanity while clawing their way to safety over the corpses of the less fortunate. If you want to watch something that actually delves into such moral dilemmas, I suggest the revamped "Battlestar Galactica." Sure, it's science fiction, but it's more realistic than 2012.

That's not why you watch a movie like this, though. There's a reason the studio didn't give The Road a wide release on Thanksgiving weekend. When it's the holidays and you're trying to make ends meet, you don't want to watch people starving in a bleak landscape. You want to watch Big Colorful Apeshit Destruction of national landmarks and cities where rich people do frivolous rich-people things, like L.A. and Vegas. You want fireworks. At least, I do.

Another thing I learned from this movie: You can always get a laugh by showing a redneck's ass cleavage, even when he's about to be barbecued by a wall of fire.

I think the audience liked it. They got up afterward making approving noises, like, "Well, that may have been a little silly, but it sure was a sight to see!" I agreed.

We came outside into cold, intense, driving rain. Wind whipped and water gushed everywhere, sometimes half flooding the road. Then I remembered that when I woke this morning to find mist that didn't dissipate, I wondered if the volcanoes in Yellowstone had erupted, blanketing the Earth in ash. (This happens in the movie. But if it happened for real, life on our planet might go kaput for quite a while.)

Nope. It was only mist foretelling a storm on Black Friday. I hope the shoppers at Maple Tree Place got good deals before they watched the world end.

Oh my god... we saw that. It was so gloriously awful with classic lines like, "But it's a suicide mission!" and "When they tell you not to panic... that's when you run!".

Watching the world end in a movie would seem to be a whole lot less worrisome than watching Burlington implode under the Kiss Leopold bombs.

Watched this sorry mess Thanksgiving night. Truly one of the worst things to come out in a long time. I'm embarrassed for John Cusack and Amanda Peet. And to think how much money was wasted on this monstrosity.

Moviegoers: 25 minutes of incredible digital animation of cities being destructed is no excuse for the 2h 11m of abject torture that you will sit through. One of the worst movies of all time - and had it been billed as that, I may have happily paid my ticket price just to watch the apocalypse of movie making that this movie represents. In the end, despite the digital destruction (way too short-lived), one just felt...soaked, all puns intended.

Run the other way folks and see the Fantastic Mr. Fox!!!

But what about the true message of this movie? Namely, that if you publish a book and nobody reads it, it could still end up being one of the only books left after the apocalypse and become an inspiration to the most influential people left in the world, giving you the status of Homer or Shakespeare. I'm sure a frustrated novelist was involved in the screenplay.

Also, always save the cute doggie first. Actually, maybe don't.

What I love about disaster movies is that the effects keep getting more amazing, while the scripts and characters stay on the exact same level as Earthquake or The Poseidon Adventure. I didn't think The Day After Tomorrow was any better than 2012, despite having a good wake-up message about climate change (basically just an excuse for the destruction, from Emmerich's point of view). Deep Impact, slightly better, but not as much campy fun.

When I watch a movie like Blindness or (probably, haven't seen it yet) The Road, I get reminded of how depressing and nasty the end of the world would really be.

..or my personal EOW favorite: Children of Men. Emmirich is a child, an juvenile amateur next to Cuaron. POV is everything.

Children of Men is amazing. I have to watch it again. Funny that Chiwetel Ejiofor was in both that and this crapfest. I guess he's come up in Hollywood... salary if not art-wise. He was the person in 2012 I least wanted to see disappear in a tsumani, so that's something.

Oh, c'mon folks! This wasn't anything more than a popcorn movie. Bad dialogue, bad acting, laughable science--what more do you want from a popcorn film??

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