Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2012 - The Movie

By Tom Kando

I just saw the new blockbuster 2012 - the one about the end of the world caused by solar flares, as predicted by the Mayan calendar. Here are the good parts:
1) It’s very entertaining. The special effects are over the top. Emmerich is good at this - he did Independence Day, The Day after Tomorrow, etc. This is his best, so far.
2) The usual suspension of judgment is required - John Cusack can stay underwater for 5 minutes, Gordon knows how to fly the giant Antonov without any training, etc. No problem. It wouldn’t be fun without such liberties.

Also, the science and the geography are not too terribly laughable: The sun is bombarding the earth’s inner core with neutrinos? Sounds plausible to me. Central China is suddenly seashore property because of shifting tectonic plates? That’s okay, too. South Africa becomes the highest place on earth? Why not.

3) I also liked some of the humor and references to reality: Danny Glover is obviously Obama, we hear Schwartzenegger and his accent, Woody Harrelson is a hilarious hippie radio show host and conspiracy buff. And the movie’s main bad guy, the white house chief of staff, is Carl Anheuser (= Bush, get it?)

4) Also, the movie is nicely Afrocentric: The President, the hero Adrian-the-scientist, the prettiest woman, are all black, and at the end, the rebirth of humanity takes place in Africa. (Of course, this is nothing new, since we all came out of Africa in the first place. Remember Olduvai Gorge 3 or 4 million years ago?)

But here are the stupid parts:
1) The movie is sooooo wrong on its main premises:
First, a no duh observation: Earth’s destruction will not come from the sun (or from an asteroid, or from aliens) but from humanity itself. That’s a no-brainer.

2) The arguments between the good guy - idealistic scientist Adrian Helmsley - and the bad guy - white house chief of staff Carl Anheuser/Bush are preposterous: According to the movie, (which rubs this into the audience not too subtly), Adrian is oh-so-right and Anheuser is oh-so-evil. But in fact, Anheuser is totally right and Adrian is totally wrong: If saving our species is the goal, then Adrian’s humanitarian decisions are catastrophic and Anheuser’s hard-nosed ones are correct. For example. re-opening the arks’ gates to save a few hundred more people should surely result in the total extinction of humanity.

3) The greatest fantasy in the movie is this: scientists discover the earth’s imminent destruction, and 2 or 3 years later the major governments of the world have built a fleet of gigantic high-tech arks that make Star Trek' s Enterprise look like a dingy. Everything is ready to save human and animal life on earth.

Now I know that such films are all about fantasies, and that’s okay. But when Hollywood presents us with images of America’s (and man’s) limitless resources and ingenuity, I am always painfully reminded of a stark opposite reality: What is most visible to me as I look around, is our growing ineptitude, our growing inability to solve national and global problems, our growing paralysis, despite ever larger expenditures on technology and bureaucracy.

It took 3 years to build the Oakland Bay bridge in the 1930s, at the time the largest on earth. But the damage caused by the Loma Prieta earthquake was 20 years ago, and they have been trying to fix it for that long, so far with no completion date in sight.

Ground Zero? Eight years after 9/11, there is no monument. The ground remains an open scar.
It took the same amount of time for project Apollo to move from conception to completion, landing a man on the moon eight years after President Kennedy declared America’s intention to do so!
The New deal, vast projects such as the TVA, Hoover Dam and many others were conceived and completed rapidly, efficiently and cost-effectively.

Today, we handle crises the way we did Katrina.
Health care reform? Attempts began during President Truman’s presidency - more than 60 years ago. God knows whether we’ll ever reach closure on that one.
Mexico is collapsing into drug wars and anarchy, but never fear: the US and the Mexican authorities are working together to develop state-of-the art computer programs to track down the malfeasants. That’s supposed to make us feel better?

Well, you get my drift. 40 years ago, we had some capabilities. Today? A Noah-style rescue to save human and animal life on the planet? LOL! Today, I doubt that we would be up to the Apollo project. Today, the world can’t agree on how to fight a bunch of Somali pirates.

4) Equally ridiculous is the social drama which is supposed to bring tears to our eyes. I suppose it’s an obligatory part of the formula - Bruce Willis, Gene Hackman, some hero has to die, while his beloved ones cry out that they love him. Fine.
But such displays are even more ridiculous this time. For example, our sensitive scientist Adrian cries out that the callous military failed to pick up his Indian scientist friend, who thus died in vain, and this is supposed to make us cry. At the same time, eight billion other people have just perished. But the Indian scientist friend, that’s the tragedy we are expected to focus on.

Overall Grade: B- leave comment here