Why yes, I do feel fine ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Why yes, I do feel fine

My rating:

Roland Emmerich hasn't made a good movie since Independence Day. Godzilla was embarrassingly bad, The Patriot was shamelessly manipulative, The Day After Tomorrow was insultingly stupid, and 10,000 B.C. was a snoozefest. The only reason(s) ID4 worked are Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum - their presences gave that film the right attitude and sense of fun to make it one of my favourite guilty pleasures. Emmerich learned all the wrong lessons from it, so now he's indulging his hardon for massive death and destruction with the most massive death and destruction seen on screen to date. But hell, it's Roland Emmerich. How good can it be?

Not very. But at least it's not bad either.

In 2009, geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) discovers something frightening and tells White House Chief of Staff Anheuser (Oliver Platt) and U.S. President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover). Three years later, divorced novelist Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) takes his two children camping in Yellowstone Park, and meets conspiracy theorist Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson) who warns him of an impending apocalypse from ancient Mayan prophecy. It is indeed the end of the world as we know it, in the form of massive earthquakes and tsunamis, and Curtis and his family - which includes estranged wife Kate (Amanda Peet) and her boyfriend Gordon (Thomas McCarthy) - must race to where the world's major governments are building arks to save as much of humanity as they can.

I actually liked this movie better than I thought I would - better than it deserved, actually - and I know now why. Charlie Frost, who knew of the oncoming apocalypse long before, faces it on his own terms - he stands on the edge of the Yellowstone super-volcano, so that its eruption is the last thing he sees. And it is pretty damn spectacular, not to mention spectacularly realized in CGI. Charlie continues broadcasting his radio show right to the end, screaming his defiance at the very heart of the maelstrom, and I found myself thinking - wow, that is just how I'd like to face the end of the world.

Then I got all contemplative - how would I face the end of the world? And then I started wondering, what if I were one of the faceless billions who die screaming in this movie, or if I would have the same kind of courage Curtis had to fight for his and his family's survival - and bam, this movie had gotten its hooks in me already. And like I said, that's better than it actually deserves. It certainly doesn't waste any time contemplating the myriad ways human beings face death - it's just one scene after another of continent-shattering destruction, interspersed with melodramatic bits of characters tearfully saying goodbye. It's corny and manipulative as all hell, but I gotta say it worked on me at the time.

One of the best books I've read in recent years is Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson, 2006 Hugo Award winner for Best Novel. And that's a far, far better examination of mankind in the face of impending extinction. I found myself wishing that 2012 had aimed for that level of depth, maturity, insight and humanity. But that's far too much to ask of Emmerich. What little depth his screenplay (co-written by Harald Kloser) has is in the subplot of how Anheuser financed the building of the arks by selling seats to the wealthy. Oh, and he also conspired to hide the truth of the apocalypse from the public, even murdering those who threatened to expose it. The morality of his actions are never explored beyond villainizing him at the end, allowing Helmsley to play hero by opening the arks' gates to the clamouring hordes outside (who are mostly the aforementioned rich assholes).

That's Roland Emmerich in a nutshell - a technically talented, but ultimately shallow and superficial storyteller. His characters have all the depth of paper dolls, and he returns time and again to the same stereotypes and cliches. And frankly, if I were a religious person I'd be pretty pissed at his obnoxious disrespect for organized religion. It's at its most blatant when a crack in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel splits the fresco right where God's hand touches Adam's. And then the dome of St. Peter's Basilica collapses in just such a way as to roll and crush thousands of worshipers. Personally, I was most offended by a scene in which a Tibetan lama gives advice to a worried disciple - and his advice turns out to be inane and ignorant of everything that has happened. And yes, Emmerich wanted to destroy the Kaaba too, and I almost wish he had just so he'd get a fatwa on his assholish head.

Okay, okay, I'm being too harsh on it. It's a silly little movie, no better or worse than Transformers 2 or G.I. Joe - the two other big dumb blockbusters of the year. And honestly, I rather enjoyed it as I enjoyed those two. It never got boring or too annoying, and although I didn't like go "fwooaaaarrr" at the disaster scenes, I at least found them entertaining. Emmerich is a better director than he is a writer, and now that he's blown his biggest disaster-movie load he ought to head for fresher territory now. 'Sides, as inane as the story was, this movie actually got me thinking. I've figured out the absolute best place to be when the world ends - basking in the afterglow of sex with the woman I love. I suppose 2012 deserves three stars for giving me that very, very pleasant thought.

Expectations: I honestly don't know what to expect


Ken Wooi said...

i think it was good =D


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