The movie 2012 lived up to my very low expectations — spectacular special effects and an incredible lack of substance. There’s only one major action sequence, which has been featured in all of the previews, while the rest of the movie focuses mostly on devastation. The story and the characters are clichéd and predictable. Pointless scenes of suffering and turmoil are used in a misguided attempt to spark some sort of emotional response from the audience. How is watching millions of people suffer supposed to be entertaining? I don’t get it.
What was interesting and disturbing is the subtle (or maybe not so subtle) anti-religious worldview of the film. Prayer is portrayed as worthless and foolish, and anyone who displays any sort of Christian faith dies. When the dome at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is destroyed, it crushes thousands of believers during a massive prayer vigil, implying perhaps that organized religion is destructive to its followers, while in Rio de Janeiro, the statue of Christ the Redeemer crumbles to the ground. Director Roland Emmerich, who also helmed the far superior apocalyptic saga Independence Day, has admitted to intentionally avoiding the destruction of any Islamic landmarks for fear of angering Muslims and causing a fatwa against him and his associates. What does this say about Islam, which claims to be a peaceful religion? Why is it acceptable to pick on Christianity and not other faiths? Be prepared for spoilers below the trailer.
SPOILER ALERT: Another aspect of the film that bothered me was its portrayal of the social injustices that sprung from people’s responses to the impending destruction. The governments of the world knew disaster was coming and secretly built giant ships (think high-tech versions of Noah’s ark) in China. They sold seats on these ships to the highest bidders, while leaving the rest of the world to unknowingly perish. Emmerich apparently wants to make a provocative statement about the imbalance of power in our world and how the rich and influential carry an unfair advantage, but that message gets drowned out (in some instances quite literally).
Consequently, the audience is left to cheer on a group of mostly unlikeable characters for surviving this great disaster and for leaving the rest of humankind to face destruction. Although a handful of lower-class, “good” people make it onto the ships, the heartless elite are left with the responsibility to preserve the human race. It sounds like the new world is in good hands.
Emmerich wanted to say something profound by addressing issues such as social inequality, government corruption, the limits of organized faith, and the indomitable spirit of humanity. Unfortunately, the movie tries to tackle too many topics at once, which takes away from any sort of meaningful impact or emotion. Instead, 2012 comes across as lame and convoluted.
But that’s just my opinion. The film is destined to top the box office this weekend, but one wonders if it will have the legs to make back its estimated $200 million budget. Let us know what you think.