You are here probably by accident. But possibly you are here because you actually do want to read 600-some-odd words about “2012.” In which case, bless your heart.
Not to be confused with “2010,” the sequel to “2001: A Space Odyssey,” nor with “2112,” the dippy and vaguely Ayn Rand-influenced but nonetheless ass-kicking hard rock album (and seven-part suite of the same name thereon) by Canadian power trio Rush, “2012″ is a new disaster epic from disaster-epic enthusiast Roland Emmerich, and presumably the disaster epic to end all disaster epics, at least until the next one arrives.
Did I say “disaster epic” too much just then? Hardly. I was going to call Emmerich a maven of the form, but to reflect on his directorial career is to be reminded of the important differences between ardor and adroitness, between the prosaic and the poetic. We know he is a guy who enjoys making movies about moments on calendars, like “Independence Day” or “The Day After Tomorrow” or “10,000 B.C.” or, indeed, 2012, the year in which the current millennia-long cycle of the Mayan “Long Count” calendar will conclude, possibly prompting apocalypse. And we know he has a taste for Our Worst Fears Brought to Life, having directed Godzilla in “Godzilla” and Mel Gibson in “The Patriot.”
By now we also know that the banality of Emmerich’s cataclysmal imagery is so entrenched that even the act of pointing it out has become banal. Go ahead and say you’re jaded to gaping urban earthquakes, mile-wide ash clouds, super tsunamis and other soulless digital obliterations of man-made landmarks and large groups of people. That won’t stop Emmerich and co-writer Harald Kloser from making more. To this end, they’ve gathered the charitably game actors John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover, Oliver Platt, Tom McCarthy, Thandie Newton and Woody Harrelson, and embroiled them in a chore-like parable of turbulent political progress, multicultural cooperation, unpleasant sacrifice, and, most importantly, the healing of a broken family. (The human family. Eh?)
Here, as told in 10 carefully selected lines of dialogue, is how it goes:
“Nutrinos have mutated into a new kind of nuclear particle. They’re heating up the earth’s core.”
“It’s the biggest solar climax in recorded history.”
“Don’t you see the signs?”
“California’s going down!”
“All our scientific advances, our fancy machines! The Mayans saw this coming thousands of years ago.”
“We’re gonna need a bigger plane.”
“It’s a brave new world you’re heading for, and the young scientists are gonna be worth 200 old politicians.”
“The director of the Louvre was an enemy of humanity?!”
“Everybody out there has died in vain if we start our future with an act of cruelty.”
Yes, one of those lines is a nod to “Jaws,” the original blockbuster. Thank you, “Jaws.” So is cinema officially, catastrophically extinct now, or what?
No, of course not. In fact, there probably is some genuinely awe-inspiring thing being projected on a screen somewhere, or at least being uploaded to Vimeo, right now. It’s just a matter of finding and sharing it — and allowing “2012,” meanwhile, to enjoy the expensive privilege of proving its titular distinction. You don’t need the Mayan calendar to predict an annihilative opening weekend here — after which there should be no confusion whatsoever between this movie’s maker and the great speculative fictioneer Arthur C. Clarke (not to mention Stanley Kubrick), from whom he remains so evolutionarily far removed. But every time I imagine Roland Emmerich at work in his natural habitat of postproduction, I’m still going to hear Rush frontman Geddy Lee in my head, shrieking, “Our great computers fill the hallowed halls!” I guess the take-home message is: Let’s wait and see what happens in another hundred years.