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Disaster movies have outlived their usefulness. Not because they aren’t interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I was the first in line to see Will Smiths coming out movie Independence day. After that I was knee-deep in disaster movie appeal as Bruce Willis and Michael Bay took the reins and developed the “All-American” Armageddon. But then it all started going downhill with movies like Deep Impact and The Day After Tomorrow. Why? Well I gotta say I was a sucker for the special effects so that wasn’t the reason for me. No I would simply attribute it to the formula. The formula of imminent disaster, the world ending and the American’s coming to save the day just didn’t work for me. Nothing against Americans of course, but in a world of several billion people, I find it hard to believe it’s always going to be an American, or a group of American’s coming to their rescue. The odds just aren’t’ there for me. And also the plots just getting weaker and weaker. I needed a reason to care about the world coming to an end…as cold and clinical as that sounds. Otherwise it’s just little dots of people falling from bridges and skyscrapers and that’s just pointless loss of life to me. Enter 2012.
(Spoiler Alert moving forward for those who haven’t seen the film) This movie surprised the hell out of me. If I had to sum it up in one word I would go with: intense. Intense action, violence and emotion for close to three hours. First off kudos to the casting job for this film. You couldn’t have asked for a better cast for a disaster film than this. John Cusack and Chiwetal Ejiofor anchored this movie from the get go, both doing excellent jobs throughout convincing you of the severity and hopelessness of the situation throughout. They also tackled one of my new criteria for a successful disaster movie nicely: Meaning. What little interaction they had in the movie turned out to be the anchor for the whole plot when Ejiofor’s character Adrian Helmsley discussed a book Cusack’s character, Jackson Curtis, wrote in the film. The book touched upon what he believed human kind would/should do in its most dire situation. a short scene that turned out to be the most important, relevant scene in the movie, referenced ever so subtly throughout.
What ensues throughout the movie will both disgust you and surprise you as you see human nature at its highest of highs and of course its lowest of lows. You would be surprised on how this movie touches on the inherent problem of money and social status and truly makes you wonder at the end of the day how much we would actually mirror this movie if the “End of the World” presented itself. But there is a “happy ending” of sorts for this movie. As much of a happy ending as one could have with a movie like this which brings me to my next criteria: The Americans don’t save the day! …Well not fully at least. But that’s what my problem was with past movies. It was all about the Americans when it came to a world disaster and how the American’s reacted. Was 2012 any different? Well yes. Not to the degree to what I would have liked, but enough to make the movie work for me.
It was an Indian played by actor Jimi Mistry that actually discovered the impending catastrophe and the Chinese that actually developed the “Arc” that was to save the remaining members of human civilization. If anything, with the exception of the president, played by Danny Glover, and a select few others the Americans actually proved to be a detriment in the movie. By the end, you got the sense that it truly took a world effort to preserve what little was left of humanity and not just a one-sided ordeal. This helped give a genuine feel to the movie.
This is a film that put disaster movies back on the map for me, similar to the way the X-Men and Blade reintroduced the world to comic book movies. Future movies of this nature should be using 2012 as a formula for a successful, beautiful disaster movie moving forward.
-Vic De Zen