Tuesday, October 27, 2009

2012: The End is (Not Actually) Near!

Less than two weeks remain before director Roland Emmerich barfs up his latest disaster film, 2012, onto a helpless and undeserving public, and I’m wondering what the reaction will be. I’m not talking about the critical reaction—I doubt it will fare any better than Stargate or The Day After Tomorrow, and probably worse—and I couldn’t care less how it does at the box office.1

No, what I’m wondering about is the reaction from the crazy batshit bananas segment of the population, and whether that reaction will spread to the somewhat more reasonable but often still-fairly-silly general public.

Granted, nobody who watched Godzilla actually believed that a giant radioactive Pacific lizard was going to emerge from the ocean to lay waste to New York City. (Possibly because attacking, say, Los Angeles or the Bay Area would have made much more sense, geographically speaking, except in that weird movie-and-television world where everything on Earth (1) happens in English and (2) happens in New York City.) And I doubt that anybody who saw Watchmen left the theater worried that Dr. Manhattan had it in for all of us.2

But 2012 might be different.

First, because it pretends to be based on the alleged predictions of an ancient society, in this case, the Maya3. For whatever reason, we as a society seem to latch onto—and give some extra sliver of legitimacy to—stories that come from us from ancient peoples and/or the dimly lit, poorly understood corners of the world (and for most Americans, myself included, the world consists primarily of dimly lit, poorly understood corners). Who curses us ominously when we insult them, or with their dying breaths after we run them over with our cars? Clevelanders? Heck no—gypsies. Does Indiana Jones have to return crystal skulls to, say, Enid, Oklahoma? No, he has to take them to deepest, ancient, mystical South America.4 Warren Zevon sang about werewolves in London5 but it wasn’t a scary song. But if he’d sung about werewolves of Sczangdzk, the tiny haunted Czech province that I’ve just made up, we’d have gone nuts about it, assumed it was based on some Czech legend that was in turn based on a true story, and would have bought scads of tickets to the movie adaptation.6

Second, this movie is not just about ordinary run-of-the-mill everyday stuff like violence, widespread destruction, huge explosions, robots disguised as cars, horrific and logically impossible weather conditions, or Egyptians from outer space. 2012 is about the apocalypse. Now, the apocalypse is not a uniquely American obsession—as Dr. Stantz once observed, every ancient religion has its own myth about the end of the world, and I’m sure that (for example) plenty of Europeans got plenty worked up about the end of the world, way back when Europe actually gave a shit about things—but lately our end-of-the-world fascination seems to have a bit more polish than anybody else’s. I’m thinking here of the worries about the Y2K bug, or the fact that LaHaye and Jenkins’ Left Behind series of books sold something like 65 million copies, despite being—based on the book(s) I read one afternoon—crap.7 I’d have plenty more examples if I weren’t so terribly lazy, but in short, America seems ripe for a explosion of 2012 mania.

Maybe I’m wrong about this. I’d be happy to learn that I’m not giving the American people enough credit, and 2012 will be easily dismissed as a breezy, lighthearted, fun little movie about the deaths of billions of people, rather than a prediction of it. Maybe this won’t spark the smoldering embers of lunacy you can find everywhere you look on the internet. Maybe, just maybe, we won’t have to endure three years’ worth of listening to everybody from obvious crackpots to supposedly rational people sound off on their fruitcake theories about how it’ll all end.

It’s not really going to matter to me, though; I won’t be able to hear any of it from my secret Armageddon-proof bunker, deep beneath the Earth’s crust. I’ll let you in if you can find it, and you bring Twinkies.

1. Grammar note: if I wrote that “I could care less,” like a lot of people would, that would imply that, to some degree, however small, I actually do care. And I don’t. As the Squid Bandit would tell us, words have meanings.
2. Frankly, I left the theater wondering why Visionary Director Zack Snyder spent so much time digitally rendering Dr. Manhattan’s meat weasel, instead of just panning up a few inches (To soothe the good Doctor’s ego, let’s call it seven inches). For Dr. Brainsmart’s insightful review of Watchmen, please click on these words here.
3. Not “Mayans.” Maya. Honest!
4. I think. I’m not willing to watch the movie again to find out for sure.
5. I forget what it was called. Possibly “Lawyers, Guns, and Money.”
6. Directed by Roland Emmerich or, God help us, Michael Bay.
7. I realize it’s possible that the other eighty-seven books in the series may be better than the one or two I read. But I’d be quite surprised. And I’m not knocking the Bible or Christianity here, so rest your sphincters. I think that, in the right hands, a fictional series about a Biblical end of the world could be a fantastic read. But the Left Behind series was not in the right hands.

1 comment:

  1. Two questions: 1) Are you stayin in the same bunker as the Colorado looney-ballooner? 2) Can I bring twitties instead of Twinkies?