2012 (2009)

Rated: PG-13 for intense disaster sequences and some language.
Length: 158 minutes. Seriously, 158 minutes.
Grade: CCCD=C
Budget: $200 million
Box Office: $817 million (166 U.S., an embarrassing 604 Intl., 47 DVD)

Written and Directed by: Roland Emmerich (10,000 BC, The Day After Tomorrow, The Patriot, Godzilla, Independence Day, Stargate, and Universal Soldier) with writing from Harald Kloser (a mostly composer who co-wrote 10,000 BC)
Starring: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, and Chiwetel Ejiofor
With: Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Woody Harrelson, and Danny Glover.

The Mayans had it right, predicting the end of the world as we know it in the year 2012. When world governments become aware of this, they secretly begin working on a plan to save human culture and enough people to repopulate afterwards. A divorced small time author inadvertently discovers all this and tries to rescue his children and ex-wife from impending doom.

Entertainment Value: C
Okay. Roland Emmerich knows how to spend money and make money. That much we already know. But this movie is entertaining for all the wrong reasons. It’s spectacular and visually overwhelming at times. But it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. Seriously. I’m not exaggerating. And what I can’t figure out is how this movie made $600 million dollars (!) overseas. It’s almost impossible to describe how absurd the plot is and the repeated succession of escapes which the adjective “narrow” doesn’t even begin to capture. We were laughing out loud, heartily and repeatedly. For this reason, it’s fun and silly and stupid rather than scary. However, kids might find it scary. In any case, it’s a terrible B movie made with an A+ budget.

Superficial Content: D+
Drugs/Alcohol A-, Sex/Nudity A-, Violence D+, Language C-
The concerns here are violence, scary situations and language. It’s precisely PG-13 on language, and it’s hard to dispute the PG-13 on violence either. However, I’d probably go R-15, just because there is so much of it. Lots and lots of people die and things get destroyed, including all of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and the whole world eventually.

Significant Content: C
Once again, this isn’t quite awful, but here’s the mixed bag. On the one hand, the message that the world will be destroyed again by water is patently unbiblical. But, the good news is that the importance of treating humans equally is emphasized, and compassion over practicality is ultimately a major message.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
Because I’m a philosopher, I’m all too familiar with “bomb shelter” style moral dilemmas. Nevertheless, the movie’s basic premise raises questions which might be interesting to discuss with people. However, everything else here is like a velvet Elvis painting, cool precisely because it’s awful. But if someone thought it was real art, you’d sort of worry about his judgment, right?

Discussion Questions:
~Since God so plainly promises to never destroy the world again by water, do you think this movie is a dangerous kind of heresy or just silly, frivolous entertainment?
~What do you think of the decision by the U.S. President? If you were a world leader who had to decide what to do with this information, what would you conclude? Would you keep it a secret? Why might this be a loving, perhaps even a noble, thing to do? Why might someone think it’s awful? What do you think of letting wealthy people buy seats on the project? How else would you fund it?
~Considering that the people who were building the project did so to earn the money they were getting paid but of course will never get to spend or enjoy, what do you think of the idea of paying them this way?
~In what ways is this movie a good metaphor for Christianity and the destruction of worldly things that most of us find so important even when we know we shouldn’t? Consider how Christians put their hope in a future salvation rather than in current prosperity?
~The leadership on the project presumes that the old sources of authority will persist even when the whole world is gone. What do you think would happen to established leadership structures in a situation like this or that of the new Battlestar Galactica, for comparison.
~Why is it that no one takes doomsayers seriously? Why would the radio broadcaster seem like a nut? Are nutty people ever right? How can you tell which ones are right and which ones are just loony?
~Do you perceive any religious or political biases in this movie based on who is killed or what is actually shown being destroyed and also what is not or who survives?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The scientist challenging the political leader about whether more people should be let into the project.
~The destruction of Los Angeles.
Overall Grade: C
It’s crazy, silly, and stupid. But, it’s fun and entertaining. And you had to expect this would be campy, given that the prominent subtitle is 2012: We Were Warned.

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