The Collegian
Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Featured flick: 2012

The Mayans predicted you would read this article and then a giant sun fart would engulf the Earth, now aligned with all the other planets, causing massive earthquakes that rip California from the West Coast and tsunamis that flood North America and Asia. The Mayans also predicted one man would be the focus of the sun's wrath and wherever he went - be it Los Angeles, Wyoming or China - devastation would immediately follow.

In "2012," John Cusack is a harbinger of death, a horseman of the Apocalypse, a sign of the coming destruction. He is Mary from "Mary had a Little Lamb" if that little lamb is a mob of angry nature demons whose goal is to rid the world of an absentee father who's so cool and jaded that he risks the lives of his two useless-secondary-character children by ignoring a military warning sign in Yellowstone National Park about a bubbling, smoking, dry gulch and walks them there anyway. Cusack is the main character and, despite being completely random to the story, is almost as destructive as the forces tearing our small blue world apart. The world crumbles no matter what he does, or where he goes.

At the beginning of the film, Cusack somehow manages to drive to his ex-wife's house in Los Angeles to save the family, despite massive cracks in the streets everywhere, maneuver L.A. traffic in a limo while the ground behind him disappears and find a route to an airport that takes him through a falling skyscraper.

When they get to the airport, his ex-wife's new husband suddenly knows how to fly a plane and they shoot into the air just as a new grand canyon breaks the runway apart. He decides to save his family from the Apocalypse after having one and a half conversations with Woody Harrelson's character - the best and most intriguing person in the entire movie - who tells him that the world is going to end ... now.

Harrelson happens to be a crazy evangelist radio host who would be one of those guys holding a "The End is Near" sign on a crowded L.A. street somewhere, if L.A. still existed and he hadn't been able to buy a Winnebago and radio equipment and move to Yellowstone to worship God via a suddenly active super volcano under the ground. I would have watched a three-hour long movie about Harrelson's character if all he did was stare at the screen and randomly burst into fits of end-of-the-world singing. That would have been fantastic.

But wherever Cusack went, those nature demons were sure to go. He flies his family to Yellowstone to grab Harrelson's secret map detailing where the world's leaders and wealthy have been preparing to wait out the end of the world right before the entire park blows up. Cusack outruns - on foot - the giant boulders, searing ash and huge clumps of things on fire that are falling all around him and the earth sinking beneath his feet, again.

Now, I like disaster movies as much as anyone else. But I also like them to make sense and not completely rely on the whole, "Wow, this guy is so awesome he can get away from sinking L.A. and outrun a giant fire mountain to save his children! He's the new John McClane!" thing. And no, neither this movie nor any other makes John Cusack into John McClane. I also like it when flicks don't steal from other, better disaster movies such as "Deep Impact." This is a dead ringer for that film - except in that one, Elijah Wood was cute and virginal enough to save and Morgan Freeman was a president who didn't sell his soul or condemn poor people to save the human race.

This movie relies way too heavily on explosions and political debate without adding any character depth that would make the people worth saving anyway. Everyone with any power is corrupt and we have to rely on the one good guy to give an inspirational speech in order to save the workers who built the safety nets for the extremely rich people in the first place. The poor workers are left behind like garbage while billionaires waste precious minutes - like 10 of the last 14 - debating whether they should be decent enough to save them. And then, Cusack shows up and nearly wipes out all human and animal life on the planet. Oh, except during the last few seconds we see that Africa survived this promotional video for anarchy, more or less intact, and would seem to make that extremely expensive, life-costly haven everyone is trying to get to obsolete.

Contact staff writer Jordan Trippeer at jordan.trippeer@richmond.edu

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