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Well, in fairness, Ebert arguably had to judge the Lord of the Rings films against the original books, whereas the only thing he has to judge 2012 by is other disaster movies.

FWIW, I believe the closing credits to 2012 say the film is inspired by a book called Fingerprints of the Gods, and a very brief bit of Googling seems to indicate that that book was an inspiration behind Emmerich's last film, 10,000 BC, as well. For whatever that's worth.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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SDG, I finally got around to reading your review. I love this paragraph:

Is all of this meant to add up to some sort of religious outlook or statement? Well, perhaps not. Even so, by the climactic act, believers may be thinking of a biblical promise that seems to be pretty decisively broken. There's also a final subtitled dateline that seems to put the whole Christian era in a relative context, as if the Christian calendar as well as the Mayan calendar has run its course.

As for the Catholic-Orthodox note on which you conclude, I must say, you're bolder about raising this stuff in that context than I ever was!

FWIW, the connection between this film and Angels & Demons (both produced by Sony!!) had occurred to me too.

One other thought occurs to me: Something about this film's conclusion reminds me of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. And I can never see a film about the elimination of our technology-based society these days without thinking of the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.

BTW, I'm tempted to quip that the cell phones in this movie get awesome coverage even after the world has begun to fall apart, but a part of me wants to double-check that the characters weren't using satellite phones instead, first.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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BTW, I'm tempted to quip that the cell phones in this movie get awesome coverage even after the world has begun to fall apart, but a part of me wants to double-check that the characters weren't using satellite phones instead, first.

That is awesome, considering, no matter who the character, no matter what the situation, reception is the first thing lost in most horror films of the past few years.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I'm jumping in the shower. Like a good Bond film, I'm seeing this today on someone else's dime.

I still have writing to do on Pavel Lungin's The Island, and a revisiting of Hawaii, Oslo, both of which I'm certian I'll be much more excited about. But what is life, without the stupid choices along with the wise ones?

Who knows, if I fail to think, it might be a bit of fun.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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This really wasn't that bad of a film. I'm still no fan of the type of film it is, but I was pretty impressed with the spectacle itself. Especially on what the theater referred to as, "The Super Screen." Not quite an IMAX, but definitely larger and louder than life.

In fact, knowing how I hate most of this kind of CGI, I thought any problems I had would be with the visuals. They weren't, at least, not until the last twenty minutes or so, when things just got a little silly. The greatest problems I had with it were the endless preachy sermons on who gets to stay, and who gets to go. That was awful.

The crowd cheering for

John Cusack when he survives

is pretty awful too. If the crowd just came through a major catastrophe and survived, they are at that point, not going to care about any guy they can't see below deck.

Two other quick notes: I really, really wanted the dog to die.

And I heard a lady behind me gasp, "Oh my God!" when she thought the lady onscreen was going to chop a chicken's head off. Eight kazillion people are dying -- no big deal. Can't watch that chicken get its head chopped off.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Saying "To get off by watching a disaster" and "A charge at watching a complete disaster" only pushes the question back a step, because the questions are really about what "getting off" or "a charge" means in this context. Saying "Because we're afraid of death, so our eyes are drawn to huge depictions of it" and "It makes us nervous and excited" are closer to an answer.

But Emmerich's movie seems more interested in the death of real estate than the deaths of human beings. It seems to tap into the same sort of appeal as the TV show "The World After People," which seems to be not so much about people being gone as what happens to our buildings and roads and bridges and such. People just like to see buildings and cities and such falling apart, whether or not people are dying. What is that about?

Feminism getting a kick out of seeing all that phallic architecture get destroyed?

FWIW, I believe the closing credits to 2012 say the film is inspired by a book called Fingerprints of the Gods, and a very brief bit of Googling seems to indicate that that book was an inspiration behind Emmerich's last film, 10,000 BC, as well. For whatever that's worth.

The Wikipedia article references the book I thought you were talking about:

The title of the book appears to reference Erich von Däniken's earlier book Chariots of the Gods?, which examines much of the same archaeological, geological and historical evidence as Hancock, while reaching a far different conclusion as to the origin of such evidence.

Also, as my wife pointed out to me, the Maya calendar does not end in 2012. Again, from Wikipedia:

Misinterpretation of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar is the basis for a New Age belief that a cataclysm will take place on December 21, 2012. December 20, 2012 is simply the last day of the 13th b'ak'tun. But that is not the end of the Long Count because the 14th through 20th b'ak'tuns are still to come.

I look forward to seeing this on DVD for a fun night of eye-candy.

"It's a dangerous business going out your front door." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
"I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies." -- Josie
"I would never be dismissive of pop entertainment; it's much too serious a matter for that." -- NBooth

"If apologetics could prove God, I would lose all faith in Him." -- Josie

"What if--just what if--the very act of storytelling is itself redemptive? What if gathering up the scraps and fragments of a disordered life and binding them between the pages of a book in all of their fragmentary disorder is itself a gambit against that disorder?" -- NBooth

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Darryl A. Armstrong wrote:

: I look forward to seeing this on DVD for a fun night of eye-candy.

Oh, I dunno. Seeing this on DVD -- heck, even on Blu-Ray -- would lose a lot of the impact. I say this as one who sat only two or three rows from the screen, and wished the movie had been in 3-D.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Darryl A. Armstrong wrote:

: I look forward to seeing this on DVD for a fun night of eye-candy.

Oh, I dunno. Seeing this on DVD -- heck, even on Blu-Ray -- would lose a lot of the impact. I say this as one who sat only two or three rows from the screen, and wished the movie had been in 3-D.

I know, but we just don't have the money for going to the theater these days - whatever we see comes through Netflix. :(

"It's a dangerous business going out your front door." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
"I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies." -- Josie
"I would never be dismissive of pop entertainment; it's much too serious a matter for that." -- NBooth

"If apologetics could prove God, I would lose all faith in Him." -- Josie

"What if--just what if--the very act of storytelling is itself redemptive? What if gathering up the scraps and fragments of a disordered life and binding them between the pages of a book in all of their fragmentary disorder is itself a gambit against that disorder?" -- NBooth

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I know this has been discussed somewhat already, but for what it's worth, awhile back I briefly blogged about why folks (like me, heh) are drawn to disaster genre movies and compiled some ideas/links:

There are those that think it’s rooted in our dissatisfaction with the artificial nature of our lives and our longing for utopia. Others think it has something to do with our contemplation of questions like whether or not we have earned our place or life. Some explain them away as “pornography for our masochistic subconscious.” And there are those who say these films are our attempts to deal with current crises in metaphorical form. And still others suggest they speak for the angst of their time while others dismiss them as simply escapist entertainment.

For me, however, the draw of the disaster genre has more to do with some of the themes (as shallow as they can be dealt with) the genre tends to explore. In an article I can no longer find online, Alby James discusses the genre in terms of stories of relentless jeopardy that requires average folks to find it within themselves to “triumph over great adversity.” These characters are on the verge of being messianic in nature, James points out:

. . . [T]heir desire to save others is what seems to propel them through all situations. This drive may even cause them to sacrifice themselves at the climax so that the others may survive, as Gene Hackman’s vicar character does in The Poseidon Adventure. They are the kind of characters who make us feel good about mankind and reassure us that despite all the difficulties that we may have to face in the world today, we shall always overcome. Independence Day and Armageddon take this to the limit.

And, says James, these films also make us think about things that matter:

These are films that remind us of the meaning of life, the people we most care about and who makes us really happy. When you stare death in the face like this, you know who really matters to you and what you must do. The best of these films do all this.

Odd as it seems to some folks, disaster films can be comforting and reassuring in that the best of them do "make us feel good about mankind" and the fate of the world. Yeah, these films tend to emphasize it's within man's ability to save himself and the world, but I like to think there's enough in these films that also echo more deeper truths, too.

BTW, SDG, I absolutely loved your Emmerich vs. Bay. Good stuff.

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As for the Catholic-Orthodox note on which you conclude, I must say, you're bolder about raising this stuff in that context than I ever was!

WaPo noticed!

BTW, SDG, I absolutely loved your Emmerich vs. Bay. Good stuff.

Thanks!

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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He basically praises 2012 for its stunning visuals alone, claiming that it will be a satisfactory experience because no one expects anything else, but still gives it 3-1/2 stars -- as opposed to all of the Lord of the Rings films, in which he admits that they have breathtaking visuals, but that this is a set back. He says the Rings story cannot live up to the original books -- something I'm sure everyone in the whole world with half a brain in their head already knew going in.

Ebert also uses the star rating to compare similar films within genres. He said that 2012 — at 3.5 — is better than most CGI-glutted disaster movies. Saying that its 3.5 is better than a crime film's 3.0 isn't exactly right, either.

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*** SPOILER ALERT ***

Andrew Potter @ Maclean's:

With 2012, Roland Emmerich has forgotten Stalin’s first rule of disaster filmmaking: A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. And so with the whole world coming to an end, Emmerich delivers a big pile of statistics but very little in the way of tragedy. . . .

2012 is just one long mess of CGI’d destruction, with a relationship structure ripped straight from Twister. And while I’ll take Amanda Peet over Helen Hunt any day, John Cusack is no Bill Paxton. Worse, he’s no Dennis Quaid, with none of the manly-man gravitas that makes you want him to actually save his family. . . .

Emmerich has taken heat for the implicit racism of the film, which shows a bunch of white people getting saved at the expense of members of the other races. That’s true enough, but the big problem with this film is not that it is an example of twisted politics, but that it is a lesson in horrible management.

In 2012, the world is coming to an end, and almost all the people who do their jobs, remain calm, and make the hard choices are portrayed as villains and end up dying horribly, while the people who panic, get emotional, and abandon professionalism and public service in favour of private interest are heroes. The president abandons the citizenry and dies a noble death, while Oliver Platt — the most senior remaining member of the administration — is portrayed as an asshole for trying to make the tough choices that absolutely have to be made.

Meanwhile, through their own narcissism, John Cusack and his crew manage to almost destroy the ark that will save humanity, only to be cheered when they (barely) manage to fix the mess they caused. I dunno… maybe it’s some weird George W. Bush parable, but it is hard to love a film where a useless idiot like Cusack gets his wife and family back, while the guy who actually did all the work of saving them (the plastic surgeon) gets mulched in the massive jaws of an industrial ratchet, the harmless Russian mail-order bride drowns, and the guy who let them into the ship in the first place (against his better judgement) almost gets his leg ripped off for his efforts.

Still, it is nice to see the Earth get some.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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*** SPOILER ALERT ***

Meanwhile, through their own narcissism, John Cusack and his crew manage to almost destroy the ark that will save humanity, only to be cheered when they (barely) manage to fix the mess they caused. I dunno… maybe it’s some weird George W. Bush parable, but it is hard to love a film where a useless idiot like Cusack gets his wife and family back, while the guy who actually did all the work of saving them (the plastic surgeon) gets mulched in the massive jaws of an industrial ratchet, the harmless Russian mail-order bride drowns, and the guy who let them into the ship in the first place (against his better judgement) almost gets his leg ripped off for his efforts.

At least her puppy lived. That's what matters, right?

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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Incidentally, speaking of racial matters, I can't help but notice that, whereas Deep Impact had Morgan Freeman as a wise, soothing, in-control kind of guy back when electing a black president seemed like a fantasy, 2012 has Danny Glover as a somewhat ineffectual, emotionally conflicted kind of guy who is morally compromised by the ruthless people he has surrounded himself with. Is that some kind of statement on the Obama administration, like the Dick Cheney-ish character depicted in The Day after Tomorrow?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I just did a spot on the CBC morning show "The Current" talking about the religious themes of 2012. (I'm pretty sure they picked up on the WaPo snippet of my CT.com review.)

After doing a radio show I always think of things I wish I had said, but all in all I thought the spot went pretty well.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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So instead of a Canadian reviewing it for an American outlet, an American ended up commenting on it for a Canadian outlet? :)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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:blink:

...did they see the film...?

[National Council of Ulema chairman Amidhan] also complained that the film showed mosques being destroyed but not churches, despite sequences depicting the Vatican collapsing and Rio de Janeiro's monumental Christ the Redeemer statue crumbling to pieces.

"The film shows that everything including Kaaba (Islam holiest shrine) and mosques were devastated except for churches. The film is a provocation against Islam," Amidhan said.

P.S. From the comments:

I am a Muslim and to o say that this movie singles out Islam is a patent absurdity. This film is a piece of fiction that portrays the destruction of all civilizations equally and simultaneously! Wake up you idiot mullahs, this is FICTION. To believe that such fantasies could "hurt" Islam is to portray your utter ignorance of the classical traditions of Islam and to belittle the omnipotence of God, the Prophet (saw), and the Sunnah. Such "fatwas" have nothing to do with anything but pseudo-religious self-aggrandizement. Enough is enough.

Interesting.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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  • 3 weeks later...

FWIW, the Hollywood Reporter says the film has grossed $574.1 million overseas as of this weekend. That means it is already the 12th-highest-grossing film of all time overseas, behind Titanic, Ice Age 3, five Harry Potter films, two Pirates of the Caribbean films, and two Lord of the Rings films.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 3 weeks later...

FWIW, The Hollywood Reporter says 2012 has now grossed over $600 million overseas, in addition to whatever it made in North America. This would make it only the 12th film to do so well overseas: the others are Titanic, Avatar, The Lord of the Rings 3, Ice Age 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 2 + 3, and Harry Potter 1 + 2 + 4 + 5 + 6 (but not, interestingly, 3).

(That might seem like the same list as the one in the previous post, but look more closely and you'll see that we've tossed out one of the Lord of the Rings films, which never crossed the $600 million line, and we've added Avatar, which had been in theatres only a few days when the last post was written.)

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hundreds of Quakes Are Rattling Yellowstone

DENVER — In the last two weeks, more than 100 mostly tiny earthquakes a day, on average, have rattled a remote area of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, putting scientists who monitor the park’s strange and volatile geology on alert.

Researchers say that for now, the earthquake cluster, or swarm — the second-largest ever recorded in the park — is more a cause for curiosity than alarm. The quake zone, about 10 miles northwest of the Old Faithful geyser, has shown little indication, they said, of building toward a larger event, like a volcanic eruption of the type that last ravaged the Yellowstone region tens of thousands of years ago.

The area is far from any road or community, and the park is relatively empty in winter. Swarms of small quakes, including a significant swarm last year, are relatively common.

But at a time when the disastrous earthquake in Haiti on Jan. 12 has refocused global attention on the earth’s immense store of tectonic energy, scientists say that the Yellowstone swarm, if only because of its volume, bears close observation: as of Sunday, there had been 1,608 quakes since Jan. 17. . . .

New York Times, January 31

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The area is far from any road or community, and the park is relatively empty in winter. Swarms of small quakes, including a significant swarm last year, are relatively common.

But at a time when the disastrous earthquake in Haiti on Jan. 12 has refocused global attention on the earth’s immense store of tectonic energy, scientists say that the Yellowstone swarm, if only because of its volume, bears close observation: as of Sunday, there had been 1,608 quakes since Jan. 17. . . .

New York Times, January 31

Man...did Yellowstone make a pact with the Devil as well?

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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  • 4 weeks later...

'2012' Director Roland Emmerich On Noah's Ark, Conspiracies And The New DVD

MTV News: Have you put any cool deleted scenes onto the DVD?

Emmerich: There is very little in this movie that was cut out. We have an alternative ending, which is quite interesting. Two characters who die in the final cut are actually alive. The two jazz musicians survived. At the end you see their cruise ship on top of a mountain. For us it was always a Noah's Ark symbol. But it didn't work because it put everything in question. Why did we have to build these huge ships to rescue hundreds of thousands of people in the first place? And anyway, the ending felt kind of long. It went on and on and on, and when we took that ending out, it was all of a sudden streamlined.

MTV Movies Blog, March 2

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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