'2012': A one-trick pony that tends to buck

Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2009

What do you do with a movie like "2012"? It's 160 minutes of fantastic, expensive visuals. That much is obvious from the trailers. Having seen the special effects marathon with my own eyes, I stand by the sentiment I had going in: If you can see yourself ever, at any point in time, seeing "2012" then you should do so now while it is on the big screen. Really, the argument could be made that "2012" is a movie that should only be seen on the big screen, because I don't know if there is any real reason to rent it later or buy it on DVD.

Movies folks buy are movies they want to watch again. And again. Movies you add to your DVD library can be guilty pleasures (like my copy of "Fever Pitch"), or they can be the mainstream stuff a whole group of people can enjoy together on a rainy Saturday night. "2012" is neither.

Roland Emmerich's end-of-the-world tale is too long to be a Saturday night DVD with friends. Now, if it offered anything other than the awesome visuals, a debate could be had. But it doesn't. "Armageddon," which I own and have seen with friends multiple times over the years, is 150 minutes long. What Michael Bay's movie offers, though, is humor and lighthearted entertainment. "Armageddon" also knows it's silly, and doesn't take itself too seriously. Sure, you can cry - like I do - when Ben Affleck says his tearful good-bye to Bruce Willis, but it's still a Michael Bay flick.

"2012" doesn't seem to understand how goofy its plot is. Maybe Emmerich and co-writer Harald Kloser themselves buy into the whole Mayans predicting the end of the world thing. I don't know. The concept about the Mayans predicting the world's end really isn't hashed out that much, though. Call it more of a jumping off point. What's causing the end of the world in "2012" is the sun; it gets too hot.

No, seriously. The sun gets too hot and its changes cause changes in the earth's core and that causes earthquakes and cracks in the pavement in Los Angeles (as if they don't have them all over the place, anyway!) and that causes tsunamis and they wipe everything out. Or something. It's a big deal, okay? Perhaps the bigger deal is that the government knows about it a couple of years in advance and they choose to build arcs, taking a page out of Noah's playbook.

The catch? There are only so many arcs, and most of us normal folk won't be getting a spot on said arcs. Instead, as the entire state of Hawaii is swallowed into a fiery pit, humanity is given the last minute head's up. "Dear citizens of the world... ah, sorry we didn't tell you sooner. Didn't want to cause panic. But... um, you're screwed." What do you do with that? It's as if Emmerich doesn't want us to enjoy his $200 million budget without feeling some sort of anger or guilt about what's happening on screen.

Really? I'd rather get a chuckle at Steve Buscemi's character going a bit batty and then being tied up in the spaceship so he can't cause any more trouble. Oops, that's "Armageddon" again. Have I mentioned I own "Armageddon"?

"2012" won't be joining it in the library. I just don't quite know what to do with a one-trick pony that refuses to let you enjoy its one trick without bucking you off from time to time. Still, if you can picture yourself watching it - like, ever - it has to be now.

On the big screen.

• Check out Carson's movie blog at www.juneaublogger.com/movies.

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