Saturday, 14 January 2012

Prophecies for 2012

As January goes on and New Year's Resolutions start to fade away into the sands of time, one question remains at our hearts: What will the year 2012 bring? There's no need to contact a clairvoyant on the subject, because IMDb lists dozens of movies that have 2012 in their title. There are also a few sci-fi movies that take place on this year. So, to find out how this year will turn out, let's take a look at a few prophecies made for this year.

USA, 2009
Director: Roland Emmerich

The most famous prophecy regarding this year is of course the mega-budgeted catastrophy film from the mastermind of blowing up landmarks, Roland Emmerich. Seeing as he still had a few holiday spots on Earth he hadn't blown up before, he blew the whole thing out of proportion with this 2009 epic. The Apocalypse prophecised by the Ancient Mayans is just a good an excuse as any to run through his usual shtick. The film has been selected as the least scientifically accurate sci-fi film of all time by scientists.

Earth's core is heating up, which causes an Indian scientist (Jimi Mistry) to warn the US president about impending doom. President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover), seemingly named after the actor who played Biff in Back to the Future, of course doesn't listen. So, three years later, in 2012, Earth's magnetic poles start to switch places. This causes volcano eruptions, massive earthquakes and basically the continental faults to start to sink, destroying entire cities. This in turn causes giant tsunamis and floods. Destroyed are such landmarks as the wholes of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Washington D.C., The Vatican, Yellowstone Park, Mt. Kilimanjaro and, unforgivably even Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Through all these catastrophic events one can almost hear Emmerich making sound effects as he goes along: CRASH! BOOM! CRUMBLE! CRUNCH!

The film follows a broken-up American family The Curtises, led by the estranged dad played by John Cusack. The Curtises have to pull themselves together and learn to rely on each other to survive the catastrophy (yawn). They accomplish this by running away from the apocalypse a lot. A lot. Thsese scenes are the stupidest, the most hilarious, and the very best in the entire film. Where-ever Cusack goes, various apocalypses soon follow. But he's quick-witted and quick-footed enough to hop on a car, plane, SUV or an ark to always get away within fractions of seconds. If the Apocalypse was a person, he'd be no doubt slamming his hat on the ground and stomping it whenever Cusack manages to escape.
"Drat, drat and double-drat!"

Emmerich certainly doesn't waste time in trying to come up with new tropes for his films. The characters in this are almost interchangeable with, say the characters from The Day After Tomorrow. Or, from outside Emmerich's own films, Deep Impact. That's why it's hard to care about any of them. Everyone knows that the film will end with the family-unit back together, and small-part actors are just there to die and give some weight to the issues. The teary-eyed last phone calls to loved ones are horribly dreary and the film goes on and on for two and a half fucking hours. One of the few bright spots comes from the Pusher trilogy's Zlatko Buric who plays a suitably sleazy russian billionaire. Still, he's really not enough to make this film recommendable. Let's hope the world doesn't end this way. I'd like Armageddon to be at least entertaining.


2012: Supernova
USA, 2009
Director: Anthony Fankhauser

Since you can't copyright a year, Emmerich's film of course gained a mockbuster follow-up by the hacks at Asylum. And it makes the Hollywood CGI effect demo seem like a towering masterpiece by comparison. This film's ensemble includes Brian Krause from TV's Charmed, the awesomely named Asylum veteran Londale Theus, and... those two are probably the biggest stars on display here.

Like the title suggests, the apocalypse comes this time from a Supernova that has exploded 200 years ago. It has only gained destructive power since, and is travelling towards Earth. Hilariously, the Supernova waves blow up Pluto and one of Jupiter's moons on the way. Dr. Kelvin, played by Krause, is the only scientist smart enough to know how to keep Earth from exploding, too. But he needs the access to dangerous nuclear weapons in the middle of the desert. These weapons also gather the interest of terrorists. As they do.

Mockbusters are a tricky genre, since Asylum clearly doesn't have much money to spend to create a true spactacle. So how can one make an epic disaster movie with only a few CGI special effect scenes? Much of Supernova is spent driving on a single highway across dester, arguing in a car. At times the action moves to an empty warehouse. The CGI effects would've looked bad on the original PlayStation. Altough nothing makes much sense, there's really nothing to like in the film. The plot, acting, direction, scenes, all are dreadful. This is godawful.

Titanic II
USA, 2010
Director: Shane van Dyke

I love how the ship's mast frowns in terror.

Let's move on to a little lighter subjects than the total devastation of Earth. Did you know that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the world's most famous ship, The Titanic? It's true! People at Asylum also have noticed this, for they churned out this sci-fi extravaganca in 2010, set on this very year. I have to admit, when I think of Titanic II, I think of this:

Sadly, the film doesn't have thawed-out Leo DiCaprio as a man outta his own time. But Asylum at least deserves some credit for belonging to the same group as RoboCop 2: Films that have the number two in the title but also do feature the sequel to the machine after which they have been named in the first place in their plots. Too far-fetched? Sorry, I didn't really sleep much last night, which might explain a lot.

So, in other words, the film is built around the monumentally bad idea of building another Titanic and getting rich folks to sail on its maiden voyage from America to England. At the same time, an ice surfer notices huge icebergs getting chopped off from a glacier. The resulting impact causes a huge tsunami, that sends big icebergs on Titanic II's route. And we all know what that means. Here we go again!

This film, directed, written and starring the no-talent Shane van Dyke, at least has some campy fun in it. The film's characters are prone to stating the obvious, such as a command at Titanic II's cruise control: "Avoid ice! I repeat: avoid ice!" What, wasn't a shipwreck thought to be included in an authentic Titanic cruise? When inevitably the ship hits an iceberg, rich folk begin panicking and the ship sinking, someone remarks: "This is history repeating itself all over again!" I think that sentence speaks for itself as to how smart the characters in the film are.

Sadly, the end of the film is a lot more boring affair. We have characters n one cares about being trapped in small areas while the water is rising. There are some underwater scenes and – it's basically very hard to watch this part without falling asleep. I know, because I watched the ending twice and still don't remember anything from it. Suffice to say, it contains another teary-eyed end scene, but withou any sort of weight to it. The film also ends abruptly. Nothing can be as bad as 2012: Supernova, so at least the funny start gives Titanic II an extra point, even if it all turns to tears for all the wrong reasons by the end.


USA, 2006
Director: Mel Gibson

You know, for all the talk about Mayans and their calendar this year, maybe it's in place to watch a film about those guys. After all, there aren't a lot of those guys left to warn us what's really going to happen this year. Whatever happened to them? Some sort of Apocalypto? This is also a clever ruse to get to include at least one watchable film in this post.

For all of his want for accuracy, such as the violence and making the entire film in the Mayan language, Mel Gibson's film fits a whole lot of consequences and changes of scenery for a single thrill-ride. Basically, a central American indian has his whole village destroyed by blood-thirsty Mayans and is taken to their city to be sacrificed. He manages to escape their cruelty, and runs back to the forest where his wife and child are trapped in a well. But the angry Mayans are right on his trail.

Like it was said on South Park, "Say what you will about Mel Gibson, but the man knows a good story". More than that, he knows how to direct, and to keep the pace brisk. The viewer, as much as the film's main character, has little to no chances to catch their breath before another cruelty or chase scene ensues.

Ultimately, the film does seem to showcase the barbarian habits that would be wiped off by Catholic conquistadors. Gibson has little to no interest in the actual civilization and culture of the Mayans that didn't include sacrifices. And while they were fierce, the film also over-emphasizes their bloodthirstiness and need for sacrifices. It's Gibson who feasts on such stuff, showing all the gory details with manic glee. He seems to say that a gory culture inevitably also destroys itself from within. This may be intended to be some sort of a parallel that a bigot might want to make on countries in the modern world. But the film is certainly no Passion of the Christ, and Gibson's own intents keep well on the background, while the audience can focus on the breath-taking chase. But the same can't be said for his fascination with various torture methods. I think the man may have a small problem.

★★★ 1/2

So there you have it. Originally, I planned January to have Apocalypse as a theme. As it turned out, I came up with so many ideas for articles that it will be a running theme this year, with at least one article appearing each month. Waiting for December 21st has never been so much fun!

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