It’s a disaster

2012 is set to be a busy year. Big sporting events like the Olympics and the UEFA Euro football tournament will capture the interest of the entire globe. The Queen will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. It will also be the end of the world, if the Mayans are to be believed.

Forget Swiss timepieces, it’s the ancient people of central America whose apocalyptic calendar forms the premise for 2012, one of cinema’s more ludicrous film outings. The plot is so formulaic, so predictable, as to render the idea of spoilers redundant – if you do watch the movie and find yourself surprised then I am both impressed and at a loss for words.

In 2012, scientists discover the sun’s rays are heating up the earth’s core, resulting in the crust starting to shift and displace. This leads to earthquakes, explosions, mile-high tsunamis and the end of the world.

The hero, John Cusack, is a scruffy divorced dad who stumbles onto the government’s plans and then spends the rest of the movie trying to save his family by getting them onboard the arks, which the world’s governments (but only the G8 ones, mind – the rest of the world will just have to drown) are building.

If there are any mature themes in 2012, they revolve around mankind’s reaction to impending doom, whether on the small scale of individual families or the larger view of government strategy. In both cases the outcome is dire.

The governments do not warn the general population because there’s limited space on board the arks. They have to be careful. Instead, scientists choose those with beneficial genes for a new world. But more importantly, anyone with 1 billion euros can buy a ticket. That’s a bleak view to have: that capitalism is the system of choice during mankind’s last hour. Who would want to live in a new world populated only by billionaires and bureaucrats?

We should have seen it coming. And no, I don’t mean the end of the world, I mean the fact that director Roland Emmerich would eventually make a film like this. Was he not the very same man who annihilated the world’s capital cities in Independence Day? And if he wasn’t using aliens to do his destructive handiwork then why not use the weather as in The Day After Tomorrow? Mr Emmerich clearly has a problem with civilisation (or, at the very least, buildings). And he’s using his films to punish the world.

For some reason the Catholics get a particularly harsh thrashing. Despite the whole world going pear-shaped, Mr Emmerich takes great delight in showing the statue of Jesus in Rio de Janeiro and St Peter’s in Rome crumbling into pieces. The latter showcases the film’s inherent post-modern cynicism. As the Vatican disintegrates, a crack runs up the wall, onto the Sistine chapel and straight between the finger of God and Adam. Despite no biblical undertones anywhere else in the movie, this appallingly contrived scene seems to say that God is angry with man, that this is the new flood, that we are now separated from God. Oh dear.

Forget about prayer. All the faithful who gather in front of St Peter’s are wiped out. In fact, the minute a character says they will face the disaster with prayer you know for certain they will be dead fairly soon. You need to be practical, not pray. And practical, in this case, means saving only yourself.

If anything, and I’m sure it’s not intentional, 2012 highlights how astonishly selfish and self-centred people are when it comes to self-preservation. Nothing is more telling than when one of the more moral characters discovers that it’s only the rich who seem to be allowed onto the arks. He questions why none of the workers or builders will be allowed on board, to which his boss says, ‘If you want to hand your tickets over them, be my guest.’ The character looks outraged, but does he give his tickets away? No. When he sees his two-man cabin onboard, he yells out, ‘But there’s enough space here for 10 people!’ But when we see him later on, has he in fact allowed 10 people in there? No.

And that’s the problem. It’s all very well to say righteous things or nod along when sensible appeals are made, but words without actions are useless.

For many today the high levels of poverty and pain they experience mean their worlds are coming to an end. Saying so is just the first step. We need to make space for them in our rooms or perhaps give them our tickets to a better life. Otherwise our words are frankly empty.

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