Saturday, November 14, 2009


No Paradise

Roland Emmerich has already established himself as the go-to man if anyone in Hollywood wants to make an event film to entertain the masses. We've had an intergalactic portal open up in Stargate, an alien invasion with Independence Day, a bastardization of Japan's iconic monster Godzilla, a what-if tale of a freezing winter when hell turneth over with The Day After Tomorrow, and now, 2012.

Instead of repeating oneself on the negative outcomes of global warming and a consequence of our raping the environment, this one breezes you through some mumbo-jumbo physics, which ultimately translates into the Earth's core heating up and Mother Nature running a severe fever, which results in hurling everything at mankind, from volcanic eruptions, massive tidal waves and of course, some insane shifting of tectonic plates which only mean one thing - an immense and tremendous cinematic destruction of the world as we know it on celluloid.

To some, you'll be told to park your brains at the door. To others, they wonder how dumb a film can be in magnifying some hocus-pocus doomsday scenario. Bottom line in my opinion, this is nothing but a tentpole pop corn film for purely entertainment purposes, so if you can't accept this, then don't buy a ticket and be the party pooper. In essence, this film is more like an amusement ride, where the price of an admission ticket almost guarantees a thrilling roller coaster ride from start to finish, despite a relatively slow opening to establish a whole slew of key characters and their relationships with one another, before allowing Nature to unleash its fury in all its digital glory.

Effects wise, the teaser did just enough to pique one's interest. I have to admit that watching entire land masses swallowed up by the oceans was pretty terrifying, yet these money shots are just that, the hook for someone to bite and make a beeline for the theatres. CG is carefully crafted here to make it look realistic, and detailed enough for anyone going for repeated screenings to pick out additional, minute attributes that were missed the first time round. After all, it's world wide pandemonium we're talking about here, and there's a systematic way in how the world gets destructed on screen. Unfortunately though you would be able to notice that some of the simpler effects don't get properly rendered and may come across as cheap, though thankfully the larger spectacles clearly got more devotion in getting them done right.

That aside, the mammoth run time allowed for a lot of subplots and themes to be discussed, which turned out to be the surprising gem within 2012. Granted there are unnecessary tangents that could have been removed to allow for a tighter story, such as the entire cruise ship arc which turned out to be nothing more than a pissing competition at Poseidon's (the remake) way, and didn't contribute much other than to allow alternative, uninteresting perspectives besides the cursory warning of never to allow regrets to remain status quo. Or the usual lapses into bravado speeches to rouse the human spirit in survival, which turn out to be rather cliche and boring as well.

The world as we know in the film is into its bleakest hour, and how do you inform anyone about the magnitude of disaster to come? Public announcements would lead to no law nor order, and the breakdown of civil society, and it's up to a group of G8 governments to set a secret agenda in a race against time to ensure that they can ensure the continuity of the human race, by playing Noah themselves.

Emerich has this time round become a little bit more all inclusive in having some non-US centric participation, though this did also seem like a statement to be more politically correct than anything else. Infusing some real world sensibilities, even the location and prowess needed to embark on their massive projects, were left to the Chinese for their impeccable diligence and hard work (not to mention being the world's factory too), and probably a nod to their engineering.

What would raise eyebrows in its morality tale, is how proponents in the way this hushed up secret project would become, and the silencing of detractors or those who cannot keep a secret. Natural selection based on superior gene pool got thrown out the window as well, as predetermined survivors were chosen on the basis of wealth, which of course reflects the way how capitalist societies operate in with money talking loudest. Which makes you wonder how other science fiction films which have similar premises, would have tackled this issue, from Wall E to Pandorum even.

Anyway those are things that were touched upon, but not dwelled in further detail because as I mentioned, it's a film for mass appeal entertainment, finding time to poke fun at world figures and politicians such as Queen Elizabeth II, and the Californian governor. Having a large ensemble cast is part of the fun as well, and they play nothing more than cardboard characters each given a specific thing to contribute in the film. If I lists some of them down as average Joe Jackson Curtis played by John Cusack, his estranged wife played by Amanda Peet, Kinky Boots' Chiwetel Ejiofor as a prominent scientist, Danny Glover as the US President, Thandie Newton as the First Daughter, Woody Harrelson as an over the top doomsday soothsayer, and more from Morgan Lili, Oliver Platt, Jimi Mistry and Lisa Lu, to Singaporean Chin Han, who plays a young TIbetian worker.

If you're looking for entertainment, then look no further than 2012, the tentpole film for this week. Just remember to check your expectations, and buckle up for that adrenaline rush. Make sure you're opting to see this in a digital hall, with a good sound system enough to reverberate the audio shockwaves across the entire screening hall.

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