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Reviewed by Jens Rushing, © 2009

Format: Movie
By:   Roland Emmerich
Genre:   Disaster porn
Review Date:   November 13, 2009
Audience Rating:   PG-13

At what point does good taste become snobbery? Is discrimination in the media one chooses to consume indistinguishable from snobbery? No. We must discriminate, or we will go to hell listening to hip-hop, watching Transformers , reading Twilight. There are such things as good art and bad art; there must be, or any discussion of art becomes meaningless.

These thoughts weighed heavy on my mind as my friends forced me into an early showing of Roland Emmerich’s latest movie-crime 2012 . No amount of pleading, begging, or explanation could convince them that I had better things to do, like hit the “random article” button on Wikipedia for three hours.

I have often been accused of snobbery, to which it is my habit to turn up my nose, adjust my monocle, and sniff, “Pardon me for having taste.” But when the movie got its hooks into my charming wife, I knew that further resistance would make me an asshole, so I acquiesced.

I have committed . . . such acts that you would reach for a firearm if I revealed them.

Rather than enumerate the film’s faults, though, I will relate to you, dear reader, my suggestions on how to enjoy the film.

1. Smuggle booze into the theatre.

I live in South Korea, where alcoholism, the fun kind, is rampant. No one bats an eye when you open a bottle of beer during the trailers. And another one five minutes after that. For my friends in thrall to the puritanical mores of the great United States, I recommend a discrete pocket flask loaded with potent spirits. The more potent the better. Don’t worry about brain death.

Your goal with this self-sedation is to reduce your mental activity to such a level that the film’s malevolent pseudo-intelligence is unable to detect your sentience, and passes you by relatively unharmed. You can achieve the lower levels of alcohol poisoning and kill fewer brain cells than the movie does.

My charming wife limited me to a scant liter and a half of beer. The movie is 158 minutes long. It was not enough. In the seventh or eighth act, a reverse delirium tremens overcame me, a sense of horror not of hallucinations but of the real, to which I was particularly vulnerable in my state of heightened emotion.

My buzz wore off, and I was unable to escape this escapism any longer. Don’t repeat my mistake, dear reader. Bring enough grain alcohol to knock over a rhino. Get wasted and giggle gleefully. Adults made this film! Adults!

2. Remember John Cusack when he was relevant.

Mr. Cusack these days is looking more and more like a John Cusack mask left on the stove for a little too long. Survive his excruciating scenes with thoughts of how much you enjoyed Gross Pointe Blank back in the day. And High Fidelity! Wow! That movie really spoke to you. John Cusack could do anything after that. He chose to do Serendipity. It is a long declining road from there to here.

3. Remember Amanda Peet when she was naked.

The Whole Nine Yards. Saved from ignominy by an extended full-frontal scene. Not to be crass, but, damn. Those were the days.

4. Ignore the science.

You know Arthur C. Clarke’s law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I offer a counter: “Any sufficiently retarded science is indistinguishable from magic.”

So, the Earth is 640,000 years old. OK. So the fossil record, and everything we know of geology and how the Earth was created, is a lie. And the Young Earthers are actually right. But this amazing fact is fired off in an extended burst from the movie’s minigun of truth.

The Earth’s spasms are caused by neutrinos fired from the sun. The briefest glimpse at Wikipedia reveals that neutrinos do nothing of the sort. They are, in fact, renowned for their ability to not filk with matter.

One must conclude that M. Emmerich is remarkably ignorant of the Internet, a hypothesis reinforced when Woody Harrelson tells John Cusack to "download his blog."

I almost wrote "Earth’s tectonic spasms" in the last paragraph, but a moment’s consideration reveals the movie’s utter lack of geological knowledge. No conceivable force could cause China to shift a thousand miles to the East and leave the Himalayas intact. Any spasm that could cause earthquakes like the ones depicted in the movie would probably shrug off Earth’s atmosphere and leave the planet a lifeless husk.

Nor could you lift the seas high enough to drown the Tibetan plateau. Look at a map. Tibet is a hell of a long way from the ocean. There is simply not enough water on Earth to do that.

And into what, exactly, is the world collapsing? When Vegas goes, it appears to fall into some great void beneath. I am forced to conclude that Monsieur Emmerich believes in the Hollow-Earth theory. You know who else did? Hitler.

5. Absolutely do not consider the social, cultural, and economic implications of the movie.

Really, we live in an age where we don’t need to pay for porn, not even disaster porn. I kept looking around the theater for people actually masturbating at the scenes of horrific (yet bloodless!) devastation, but was distracted by my own growing arousal. The movie opens with some loathsome Wisconsinians squawking about the earthquakes and shit; here, Emmerich is saying, is the Main Street middle-America foulness which I will destroy. And he does.

And we cheer as our greatest human accomplishments are trampled underfoot. What does this say about us as a race? Are we taking pleasure in the pain of the characters in the movie, or in our own pain reflected in them? It is an awkward thing for most people to participate in this sort of sadomasochism, and remarkable to see them do so in public. Best not to think about these things.

Don’t look at the budget for this movie. You don’t want to know. I’ll tell you. This movie cost $260 million to make. That’s enough to give every man, woman, and child in the USA 75 cents. Think about that when your alma mater repossesses your kidneys for unpaid student loans.

Also, don’t think about how this movie will easily make that egregious sum back, Don't think about how the makers will be rewarded for this enormity. Where does all that money go? Back into the Hollywood monster so it can shit out Transformers 4 and Twilight 6.

Hey! I read this morning that UNICEF calculates that 200 million children worldwide are suffering from chronic malnutrition –- oh, 2013 is coming out next year! Can I send a check now? Aren’t we due for another Pirates of the Caribbean? I can’t wait!

O, Hollywood! Birthplace of wonders! Truly, the giants of men who move your arcane levers and cogs to produce this art deserve a place on the arks that preserve the richest (and therefore the best) of humanity from the apocalypse. We deserve to slide into the sea, happily watching a Russian woman with a boob job drown to death.

Jens Rushing writes. He plays a fair concertina and a passable banjo. Visit his site for gibberish and doggerel.

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