The new disaster film 2012 pleasantly surprised me. In addition to being a vehicle for excellent visual effects, the story itself was fairly interesting, at least if you look at it as a sophisticated farce. It’s much like Starship Troopers, a movie I love (but most people love to hate), which doesn’t seem to have much depth until you view it as an ironic commentary on the seductiveness of foolish warfare.
2012‘s filmmakers deal with a difficult theme – the end of human civilization as we know it. Treated literally, this could make for an extremely depressing film. 2012 did incorporate some serious elements of this setting, such as the dilemma of whether to inform the public of impending doom, and how to decide who gets a seat on the “arks” that can save a limited number of people.
Thankfully, however, these horrifying scenes are balanced out with surreal action sequences and characters that remind the audience that 2012 is only fantasy. 2012‘s action is the sort that you have to turn off the analytical part of your brain to enjoy: ignore the glaring technical inconsistencies and just appreciate the clever timing and creative destruction of famous landmarks. The intentional one-dimensionality of the well-cast main characters, like John Cusack’s protagonist and his conspiracy-theorist buddy, further remind us that 2012 isn’t to be taken literally.
I felt 2012 succeeded where other films like The Day After Tomorrow and Poseidon failed. Neither of those two films included any lighthearted elements to balance the catastrophic setting, nor did they treat the scenarios realistically enough to provide thought-provoking insight.