Scenes from an Apocalypse: ‘2012’
Movies are projections. Yes, literally, in the sense of filmstock and screens and projectors and bulbs. But movies can also be projections of ourselves — a momentary snapshot of the internal, the introspective, the metaphysical. And given the circumstances, we as the film beat are seeing less literal projections in movie theaters and doing more projecting ourselves. So what are we thinking about? Among them are whether “When Harry Met Sally” is actually good, our Letterboxd log histories and — of course — the apocalypse. This series will traverse the cinematic doomsday in its eclectic iterations. After all, why grapple with an uncomfortable reality when you can watch movies that hyperbolize it completely?
— Anish Tamhaney, Daily Film Editor
“2012” isn’t an apocalypse movie, not really. Yes, the world is ending, which is technically all you need for an apocalypse, but at its heart, “2012” is a hopeful movie about family.
I had never seen the film before, so when I began watching it, I prepared myself for two and a half hours of death and destruction. There was death and destruction; in fact, IMDb says that the body count in this movie is over 7 billion. But what I wasn’t expecting was that the movie revolves around some really good people doing their best in an atrocious situation, which isn’t exactly an unfamiliar concept right now.
Jackson Curtis (John Cusack, “Grosse Pointe Blank”) is supposed to be taking his kids camping when he finds out the world is ending, the Earth’s core is melting and the crust is breaking apart through earthquakes that authorities claim are nothing to worry about. And when he finds this out, what does he do? Everything he can to protect his family, even his ex-wife and her new boyfriend. Though the draw of the movie is the apocalypse and scenes like Jackson and his family barely escaping a crumbling California in a tiny plane, the reason why the film is actually worthwhile is because you see that even in horrific, catastrophic times, there are people who are genuinely good. Whether it’s a father who puts his life on the line on numerous occasions for his family, a young scientist whose mission is to save not just billionaires but everyone, a struggling president who stays with his sinking ship (or country) until the last moment or a mother who begs strangers to save her children even if it means she will die, there are people who will do whatever they can in a truly awful time.
And yes, of course you see the opposite of that as well: people whose selfishness comes to light in catastrophe, but even they have hearts. You may want to hate Adrian Helmsley’s (Chiwetel Ejiofor, “Doctor Strange”) superior Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt, “The Three Musketeers”) because he seems to only want to save the people who can pay their way into a new world or those who have been genetically selected, but you can’t help but feel bad for him when you see him saying goodbye to his ailing mother. Or Yuri Karpov (Zlatko Buric, “Pusher”), who stabbed people in the back multiple times, including his girlfriend Tamara (Beatrice Rosen, “The Dark Knight”) and even Jackson. But in the end, that arrogant Russian puts his kids before everyone else, even himself, which is admirable.
“2012” may be written off as an apocalypse movie, but it’s actually a movie about people who are struggling to do their best and remain good amid tragedy. The reason this movie hit me so hard was because that’s exactly what’s happening right now. While the coronavirus may be showing some people’s truly selfish colors, it’s also revealing that there are some genuinely good people out there. Healthcare workers, grocery store employees, teachers, people making masks to send to hospitals, families who are staying away from their loved ones to protect them … we rely on these good people. It’s difficult, unbearably so at times, but these people do what they have to for the greater good. I think Jackson Curtis would be proud of them.