Could you find any faults with the science?
One or two. But I think they did a nice job advancing an impossible story without lingering on details and trying to over-explain the unexplainable. Yeah, nutrinos don’t work like that. This is why the initial reaction of scientists is, “that’s impossible!” Then they quickly move on to the totally realistic approach a film like this is supposed to take.
So it’s pretty plausible?
No, you jackass. It’s a movie about the world ending in 2012 in accordance with the Mayan calendar. Nothing about the film is plausible, but that’s OK. My own preference would be for some of the escape scenes to be a shade more realistic. Like, it’s a bit much to watch Cusack and family outrun the collapse of the earth’s surface, keeping 10-50 feet ahead of the edge of destruction at all times as they drive across LA in judgment day traffic. Most of the action sequences follow that format. There’s a wave of… it doesn’t really matter, there’s a wave engulfing everything and our heroes have found an awkward vehicle that is exactly .5% faster than it. “I’ve never driven a hansom cab before!!” “Oh no, it’s a tsunami! Just go! Go!” Still, a lot of these scenes are pretty exciting and there’s nothing coy or miscalculated. Emmerich is pulling out all the stops all the way without apology and he’s pretty good at it. That makes for some cool visuals, but diminishes the suspense of the actual action scenes.
Yeah, and the protagonists just happen to catch every lucky break and be the one group out of millions to escape.
This is a complaint commonly made about movies and other stories by people who overestimate their own intelligence. The point is that the film has chosen to focus on the one incredibly lucky family who catches scores of breaks to escape and tell their story. A movie about the guy who is instantly crushed while taking a dump at work would be pretty pointless.
Fair enough. But I do want to see that work dumper being crushed along the way. Corpse count?
Paltry. Using 80’s Action standards, the corpse count is under ten. You could blame “PG-13,” but this film is nowhere close to an “R” so I doubt that it was cut down to avoid one. The relentless destruction of city after city was enough to hold my attention. The destruction is maintained creatively, though streets and buildings were sometimes conspicuously empty.
How maudlin was it?
More maudlin than Maude herself! There are a lot of scenes where people are making heartfelt goodbyes to their loved ones. But it is a movie about the end of the world. I know that if you or I discovered that everyone would be dead soon, we would spend our last hours reciting “The Wasteland” from memory. But it’s possible that lesser individuals might say goodbye and be sad. Arguably, some of these scenes could have been cut out. Like maybe seventy or eighty of them. But they are generally effective, which is due largely to good acting across the board.
Where there any cliches?
Emmerich seems to love the generic so much that his passion almost elevates it to artistry. The first major fissure in LA is, of course, met with a “Duuude!” by blond surfer dudes who are like the children Jeff Spicolli had with Jeff Spicolli. Whether it’s Tibet or Rome, Emmerich seems to imagine everything with the mind of a citizen in an authoritarian country, connected to the rest of the world by an illegal satellite dish. The landmark motif that every hack review of this movie begins by mentioning is really emblamatic of his overall approach. France=snooty art guys. Russians=bearish baritones and their decadent tarts. A group of VIPs includes the queen of England. Which isn’t to say that Emmerich’s hyper-generic approach doesn’t work. Woody Harrelson’s hippyish conspiracy nut/radio host is as generic a character as you can imagine, but he also steals the show.
How many times was Cusack certainly dead, but then he crawled out of a freshly made fissure in the earth’s crust or popped up after having been under water for fourteen minutes?
Just two are credited: Emmerich and Harald Kloser. I looked because about halfway through the film, I thought “I bet this film didn’t have a swarm of writers.” This is because it’s a good, coherent script, well plotted with characters who have clear and consistent motivations. Within this, Emmerich works in some little pieces of cleverness, like nods to his friends in the community of jabbering nutjobs who actually believe in this 2012 shit. A subtle one is a quick hint that Princess Di was assassinated. There are little preemptive digs at critics and a few funny lines. A Russian tycoon on why he didn’t buy his ex-wife a seat on the arks meant to preserve humanity: She said she never wanted to see me again for as long as she lived. So be it! Maybe my favorite moment came during the destruction of my own city. Our equivalent to the White House and the Vatican, here in LA? The giant doughnut on top of Randy’s Donuts which is sent rolling down the street. Yeah, LA Story made essentially the same joke, but it’s still funny. PS, the burgers and fries at the run-down place next to Randy’s might be the best in the city
Box Office Predictions:
I actually enjoyed the film, so the smart money says that it will bomb. However, I think it will exceed projections in spite of the handicap of being a pretty good movie. Firstly, this is the film Emmerich was born to make. If this doesn’t do well, his career is finished because he can do no better and there aren’t a lot of cities to smash after all of them. But I think he’s still a viable commercial director, so it stands to reason that his definitive film will make money. Secondly we love the idea of the world coming an end because we are such conceited little animals. Living in the End of Days is probably tied with having a three way with sisters for the most persistent fantasy of all time. Not only does it fulfill our secret belief that the world could not possibly manage to go on without us, it also means we had great timing. If there’s no future after us, then we didn’t miss anything. Plus, we get to witness the coolest thing imaginable: the Apocalypse.
How bad was it really?
It’s the best massively budgeted Hollywood film I’ve seen in at least two years. I’m not an authority on these movies, but I can say that this is much better than Iron Man or the last Indy movie. I also liked it better than Godzilla or Independence Day. I won’t rush out to see it again, but I can imagine coming across it in a few years on TV, where I think I’d find this freshly enjoyable. Even though you pretty much know what’s going to happen next, you’re eager to see it. For example, I was excited to see the arks and the film doesn’t disappoint. We see them, there’s a lot of time spent inside them, they crash into each other and they are pretty awesome. It should go without saying that there are tons of flaws, particularly the great show of man’s nobility at the end. But I had a good time, as advertised. So it’s nice that, for once, Hollywood ringing the doorbell doesn’t mean they’ve left a flaming sack of shit at the door like they did the last fifteen times. One of these days, I might even give The Dark Knight a whirl.