Friday, November 13, 2009

2012: a bookish author escapes into the Age of Aquarius (but the Blogger doesn't!)


First, I recall in eleventh grade physics that a neutrino has no rest mass. So I don’t know if one of the premises of how the “2012” apocalypse starts – that neutrinos start interacting with the Earth’s crust when the Sun and planets get aligned with the black hole in the center of the Milky Way – makes sense in science that we could get some real solar flares. But, yup, if some strangelet particle came into contact with Earth, maybe it could bore into the Earth and hollow it out, much as like a scene in “Star Trek.”

Roland Emmerich does throw almost every imaginable disaster at us in the 158 minutes of this film. Some of the scenes, like Los Angeles sliding into the Pacific Ocean, and the explosion of the Yellowstone supervolcano, are quite well done and really could happen.

Hollywood does destroy whole cities once in a while (Paramount's dogme-filmed "Cloverfield"), but not the whole world very often; Summit's "Knowing" (with John Cage) was, like this, based on solar flares, but involved aliens and starting over on another planet(s) with Adam and Eve(s) (see the movies blog March 20, 2009).

But the really interesting thing about this film is the characters – and, yes, the politics. John Cusack (a kind of Tom Hanks) plays an author (Jackson Curtis) whose novel “Farewell Atlantis” (not to be confused with Clive Cussler's "Atlantis Found") has sold “only” 500 copies, probably because it’s self-published, or maybe print-on-demand. He must make a good living as something like a computer programmer or engineer, in some rather introvert-favoring job, to afford his southern California lifestyle. Up to this point, he resembles “me”: my “Do Ask Do Tell” book sold about that many in the first three years. But he is a great family man. He gets out of narrow escapes and adjusts to all kinds of physical challenges, all the way to the end, on one of China’s arks. One of the the most telling quotes from Jackson's novel is political and collective: "we're done when we stop fighting for each other." But in an individualistic culture, people don't want to have to fight for one another. That culture seems to be sinking into chasms in the hollowing-out Earth.

Woody Harrelson plays my other alter-ego (Charlie Frost), this time as a Thoreau-like hermit documenting the supervolcano, and blogging about a government plot (in cahoots with all other nations) to select the fittest to populate the arks for the next Great Flood that will even consume the Himalayas. Maybe he is gay, or maybe he is just a loner, but he is no Luddite; his blog (while superficially resembling this one) is filled with original CGI animation about how the world ends, and he is right. But his "treasure hunt" clue is low tech, a simple map showing where governments have built the arks (he keeps a library with a Dewey Decimal numbering system, the way I used to keep my classical music record collection; I guess "I" am bifurcated in this movie).

Well, actually the world doesn’t end; it passes from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. Humanity starts over. It sounds like you have to be able to procreate to get selected for the Arks, and there are some script lines to the effect that life is not fair, and the Chinese were not fair in who they picked. People who could pay a billion or so euros got ahead in line, even if money wasn’t going to be worth anything at the start of the new age.

The opening of the film has an interesting use of foreshadowing: a child's toy boat topples in monsoon rains in India.

Here's NASA's link on why the world "as we know it" won't end in 2012. The idea of big solar storms is serious, though.

The people who got selected for the arks had the money (I'm not sure what good old fiat money would be after a Second Flood). But in an earlier film about a similar premise, "Deep Impact" (Dreamworks, 1998), the "selected" are notified by simple phone calls.

In 2001, I saw the film "The Year Zero" directed by Wiek Lenssen from Kleine Beer Films in the Netherlands, at the Bell Auditorium at the University of Minnesota as part of an international film festival. The film is organized by stills showing Mayan sculptures of the 13 days of the last Mayan week

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