Director: Roland Emmerich Release Date: 11 November Review by Tara Judah There is a certain type of cinema that provides its audience with the most basic of viewing pleasures: showcasing obscene amounts of money on screen. 2012 is one such film. It ranks equal tenth on the board for ‘most expensive film ever made’, kept company by the following six films; Quantum of Solace (2008), Spider-Man 2 (2004), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), Terminator Salvation (2009), Titanic (1997), and Transformers: Revenge of the Machines (2009). Certainly the almighty awe of its destruction sequences (animatronics, live action and CGI) puts the likes of Michael Bay to shame. But beyond its visual impact, what can be said about 2012? Well, based very loosely on the Mayan Long Count calendar’s prediction of the so-called ‘2012 Phenomenon’, the film explores one climate-change induced, possible apocalyptic scenario. It does this of course through traditional disaster movie metaphor, the ‘All-American’ familial paradigm: a white, heteronormative, gender balanced, nuclear family who are either separated, broken or estranged from one another for some variant of the same old reason whereby one member of the family has been selfish and sought self-preservation instead of putting his/her effort into the preservation of the family unit. Then film then follows a predictable but relatively harmless trajectory whereupon the one who was selfish before proves himself now to be all about the greater good, ultimately winning back the love of all family members through some single, yet globally important, validating, heroic act. That’s the plot and there really isn’t a whole lot else to be said for or about it. What’s more interesting about this film however, and believe me when I say it is not Thandie Newton’s persistent inability to act, is that it’s not actually climate-change propaganda as one might expect it to be, rather, its intent surrounds promoting the universalizing elements of what we might like to think of as ‘humanity’. Certainly it is no coincidence that following Barack Obama’s rise to the Presidency of the United States of America, we now see Danny Glover grace our silver screens as US President. There is even a single gratifying moment where it is said that the President is doing a fine job ‘cleaning out the White House’. Despite then the occasional OTT racial stereotyping – as with the Russian ex-boxer billionaire, Yuri - the film is relatively (and by that I mean in relation to other Hollywood blockbuster cinema) racially sound. Then there are the images of South America where we see the destruction of Cristo atop Corcovado and later the rioting and looting that has broken out in Rio de Janeiro, a moment that is surprisingly honest: the American government watch these images of their South American neighbours in desperate need of their help, and all that they do is express a mere modicum of empathy. Possibly the greatest moment though is in the fall of Vatican City: a reminder of the perils of religion and its power to divide. All commentary in this film is made in jest, and none is greater than the literal crack that appears between man and god. Reiterative of the fall of Cristo in Rio, the film reminds us we are ultimately at the mercy of science and not religion. Another crime of contemporary corrosion to community are the forces of capitalism and so it unsurprising, though certainly gratifying, that Los Angeles, home of Hollywood, and Las Vegas, home of all temptation, are the first places to suffer the apocalypse. It would be a bit much, and indeed a naiveté to say that 2012 offers a Marxist reading (not least because there is a sequence in which Yuri is allowed to ‘justify’ his standing as a member of the rich elite) and in the wake of District 9 (2009) it still by all accounts constitutes a conservative film, but at least it is able to make fun of its own conformity. Finally, the whole ‘arc’ thing is a bit much and as they appear there is indeed a moment of panic as one wonders if the film is entering Knowing (2009) territory. Thankfully, not quite. Ultimately, the family reunites as you always knew they would (unsurprisingly at the expense of the loveable step-father whose preservation was evidently intolerably inconvenient for the writers) and the human race live on in a new world, now bound for Africa. After an initial WTF moment it seems as though Hollywood have ultimately resolved nothing as a few arcs full of the essentially elite prepare to re-settle in Africa – an easy enough target, free from many of the old western world’s woes. So if what you want is a film with depth and integrity, then don’t bother with 2012. But if you like visual spectacle and an element of awe in your cinematic experience, then go ahead and indulge. But if you are going to see it, then I implore you, don’t wait for DVD, for this level of ostentation ought to be seen big and heard in surround.