2012 is a big film on a small peg. The Mayan calendar ends in 2012. It is interpreted by many as the end of the world. By this film too. The sun is overheating. So is the earth's crust. And the scene is set for the film's hyper-ventilating.
The little signs are there. The first scene in India, where a small boy's toy boat in a flooded street capsizes in the "tsunami" of a taxi's wake. The small cracks on the pavements in a town in California, over which children play hopscotch, in glee. A cruise ship which rolls ominously, as if by a beast from below.
The world leaders know about the impending end for years, and they make a diabolic plan to bring about survival. But only of a few.
Our hero, a failed author, has a family to save. And his breathless journey towards safety is the film, as everything around collapses, burns or sinks.
It is easy to discredit Hollywood by saying technology overpowers in a big film, and everything is made simplistic to amass the masses.
But the fact remains that no film will ever work without an emotional core. And 2012 also, in its broad strokes, addresses all the major concerns and drivers of a man's decisions of life.
There is selfishness of a Russian mogul. But also the incredible humanity of a Head of State, who refuses to seek safety as his countrymen die. The US President tellingly urges a scientist to leave for safety by saying that one scientist in a new world would be better than 20 politicians. And as everything seems to near anninhilation, there is someone who stands up to remind everyone that a new world could not be built on an act of cruelty, and the moment we stopped fighting for each other would be the moment of the true end.
There is nothing which is subtle, its all spelt out, by characters who are upfront there to say the lines or do the doing. But sometimes that is what is required - a sentence reminding us what defines us as humans and not animals, amidst times when each man is seemingly on his own.
Amidst all the havoc being wrought, there are great scenes of beauty. A flight of birds - almost like a flying of the spirits of all humanity - from the valleys of Yellowstone Park. A Buddhist hermit's mountaintop temple, slowly getting engulfed. The last sight from Mount Big Horn. Vatican City in prayer with the Pope. The ark-decks in deep yellow sunlight.
And then the contrasts. A lama boy's small truck in front of the ultra-modern arks. The generosity of a pilot and the venality of his Russian boss. The immensity of a President's decision and the self-centerdness of his Deputy.
What touches the core is, of course, when the floor beneath the home cracks, the mall in which one shops collapses, and gardens disappear. It is far more compelling than seeing the White House crumbling.
In the most dire of times, there are so many ordinary men who can and do become heroes.
It sometimes does take a Hollywood film, amidst its fireballs, earth-cracks, catacysms and tsunamis, to tell us that.
Nov 26th, 2009
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