Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pulling out all the stops

I suppose I shouldn't say that the best film I've seen in a while is Roland Emmerich's "2012" but it really was a blast. Too long by half, and repetitive (first a car races away from streets cracking and buckling from earthquake, then it's a trailer, then it's a small plane, then it's a really big plane...), and the hammiest of dialogue.

But who goes to a big-budget disaster film for the dialogue? You go for the special effects! 1000 people worked on the computer-generated cataclysms here, and it shows. Los Angeles has never been chopped, diced, vigorously shaken and then poured into the Pacific quite as vividly. (I first saw the poster above as a billboard-sized cardboard sign at a cinema in California, where you could see the individual cars and people...) And then onward, past toppling monuments from around the world (the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel cracks open in the space between Adam's and God's fingers) until cataclysmic tsunamis wash over the Himalayas. What breathtaking nerve! It's all a sight to behold (and to be seen on the biggest screen you can find). Emmerich's done several disaster movies before - I saw "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow" the days they opened (!) - but in this one Emmerich evokes not only those but a dozen other movies, too, from "Poseidon Adventure" through to "Battlestar Galactica."

So why does one - why do I - enjoy such spectacles? (I avoid films of violence on a smaller scale.) The near-profound rush of the sublime? The prophylactic sense that if we imagine worse things than could ever happen, we might be spared the worst than can?

No comments: