Father, Forgive Me: I Enjoyed 2012

Let's just stipulate that it is plotless, preposterous, perpetually breaks the tension inappropriately with wildly improbable jokes and is the apotheosis of what Mr. W. calls "one damn thing after another."

It has, however, the single thing I require of a disaster movie: big honkin' waves.

Moreover, based on chatter around the Catholic blogosphere, the seeming loving destruction of the Vatican in the trailer, and the whole premise (apocalypse predicted by Mayan calendar), I was fearful the flick might be a big cheap anti-Catholic diatribe, or possibly the somewhat sick product of a decadent mind.

It's none of those things; it's just plain, stupid fun. An Independence Day redux, only now the danger is coming from the earth's core and not giant alien intelligent insects, and now Woody Harrelson has the Randy Quaid role.

In fact, to the extent there is any story line at all, it's fairly wholesome, as I shall now explain.


The premise is that the earth's core is going to superheat, causing its crust to become unstable, after which time there will be massive earthquakes, followed by tsunamis, followed by the shifting of all tectonic plates before re-stabilization.

The world governments know this and prepare to save Earth's culture and most prominent citizens: which process we find them in the middle of when they find out their calculations have been wrong and instead of years they have hours to evacuate.

Things to like:
  • It's not "new agey." The Mayan calendar thing just barely figures, and we find out right away that every religious text --including the Bible-- has predicted this.
  • Religion --and specifically Christianity-- is treated respectfully. The bad guy is deeply cynical about the value of prayer, but all the decent people either pray themselves or are respectful of prayer. Two men who give their lives to save others are explicitly Christian. The President of the United States elects to stay with his people rather than escape to the waiting arks --and we see him at prayer in his private chapel, and he leads his nation and the world in prayer as they prepare for the end. A pilot who saves our heroes has a Russian icon on the dashboard of his plane.
  • It's not "green." The environmental apocalypse is caused by the sun, not human beings.
  • The American President is an entirely admirable figure.
  • It's anti-eugenics. The idea that only "the best" people are saved --qualified by genetics-- is repudiated.
  • It is anti-divorce. In a certain sense the entire destruction of the world seems to be for the purpose of bumping off the second husband (who dies nobly) and bringing the true father back to his wife and children. Fathers in general fare very well in this flick.
  • It is pro- dying well. Not only in the sense of heroically, if necessary, but in the sense of getting right with God and with estranged family members.
  • There's a Russian bad guy. Treachery is always better with a Russian accent.
  • Individuals of good character triumph over both hardship and bureaucracy.
  • It's a celebration of the basic decency of people.
  • It's a wholesome meditation on the transience of all things.
There's some "liberal" stuff if you want to see it.
  • Someone says "I was wrong" in the Oval Office and the President says no one has ever said that in that room before. Could be a Bush dig (or one of those inappropriate jokes I mentioned) if you care to see it that way, but you don't have to.
  • People have to buy their tickets onto the arks, so if you aren't part of the essential government, you have to be filthy rich: the unfairness of which system is a plot point. The villain is kind of a Wicked White Capitalist Dude, who alone among the surviving heads of state doesn't want to let the riff-raff on the arks. But the point is made that free enterprise built the arks and without it no one at all would be saved, so.... whatever. It's kind of a wash.
  • James Watt could tell you who saves the world.
  • There's a fair amount of taking the Lord's name in vain.
  • The entire world drowns except Africa, and the arks land at Cape Hope and an aerial shot reveals that the world has literally come together --into one continent. Is that a prescription for "One World" government? Or is it just a "back to the beginning," Pandeia all over again sort of moment? Let's not overthink it.
The boys thought it was "awesome!" Girl Weed was not impressed, and pronounced herself more frightened by how loud the soundtrack was than anything she saw on the screen.

Interestingly, the most memorable moments for the boys did not come from any of the special effects, but from humorous remarks made by the Russian villain. Middle Weed, in particular, is still giggling now about some of his lines an hour later.

In sum: not a good movie (but you already knew that), but neither a blasphemous, evil movie. And big honkin' waves!

Update: I thought of something else I like, which I will proffer even though I have already WAY overthought a mindless movie. I've written before how offensive I always found the old "values clarification" exercise in which pre-teens are told that a mother, a priest, a teacher and a few others are on a lifeboat after their ship sinks. There is only enough food and water for 6 people, but there are 7 aboard. Who should be thrown overboard? The correct answer is, obviously, nobody --just pray for rain or rescue, but those answers are never allowed. You're supposed to figure out who you value more.

This flick utterly repudiates that stupid exercise. The world governments have chosen who will be thrown overboard because they can't feed everyone. The good guys let everyone on. And it all works out because the flood waters recede faster than anyone anticipated.