Geologist Dr. Adrian Helmsley and his team discover that the core of earth is heating due to solar radiation. The government responds by collecting money from worldwide leaders to build arks for saving a sampling of humanity to rebuild civilization. Meanwhile, an unsuccessful writer, Jackson Curtis, discloses that the end of the world is near as he tries to save his son and his daughter from the tragic end.
Rated PG-13 for intense disaster sequences and some language.
Runtime: 158 min
Country: USA | Canada
Language: English | Russian
Company: Columbia Pictures
UNION PRESBYTERIAN SEMINARY AT CHARLOTTE
FAITH REVIEW #4 (revised) INT 110
By Tom LaBonte
March 30, 2010
FILM TITLE: 2012.
DIRECTOR: Roland Emmerich.
Roland Emmerich is known for directing films that are epic disasters where humanity is faced by forces seemingly beyond human control. Through courage and persistence humanity rises above overwhelming odds and overcomes them to triumph even when it is humanity that caused the problem. In his films Emmerich does not usually depict an “outsider” Christ figure but individuals who rise to acts of heroic greatness. In Independence Day (1996) the world is attacked by alien forces that bring humanity to the brink of extinction until through the self-sacrifice of a few, the world is saved. In The Day After Tomorrow (2004) the world is faced with disaster from a new Ice Age which requires a new level of cooperation among the governments and the peoples of the world for America’s survival. Emmerich continues these themes in 2012 and uses special effects technology very effectively to portray earth’s massive destruction, human suffering and fight for survival.
ORIGINAL RELEASE FORM/VENUE: This film was originally released in theaters.
CURRENT AVAILABILITY AND FORMATS: 2012 is available for rental and purchase as a DVD at retail video outlets and available on Blu-Ray.
GENRE: This film is a science fiction disaster epic on the apocalyptic destruction of the world.
STORY ELEMENTS: In 2012, Dr. Adrian Helmsley and other scientists discover that as result of extreme solar activity the earth’s core is heating up and the earth’s crust will be displaced, destroying the world. Leaders of nine nations agree to a program of building nine arks at the highest elevations in Tibet to save humanity. By 2012 the arks are complete and these nations select people, works of art and other cultural treasures for preservation. Some individuals are selected based on their genetics, intellect and accomplishments. Others are wealthy and get a seat by purchasing one. Those not in the power elite and the poor get no consideration and are left in the dark. The chosen await the signal to travel to Tibet and board their assigned Ark. A divorced Father, Jackson Curtis takes his two children on a trip to Yellowstone. They disregard no trespassing signs, stumble upon a secret government research station, and are arrested by the military and taken to a temporary base. Curtis learns of the pending disaster and begins a journey to save his family from destruction. The signal is issued by the nine governments for the select few to be saved to report to their assigned Ark. Within a few hours of the disaster the public is still unaware of the magnitude of the problem. Of the nine national leaders, only the American and Italian Presidents stay behind with their people. The American President makes a public announcement explaining the disaster. Air Force One leaves for Tibet with Mr. Anheuser, the President’s Chief of Staff, in charge. Curtis resumes his chauffer duties, picks up the two sons of his wealthy employer, and takes them to the airport. He discovers they will be saved while he and many others will not and gathers his family. Curtis learns the Ark’s location and after many harrowing near death experiences, they make it to the site and stow away on the American ark. Adrian makes the case to the nations that they have an obligation to open the ramps and save as many of the thousands of people standing by as possible. With four minutes to spare in the path of the Tsunami, they let the people on-board. The ramp is stuck open in the American Ark which Curtis, his son and ex-wife free. The Ark barely escapes destruction. The Arks drift and by the Year 0001 three of the Arks, symbolic of Columbus’ three ships, approach the Cape of Good Hope in Africa to begin settling a New World.
FILM LANGUAGE ELEMENTS:
Special effects are the language of this film. The vibrant colors and blinding light of massive nuclear-type explosions in Yellowstone Park, the destruction of California with the earth swallowing whole cities, the wall of water from Tsunami’s overturning ships, flooding cities, and devouring nations, present unimaginable imagery of the end of the world. Subdued colors in grays and black are used in many of the scenes of death and destruction in the cities and in the tidal waves that engulf ships and devastate most of the earth. The special effects of the airplane flights of Curtis and his family flying through crumbling cities, airports disintegrating as the earth’s crust crumbles, and traversing over vast oceans to the Arks, emphasize the perilous journey to freedom and survival.
AUDIENCE/CULTURAL CONTEXT ELEMENTS:
This film is weak on character depth and development. The plot is one common to any number of disaster films where “everyday” folk triumph over the apocalypse. The film’s content and spectacular special effects are such that this film and its message will appeal primarily to middle school and high school age teens and young adults.
THEOLOGY IS FOUND:
There are religious images and parallels throughout the film. A ship is named Genesis. A man in Yellowstone speaks as a prophet over the radio and proclaims from a mountaintop the destruction of the world. People gather all over the world in prayer. The flooding of the earth, the gathering of people and animals in the arks, reflect the story of Noah. The scenes with the President praying in the Chapel at the White House and deciding to stay at the White House rather than proceed to the Ark are compelling. The President tells the truth to the people as he announces the destruction of the world. He begins reciting the Twenty-third Psalm as the transmission is abruptly ended. There are scenes of depravity, greed and selfishness throughout the film. Government officials select the few who will be saved without regard to the billions who will die. Scenes depict the wealthy and privileged with the money to buy a ticket taking care only of themselves and their families. These scenes are balanced by others willingly sacrificing their self-interest by serving others. The pilot stays at the plane’s controls so Curtis and his family can escape before the plane crashes. Curtis and his family are on foot and desperately need help to get to the Arks. They approach a man and his grandmother in a truck and plead for a ride. The young man initially refuses but his grandmother tells him, “we are all children of the earth.” They give Curtis and his family a ride and they get to the Arks in time thereby saving their lives. The arks are loaded and there is a sobering, painful overhead camera shot of thousands of workers and others standing by the loading ramps looking up at the arks in the stark realization that they are expendable, their lives are forfeit. Some redemption is achieved by government leaders when Adrian reminds them that to be human is to care for one another. He asks the nine leaders, “can we stand by and watch these people die? When we stop fighting for one another, we die.” “Everyone will have died in vain if we leave them behind.” The nations agree and with just four minutes before the flood is to engulf them, they allow thousands of the “lowly” to come aboard and be saved.
THEOLOGICAL THEMES FOR CONVERSATION:
2012 engages the audience on what they would do to save themselves or sacrifice for others if they knew the world was about to end. Some of the questions for theological conversation involve not only our relationship to other people but our understanding of the nature of and our relationship with God. What does it mean to love and care for one another? This may be easier to do during normal times but what the implications when life and death are involved? Are my needs, my interests, and my life more important or valuable than another? Are disasters that cause destruction, pain, misery and loss of life God’s will? If God is sovereign, why does he allow bad things to happen to good?