In blockbuster terms, 2012 is a total smash and the box office killing last weekend proves it. German director Roland Emmerich's apocalyptic film got back the $200 million (1.37 billion yuan) that it cost to make–on opening weekend alone. It was the biggest international opening of all time for a non-sequel. In China, it made $12.3 million (84 million yuan), the fourth biggest opening ever.
A film of this magnitude needs content of seismic [earthquake] proportions, and 2012 doesn't disappoint. Viewers watch struggling father Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) and family attempt to save themselves as the world crumbles. A tsunami destroys the White House, an earthquake topples the Vatican, and a mega-volcano leaves Yellowstone National Park in flames. Human beings are tossed about like flakes of snow.
This is familiar territory for Emmerich. Two of his previous films–Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow–also feature the extinction of the human race. 2012 is so action-packed that it's exhausting: the film barely gets moving and California is already sliding into the sea.
But what it lacks in legitimate dialogue and questionable science, it makes up for in special effects. At 158 minutes, the film should drag, but it doesn't –though you may not have time to eat your popcorn.
Emmerich loosely bases his story on an old Mayan legend that the world will end in 2012. The 5,125-year Mayan calendar is supposed to end on December 21 or 23, 2012.
With the release of another apocalypse-based film, The Road, this month, it seems this theme is having its moment. "Destruction of the world is universally fascinating for many people," says Michael A. Ryan, an assistant professor of history at Purdue University, Indiana, US. "Every culture has a myth of destruction. These myths tend to surface during times of crisis.”
"Today's economic climate is a state of crisis for many people who are worried about retirement or whether they can afford to feed themselves."
Notably, it is not aliens or a killer virus that threaten the human race in 2012, but a heating up of Earth's core leading to a shifting of its crust. In other words, climate change. And, as we watch the world fall apart around us, Emmerich says not even God can save us. Parallels to the Christian story of Noah's Arc are drawn throughout (Cusack's son is called Noah), but Emmerich is pessimistic.
"Yes, it's good to be spiritual, but praying in the face of disaster will not stop the disaster," says Emmerich in an interview with Time Out magazine. "Fate, luck and coincidence might help you survive, but not prayer. We show this in a scene in the Sistine Chapel [in Rome] where we create a big crack in the fresco of God and Adam. And then the whole church falls on a big crowd."
(Translator & Editor: Aaron & Grace)