Friday, October 02, 2009

The end of the world done wrong and done right.

Ever since I found out about the movie 2012, I've had conflicting feelings about it. Witness this movie clip from 2012 that was just released on YouTube:

This clip manages to upset me more than the trailer. The trailer showed this destruction and more, but in viewing it I was more just absorbing the violent and horrible end of all that we know. This clip isolates us into one city with the main characters as thousands upon thousands die around them and we are supposed to be having... fun?

Roland Emmerich's biggest hit, Independence Day, handled the destruction differently. CGI wasn't nearly as advanced, so most of the more notable destruction (such as the White House) was model work. The new technologies allow not only multiple skyscrapers falling over but also the level of detail that shows individual bodies and cars being tossed around. Also, the method of destruction in ID4 was by alien weaponry, which was pretty much instantaneous death. Cities get wiped from the map pretty quickly. Here, it is a loooonnnnnggg drawn out death that is rendered so vividly that you want to look away (or at least I did).

Then there is the manner of escape. To be sure, ID4 had escapes both plausible (the White House staff on the helicopter) and ridiculous (Vivica A. Fox and her immortal dog). Yet having Cusack and family perpetually inches away from collapsing earth seems too much. They also try to get too cutesy with the driving through a glass building and (heaven help me) that damn rolling doughnut. Add to all this their choice of a limo to escape in. A limo?!?! Not exactly the most spry of vehicles. I suppose that's part of where my anger comes from: It's OK for a movie to say that these specific people will survive out of millions because they are the main characters, but at least give them an escape that doesn't insult those poor schmucks in faster and more agile cars.

So what do you get when you have this level of technology but a far more somber treatment of the subject? You get Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds. I've already gushed at how incredible I thought that film was when I saw it in the theater. In a way, the beginning of that film very much mirrors this scene: The main character runs home after witnessing the beginning of the destruction, rounds up the family quickly and gets them all into a vehicle to get out of the city. Yet, Spielberg handled it with so much more depth and sensitivity that it's almost an insult to compare the two.

In the end, the escape from New Jersey in War of the Worlds was an exercise in terror and suspense. The scene in 2012 is a theme park ride with people being killed by the thousands all around you.

Steven, I find that I appreciate you more and more with each passing year.

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