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Friday, Nov. 20, 2009
Back to sleep folks — it's only the end of the world, yet again
The new-agers have been talking for ages about the magic year 2012, which is both the end of the Mayan calendar (ooooh!) and the end of psychedelic guru Terence McKenna's "timewave zero" (aaaah!). The idea is that humanity will shift to some vague higher consciousness, though whether Wall Street is considered part of "humanity" is anyone's guess.
Given the new agers' track record — anyone remember the "harmonic convergence" of 1987? Supposedly, we are now in a New Age of Peace — I wouldn't count on waking up as a loving, caring, energy being existing in the fourth dimension on Dec. 21, 2012. These theories are, after all, based on the Mayan cosmology (and they thought ripping the beating hearts out of human sacrifices was good science), and the research of McKenna, largely inspired by DMT visions, which makes far less sense when you're not off your face.
The Mayan-calendar story has been repeated oft enough, however, that it has entered the mainstream, and — predictably — taken on apocalyptic proportions, with predictions ranging from a massive solar flare causing a polar shift, to havoc caused by a humongous black hole at the center of our galaxy.
Director Roland Emmerich is always looking for a good reason to destroy the world, whether it's space aliens ("Independence Day"), giant lizards ("Godzilla"), global warming ("The Day After Tomorrow") or the British ("The Patriot"). His "2012" is more of the best CGI destruction that money can buy; this time, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Rio de Janeiro, the Vatican, and Washington, D.C., are all flattened in loving detail, in what seems at times like an al-Qaida wet dream.
The story involves a scientist (Chiwetel Ejiofor) warning the U.S. president (Danny Glover) that the world is about to end due to a massive and sudden increase in its core temperature; and a down-on-his-luck divorced dad (John Cusack) trying to save his family when California starts to sink into the Pacific. It's your typical post-Spielbergian save-the-world and reunite the nuclear-family drivel, and clearly resembles Emmerich's own film, "The Day After Tomorrow."
Only an American movie would suggest that you can jump in your car and drive faster than the end of the world, but that's exactly what Cusack does here, outrunning the Big One when it hits L.A.
He learns from a crackpot conspiracy theorist (Woody Harrelson) that the government is building some giant arks to save the world's richest and most politically connected from the forthcoming disaster, and decides to get his family on board somehow. The film's darkest laugh comes when we learn that the arks are being built in China; humanity's last chance placed in the hands of the lowest-bidding corner-cutting subcontractor.
Emmerich will surely enter cinematic history as the only man to obliterate the White House not once but twice in his career (and he's still got time to score a hat trick). In "2012," it's wiped out by a tidal wave that drops an aircraft carrier onto it, which leads the president to look up at his impending doom and remark, "I'm coming home, Dorothy." Yes, it's that kind of film.
Much more fun is the hopelessly naff "Infestation," opening locally under the much more to-the-point title "Big Bugs Panic." This is a "B" movie that — unlike chez Emmerich — has no pretensions to seriousness whatsoever; it's just about cardboard-thin characters trying not to get munched by giant bugs.
The film doesn't even bother with a reason why: One day there's a big screeching sound, and when our dweebish hero (Chris Marquette) comes to, he breaks out of a cocoon and finds the entire city taken over by giant refrigerator-size bugs.
If you imagined Hitchcock's "The Birds" as an Adam Sandler movie, you'd be getting close.
"Infestation" borrows from "Alien," every other zombie movie, and of course the great scuttling bug-monster stop-motion animation of the "Starship Troopers" series. And if you've ever squashed a roach, you can imagine what it looks like when they run a truck over one of these 2-meter-size nasties. Best viewed with large quantities of beer.