Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Two

Thirty Day Film Challenge:

Day Two: Your Least Favorite Film of All Time

2012 (2009)
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Starring: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor
By Gabriel Ricard

I had to think about this one, too, and once again I went with the first movie to pop into my head. There’s a good cast in this movie, too. You could say that’s how they get me every single time. I’m pretty good about not being suckered in by a cast full of people I claim can make even the lowest form of film entertaining (Roger Ebert had a rule like that for Harry Dean Stanton and M. Emmett Walsh), but sometimes I still give something that looks inhumanly awful a chance in spite of certainly knowing better than to think it’s going to be anything but inhumanly awful.  I suppose that makes how sadistically wretched it is all the more unforgivable.

Part of my problem is that I have a great affection for bad movies. I guess it’s that MST3K upbringing. I’m completely willing to watch a horrible movie if I think I can at least be entertained by it. The cast can help with that a lot, but just anything that leaves a lot of room open to smartass observations and dumb jokes (I even do this when alone, and that’s always struck me as kind of pathetic and depressing) can work. There are too many movies in the world that I haven’t seen but want to. A lot of them are supposedly classics, so I prefer to focus on the films I actually want to see. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for the movies that tell me I’m in for a hellish experience right from the opening credits, but I still like to tune out and give in to something that can make me laugh by getting so much wrong that it’s a bit awe-inspiring to watch it unfold.

I want to say that’s how I saw 2012 on a stack of DVDs in the living room downstairs and decided that it could be a pretty harmless way to kill a couple of hours (it wound up feeling like four or five hours that did a much, much better job of killing me instead—And by “kill” I mean “Beat, rape, murder, post the video of said rape/murder on YouTube and create from the ashes of my ruin a brand-new meme”). I wanted to watch a movie, and I didn’t have anything else to consider. I should have been smart. What’s wrong with watching The Godfather or Nightmare on Elm St. Part 3 for the seven thousandth time? I could have enjoyed Dog Day Afternoon again, or I could have even run a marathon of Frasier or MillenniuM episodes.

I probably should have just spent the time reading, but I was fixated on watching something, and I was even more stupidly fixated on watching something I had never seen before. That’s how I came to 2012, and like an alcoholic who has six drinks when they know they can only handle four, I hung in there with that bastard film to the bitter end.

There’s a plot. I think there’s a plot. I can’t remember now. There were no drugs or alcohol ingested with the viewing of this movie. I smoked roughly seventeen packs of cigarettes, hated my obsessive trait of finishing any movie I start and hoped the whole time that some form of smoking-related cancer would finish me off before the end. There was certainly enough time for that to happen. It turns out the Mayans were right about 2012 all along. The world as we know comes to a spectacular finish through a series of natural disasters (I think Woody Harrelson had something to do with it—That damn hippie is always up to no good, it would seem) that are brought to us with some of the most uninspired action sequences and worst special effects I’ve ever seen in my life. This movie cost 200 million dollars? Are you fucking kidding me? I want to believe a lot of that went into the marketing (which was quite elaborate) and salaries. Movie budgets are honestly one of the aspects of the business that I’m not extremely knowledgeable about, so I have no idea where that 200 million went. It sure as hell didn’t go into the FX.

Because it’s Roland Emmerich it’s not enough to blow the planet up yet again. We also get a whole bunch of absolutely delightful, engaging and relentlessly endearing subplots and character motivations. We see that John Cusack wants to be a better father. We understand that Oliver Platt is a giant tool (although I found myself rooting for him more than anyone else) and that Danny Glover is certainly too old for this shit (I had to say it). Amanda Peet still loves her estranged husband (Cusack). George Segal has no idea what’s going on. Chiwetel Ejiofor is the only one who understands what’s going on and is really keen to do what he can to salvage the world. It goes on. There are other characters, other subplots and other human interest details that act as bridges between each disaster sequence. I remember these things only vaguely. The whole thing has blurred in my memory. All I can really remember is a cruise liner getting knocked over, Woody Harrelson playing a version of what I imagine he’s like in real life and an incredibly irritating morality argument between Ejiofor and Platt near the end of the film. Everything else is just disbelief that my life is such that I actually sat through the entire thing and could barely think of anything funny to say about it. Some movies are awful but have that great capacity for unintentional comedy. Other films are so viciously humorless that I can do nothing but sit there in mute horror and wait for it to be over. That’s what happened with 2012.

What floors me is that this movie grossed over 700 million dollars. That has to mean that at least one person on this planet saw that movie more than once. I’d be at a loss to comprehend that, and then I remember that most of that total comes from foreign markets. It begins to make sense after that. Cracked.com published an article on referencing the nature  of films like 2012 in the foreign markets. I don’t think Cracked needs the publicity, but hunt down and check out the piece at your leisure. It’s fascinating, endlessly depressing stuff.

Did I expect too much from 2012? I don’t think so. There are a lot of big, noisy, ridiculously stupid movies out there that did a great job of entertaining me. I won’t go into that list right now, but I hope you’ll believe me when I say I went into 2012 with the absolute minimum of expectations. I wanted a decent roller-coaster ride, and I wanted to laugh at terrible dialog and over-the-top acting. I didn’t get any of that. It doesn’t matter to me that I didn’t pay to see the movie. Roland Emmerich still owes me a handjob, a verbal apology, a video apology and a hand-written apology. I won’t enjoy any of those things, but at least I’ll feel like I got something for my time.

I can probably think of worse movies I’ve seen than this one, but dear Lord I don’t think my heart can take that kind of introspection. I’m bitter enough as it is without remembering movies like this that gave nothing and took time away from that could have been better spent improving myself somehow. This will do just fine in terms of a movie that is literally without a single decent quality from start to finish.

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