Anti-Science

2012: THE GREATEST REVIEW YOU’LL EVER READ

Bam! Boom! Explosion! Building falling down on your head!  VOLCANO!

Did you like that introduction to this blog entry? If so, then you’ll love 2012, starring John Cusack, Danny Glover, and your nutty aunt who sends you all those email forwards about how the cure for cancer was discovered by the Inuit in the 1800s but eaten by a whale that was brainwashed and programmed by the US government.

Here’s the thing: I went into this knowing what I was getting. I didn’t care about plot or dialogue, and in fact I hoped that it would be as insipid as possible to not distract from the billions of people being murdered in a spectacular fashion. 2012 is disaster porn, and I loved it. I got to see a bunch of buildings blow up, even more than past efforts like Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. Hell, they even destroy the Vatican. The Vatican!

So yeah, if you’re a twisted fuck with low expectations like me, you’ll like it.

Of course, some skeptics and scientists may scoff, so here’s a review for all of you rational folks who are wondering if this is for you. If you’ve never seen a movie like this before, then mild spoilers follow.

Mayan Bullshit

The 2012 “Mayan Prophesy” bullshit* is in there, but it’s pretty lost amidst the eruption of the super-volcano beneath Yellowstone National Park. So it’s mostly like this:

MAN 1: The Earth is freaking the eff out man! We’re all gonna die!

MAN 2: You know, the Mayans and the Inuit and the, I dunno, some other religions and cultures totally predicted this or something.

MAN 1: Uh-huh that’s interesting LOOK OUT A VOLCANO JUST HAPPENED

MAN 2: AAAAAAH

MAN 1: AAAAAAAAAAAH

MAN 2: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

Conspiracy Bullshit

Woody Harrelson plays a crazy Alex Jones/George Noory-type radio personality who lives in a camper in Yellowstone, where he does his show while eating pickles and probably jacking off to Bigfoot porn. Seriously, he’s crazy. He might be right, but he’s not the kind of person you (or conspiracy theorists) would possibly want to identify with.

Then there’s this whole subplot where OKAY KIND OF A BIG SPOILER ALERT SO SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH MAYBE the US government spends three years knocking off anybody who threatens to spill the beans about our incoming doom because they don’t want people freaking the eff out.

OKAY YOU CAN START READING AGAIN But come on, that is so completely ridiculous that if anyone tries using this movie to develop or support his boneheaded conspiracy theory beliefs, anyone who happened to see the movie would immediately laugh in his face and then call the cops to take him away to the funny factory.

Chauvinist Bullshit

Here is what men do in this movie:

  • rescue
  • comfort
  • make up for being shitty fathers
  • die heroically

Here is what women do in this movie:

  • get rescued
  • cry
  • birth babies
  • die tragically

Racist Bullshit

Okay actually it’s not racist but I noticed something and wanted to put it out there. In this movie, all black people are related, or will be eventually. That is all.

Pseudoscience Bullshit

So, yeah, basically there is nothing scientific about this movie and I’m sure Phil will break it down for you later, but basically everything is caused by MINOR SPOILER ALERT the sun? And solar flares? Sending neutrons through the Earth’s core, and this has totally never happened before but suddenly the neutrons are interacting with the matter? And making the Earth’s core heat up? Also at one point the entire crust of the Earth shifts by over 1,000 miles, which was SPOILER ALERT very handy because the characters were all like this:

MAN 1: Oh no we’ll never get there in time!

MAN 2: But that would be horrible because then we’ll all die in a truly terrib…

MAN 1: Never mind, we’re there.

MAN 2: But I thought

MAN 1: Crust moved.

MAN 2: Oh.

MAN 1: Yeah.

MAN 2: Cool.

Other Unbelievable Bullshit

SPOILER ALERT SO MAYBE SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH So the entire population of the Earth is about to die, and only the really rich people and world leaders get tickets to safety. The Italian Prime Minister decides not to be rescued and instead “rely upon prayer.” Cut to the Prime Minister at the Vatican with a big crowd of people getting blessed by the Pope. This is the single most unbelievable thing in the movie, because you god damn know that with billions of dollars and a major ego problem, the head of the Catholic Church is sure as fuck not going to stick around to see the end of the world. He’s going to be praising science and stepping on the heads of AIDS babies to get to safety. Don’t believe me? Prove me wrong, Pope. Prove me wrong.

Well, there you go. Weigh all of that against the prospect of seeing some pretty awesome special effects showing billions of people die. For me, it’s an easy decision. I LOVE seeing CGI people bite it, so I really enjoyed it. During the lulls between death sequences, I busied myself by predicting what city would be destroyed next, and how, so it didn’t even bother me during those boring bits where people call each other on the phone and sob about how much they love each other.

Did you see it? Are you going to see it? Give your thoughts in the comments!

*Note to new readers: the world will not end in 2012 and the Mayans didn’t think so, either. The “end” of the Mayan calendar is like the end of your calendar. Go buy a new one and you’re fine.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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47 Comments

  1. I tried to buy a new Mayan. She slapped me and threatened to call the police.

    On a related note, I saw Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day last night. Funny, violent, and filled with a large number of curse words. Plus the usual male nakedness you’d expect from the first movie, there’s at least one female with a penchant for wearing tight clothing, which was nice. Fun movie.

  2. I skipped the spoilers because I have every intention of going to see this movie with my mouth wide open, shovelling popcorn in the entire time.

    I love blockbuster effects-tacular crapola. AND…I am very proud to admit that I was arguing with a bunch of guys in the pub after TAM London because they disagreed that Armageddon is actually frigging brilliant because BRUCE WILLIS SAVES THE WORLD, when Brian Cox leaned in and said to me “actually, I’m inclined to agree”. TAKE THAT, NAYSAYERS!

  3. I really have no desire to see this movie, and when my friends went to see it I went to the computer cafe instead. But then they decided to go see Boondock Saints 2 instead.

    Last weekend we saw Men who Stare at Goats: I liked it, they didn’t. But then I went to Humboldt State U and have spent alot of time with people just like that.

  4. So you’re saying Internal Affairs knew the dirty cops were selling drugs?

    Wait . . . I think I’m in the wrong review thread.

    I think I’m going to see 2012, too. Sounds entertaining. I saw The Fourth Kind the other night. Wasn’t disappointed I paid, but I wasn’t as entertained as I suspect I will be with this one.

  5. hahaha Your title is correct. This is the greatest review I have ever read. The Pope! Maybe that was his newly appointed and promoted assistant.

    I saw the movie a few nights ago, I enjoyed it. Straight out fun, lite SF. Great use of cgi. Spectacular destruction, but I would have liked to see some Australian destruction. Looking back, the women did seem a little more stable than the men?

  6. Just saw the movie, and this review is pretty much right on. Suspension of disbelief is required for sure, they rewrite physics within the first 2 minuets. It’s not just the neutrinos though, tsunamis also apparently create water, that was the only part that really got to me. Before seeing it I was joking with friends that there would probably be a scene where some scientist would complain that all of science couldn’t predict this, but the Mayans did, blah, blah, blah. When the scene then later presented itself it was even worse than I’d imagined.
    But yes, shit blew up, people died horrible deaths, and I fully enjoyed it.

  7. I saw it tonight and it was rather enjoyable. Luckily everyone going into it knew what to expect so there weren’t many disappointments. Ever since we came across the term “disaster-porn” my girlfriend and I have laughed hysterically at any 2012 trailer so it was nice to finally let it all out for the movie. For some reason she keeps thinking the term is “apocalypse orgasm”…

  8. The review was too funny! It might be worth going to see just to watch the Vatican get wiped off the face of the earth. After all, a girl can dream, right?

    I laughed my ass off at The Day After Tomorrow and The Men Who Stare At Goats so this one ought to have me rolling on the floor.

    After all, I love it when there’s an earth shattering kaboom.

  9. Best Review Ever. ^_^
    You know, they could have just stayed with yellowstone excablooey! Because frankly, the sun causing the Earth’s core to heat up and cause, out of all volcanoes, yellowstone to explode is the worst fake cause of disasters I have ever heard.

    My 2012 sceneario goes like this: The peak of the sun’s 11 years cycle is approaching, but activity of the sun seems to be above average. At one point, a coronal mass ejection happens, colliding with Earth’s magnetosphere, causing world wide blackout. All techonologies fry, millions die without heat in winter, another millions die in vehicular crashes, the whole of civilization is brought to a standstill. Welcome back to stone age.

    But of course, this scenario is not loud or explodey enough for hollywood.

  10. Correction from my post above:
    I don’t know where that bit of yellowstone came from, oops. Anyways, my point is that the whole causing the Earth’s crust to break thing is silly. ^_^

  11. I’ve gone on record as saying this multiple times, but it bears repeating. Until they release THIS version of 2012, there’s not a chance in fucking Hell that I will see it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZW2qxFkcLM0

    CGI stunts in live action films just leave me cold. I’ve seen them all hundreds of times. Oh, they just barely squeak between two falling things? Bruce Willis ducks under a car? Yeah. Seen that shit, and it made me yawn the first time.

  12. I’m jealous that Mark Hall got to see Saints 2, it’s not playing anywhere near Milwaukee yet.

    And yes I’ll probably see 2012, I do enjoy a big stupid flashy CG movie from time to time, not all (hated transformers). I also like the Rebecca managed to plug her calander at the end of the post.

    If anyone is acually interested in seeing a decent movie about about the end of the world, go rent “Last Night”, it never gets into how or why the world is ending, it just is. The movie is about people and how they plan and spending their last moments.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0156729/

  13. Wait, what about pyramids? Isn’t this a film by Roland Emmerich the guy what’s obsessed with pyramids? Surely pyramids must play a role in the destruction of the Earth?
    (Okay, maybe if it’s indirect… 2012… Mayans… Mayans built pyramids after having been taught how by ancient astronauts)

    Anyway, I’m not going to see it. Instead, I’ll make up my own 2012 movie and claim to have seen it. Mine involves ancient astronauts arriving in pyramids from space. Then, like Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon, they start pushing buttons labelled “Earthquakes”, “Volcanoes” and “Hot hail” because they like to play with things a while… before annihilation…
    Hilarity ensues.
    In classic Hollywood style, nothing bad befalls adorable children or dogs, yet no one notices this and protects themselves by strapping small children and doggies to themselves.

  14. Rebecca.. Spot on review. I saw the movie last night. Awesome disaster flick! The best! Loved the carnage of billions getting crushed, burned, drowning and smashed in all its CGI glory.

    Forget that the science and mythology was totally wrong!.. If I wanted reality I would have stayed home!

  15. @QuestionAuthority: I want to see that movie QuestionAuthority! LOL

    I still love how my students think we should go watch the movie as a science class fieldtrip (becuase the end of the world has to be true and science-y, right?). I think I might rent it just to see the distruction… which is always fun.

  16. I’ll probably see it when it’s on Netflix, but I won’t pay $18 a ticket to see it with a bunch of gullible shills and their screaming children in a sticky obscenely loud theatre. No, saw Zombieland with my husband (and we were the ONLY people in the theatre!) instead.

    Also instead, we went to the local planetarium yesterday and saw “Cosmic Disasters,” which called bullshit on all the 2012 nonsense. Plus stars. Plus, there was a “you’re stupid of you fall for the 2012 conspiracy” handout in the lobby which references the Bad Astronomy blog. Yay!

    Yay, science! Boo, stupid disaster nonsense.

  17. @Frisby: That sounds like a title for a movie from Idiocracy, actually.
    I predict that, in the future, all movies will be directed by Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich, and will feature long city destruction scenes interspersed with Megan Fox wearing very little clothing and leaning over things.

  18. Berlusconi is definitely not just going to pray. Major Fail in the script, made the entire story unrealistic. :(
    That guy would SO buy a ticket to safety and bring some blond (18years old) girls with him.

    I’m not going to see this film, if I wanna see disasters I’ll just look in my mirror (ha-ha), but I am definitely going to see new moon. Hello! Sparkly vampires! Even Oprah talked about it.
    I mean, guys, OPRAH.
    Talking about quality.

  19. What I always love about these disaster movies is how Canada always seems to be sittin’ pretty.

    When the aliens attacked in Independence Day, they attacked nearly every country in the world. But not Canada.

    And in Day After Tomorrow, when half of the United States froze to death, and the other half fled to Mexico, Canada just… put on an extra sweater and a toque.

    But this time, we actually featured fairly prominently in the movie. In about 3 years, our Prime Minster will apparently be Grand Moff Tarkin. A step up, in my opinion. And this time we’ll contribute to the great survival of the species plan, and even be along for the ride. And when the crust shifts, we’ll apparently trade places with Australia, but that’s about it.

    We’re in the target demographic. We typically contribute about 15% of domestic ticket sales.

    I don’t mean to sound like I’m feeling left out or anything, but I live on the Eastern seaboard. With the polar ice caps melting, and the oceans rising, I fully expect to own beachfront property before my kids are out of college, and not even have to move for the privilege. We’re staring down the barrel along with everyone else. Would a little CGI destruction and mayhem in my own back yard too much to ask? See the CN Tower topple over onto the Skydome? See the Tarsands go up in a fireball that reaches low earth orbit?

    Wait a minute. What’s that noise outside? Ahhh! VOLCA…….

    …….

  20. I definitely am a fan of disaster porn. I enjoyed 2012. It was a long movie, but I wasn’t waiting for it to be over. Yet, by the end, I wasn’t yearning for more. It was just enough disaster to satisfy me. My concern is that we may have reached the pinnacle. I mean, really, how much more “disaster” can any movie really get? Is this the end of disaster porn as we know it?

    On a side note, you complained about “neutrons” coming from the sun… but what was really discussed is “neutrinos”. Those are real… and already bombard our planet every day. They pass through just about every bit of matter (because they’re so small). In fact, that crazy underground lab they had was pretty close to reality. Scientists have to create huge chambers with tons of sensors. Only a tiny percentage of neutrinos can ultimately be detected, then we do some math to estimate the real numbers.

    But, yeah, arbitrarily deciding that an increase in neutrinos will suddenly start micro-waving the planet is a huge stretch. Nonetheless, keep in mind that the general message was this… we know a lot of science… but there are still a lot of unknowns. There is still a vast amount of “science” that we will understand years from now that, if presented today, would seem like foreign concepts… likely, to be completely mocked.

    One thing I thought was funny is the timing of the release of the movie. It seems like those behind making the movie really do believe the world will end in 2012. By releasing this year… they can reap the money from ticket sales… then reap the money from DVD sales next year… then have a whole year to spend their riches before it’s time to kick the bucket.

    One final note… I notice you mention the chauvinistic aspect of things. However, I often see this one theme of male-bashing that goes into many movies, which I think is rather unfair. What’s up with this stereotype that when two people are divorced, the dad is automatically the bad father? When are movies going to balance the scales and show “the other side” for once?

  21. My wife wanted to see this movie. So, this movie as so many scientific falacies it is almost impossible to list them all.

    It was a good laugth at so many aspect of this movie :

    [SPOILER ALERT]
    – The neutrino changing their nature is the winner
    – A plane flying some seconds inside a pyroclastic and not being totally destroyed
    – Archs of 100 000 people which was the best key to save humanity. One billion dollar the ticket. And someone decided to save some giraffe instead of some human. [this one contain many different bullshits]
    – President of USA prefer to die.
    – A secret concern 300 000 people and nobody had tell a thing.
    [/SPOILER ALERT]

    If you remove all the “patriotic”, “emotionnal” stuff. In fact, if you remove all scenario, the movie is a really nice special effect movie during 20 minutes.

  22. I don’t plan to waste any real money on this one, although I expect I’ll get it through my Netflix subscription some day just out of curiosity. The non-science nonsense and greedy manipulation of the public’s irrational fears aside, the thing that most turned me against this flick was the admission by the director that he consciously avoided showing the global disaster affecting the Kaaba because he was afraid of Muslim extremist retribution (http://movies.yahoo.com/feature/movie-talk-roland-emmerich-fatwa.html). This sort of all-too-common capitulation to dogmatic crazies disgusts me.

  23. Saw the movie last night. Great fun!

    SPOILERS: The prez gets squashed by a friggin aircraft carrier. Cell phones work perfectly fine despite the fact that the whole world has been disastered. And there’s one character near the end that has the best freak out/relieved scream in the history of movies.

    You don’t just have to suspend your disbelief for this movie. You have to leave it at home with a sitter, or send it to summer camp or something, cause this mofo is crazy.

  24. I feel like a grumpy old man, but I don’t quite get whatever Rebecca got from this movie.

    I enjoyed myself during the film, quietly ripping it. And there were some genuine laughs. But overall I found it sad, cynical, contemptuous of it’s audience*, and about an hour too long.

    * Although not without reason. We had people applauding at some points.

  25. I cannot wait to see this. It might be as good as this.

    A conversation I once had with a Person concerning the 2012 nonsense.

    “Don’t you think it’s spooky that their calendar just ends in 2012? Like there’s nothing worth keeping a calendar for after that date…”

    “Our calendar ends every year. If you got yourself a 10 year calendar, it would end every ten years.”

    “No, no, you don’t get it, it ends exactly on the 12th of December 2012! 12/12/12, see? That can’t be a coincidence!”

    “What? No! I’m sure it doesn’t, and if it did, it couldn’t possibly be anything BUT a coincidence! How would they even know about our calendar and…”

    “You just don’t want to admit that there’s more than one truth.”

    “You’re right. I really don’t.”

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