Nothing like watching the end of the world on a Saturday night...
Nothing like watching the end of the world on a Saturday night...

Last night, after too much talking at the Royal Geographical Society, I decided to give my vocal chords a rest and go see a movie. I was intrigued by 2012, and decided that there would be nothing I would rather do on a Saturday night than treat myself to a Premier seat at the Odeon Tottenham Court Road and watch the end of the world as we know it.

I’d read a couple of reviews that said the special effects in the movie 2012 were amazing – and they were absolutely right. I am not easily impressed by special effects. Too often they overwhelm the story, or are just plain silly – or plain dreadful. But these were seriously impressive. Unavoidably emotional seeing America crumble before your very eyes, so very realistically.

And the human side of the story was good – the characters were engaging and sympathetic, and not overwhelmed by the special effects as so often happens.

But my acid test for a film is: Was this a good use of 3 hours of my life? Did I come out feeling inspired (Schindler’s List) or enlightened (Slumdog Millionaire) or exceptionally well entertained (Pirates of the Caribbean)?

And in this case I’m not convinced.

Back in 2004, just before I decided to row the Atlantic, I had gone to a cottage in Sligo to read all kinds of books – several of which were about indigenous prophecies about an end of an era in 2012, or pole shifts, or other such doomsday scenarios. Some of them suggested that such a disaster could be averted by a raising of collective human consciousness.

So I suppose I had hoped that there might be some semi-serious take-home message about this – or at the very least that the humans in the film might show some kind of awareness of the need for a better way of doing things in the future.– but I didn’t see any hint of self-reproach about the mess we’d made of things in our last incarnation, or resolution to do things differently the next time around. I got the feeling that, give or take a couple of romances either new or rekindled, life in the new world would go on pretty much the same way as in the old.

The disaster in the film is not of man’s making – it is due to solar flares leading to increased movement of the earth’s continental plates leading to earthquakes, tsunamis and a pole shift – so maybe the makers felt that any self-reflection on the part of the humans was unnecessary.

I’m not into hellfire and brimstone, or repent for the end of the world is nigh. But maybe I do at heart like a bit of a morality tale, and would quite have appreciated just a teensy weensy bit of food for thought about how we might resolve to do a better job the next time we establish a civilization.

For myself back in 2004, I decided that the end of the world may not be nigh, but for sure one of these days my own personal world would be. I realized I didn’t have forever to make my dreams come true, and I wasn’t getting any younger, so if I was ever going to have a big adventure it was about time I got on and did it.

Within 6 months I had decided to row the Atlantic. And maybe, just maybe, at the back of my mind was the thought that if there ever was a catastrophic pole shift, about the safest place to be would be in a self-righting ocean rowboat…

P.S. Excellent review written by a proper film critic here!

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  • Good review- about what I expected given the people who made 2012 (their last film being The Day After Tomorrow), which is basically the same movie…

    I just watched The Fantastic Mr. Fox, the new Wes Anderson film, and it had a surprising amount of morality. It touches on all sorts of themes that I felt are very relevant to the contemporary world- tradgedy of the commons, mans inherit wild nature, destructive selfishness, adaptation, etc… I highly recommend it! 🙂

  • Movies are often metaphors, so let’s pretend that what they were talking about is the global economic system, and that 2012 will bring us the total collapse of world finance, and the end of the global economy as we know it. Buildings falling are really institutions, mountains exploding and collapsing are the finances of whole countries, tidal waves are … well … the tidal waves and repercussions of economic interdependence. Solar flares can be the shock waves or bolts of greed and avarice. Even in this scenario, your “self-righting ocean rowboat” could be the indomitable human spirit, the strength of simplicity, the survivability of people of determination, and the ruggedness of character. Although the movie appears to have been designed to appeal to our image-and-noise driven world, maybe there actually is a morality play or two lurking beneath the surface of this movie. 🙂

    Excellent review by the way. You’ve saved me the money of seeing it, or at least I can wait until the DVD comes out.

  • Roz, my boyfriend and I survived 2012 last night. Theatre packed…but all I could think of was all that e-waste going into the oceans. In Sex In the City, Carrie threw her cell phone in the ocean, ruined that movie. But off topic. Btw, getting carpal tunnel bombarding Oprah with tweets…About you! Larry King next!!!

  • Nice one Roz. I need to read more of your blogs (but then I always say that!) It seems like we are indeed approaching a time of change doesn’t it. Of great change perhaps. Maybe I’m being ridiculously optimisitic but I’d prefer to think of it as ultimately being a change for the good. I want to agree with your reading done in 04 on collective consciousness. It may be a case of self fulfilling prophecy. For better, or worse. Guess whose choice it is.

  • Wise words, Rob Hamill. I agree with you on all points – including the optimism. I am sure things will turn out for the best – by which I mean best for the Earth, which may not necessarily be best for humankind… And I UTTERLY agree with your point about us having a choice.

    Susie – thank you so much for your ongoing efforts. Let’s hope they give in under the pressure before you do yourself a permanent injury!

  • Richard, leave it to the minstrel to simplify and give pragmatic meaning to inconceivable extravagant visions of global mega disaster … I especially like your interpretation of the “self-righting ocean rowboat.”

    I believe your statement “Although the movie appears to have been designed to appeal to our image-and-noise driven world, maybe there actually is a morality play or two lurking beneath the surface …” also applies to Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” … the final 15-20 minutes explains what “This is it” really means. If you have seen the movie, I think you will agree it is not what one might think. It is in context with “This is the moment. This is it. Make that change.” I’ve recommended the movie to friends who would not otherwise have seen it and they thanked me ;-D

  • Hi Roz,
    I caught the late show in Ankara. I didn’t know John Cusack could speak Turkish. Yes, the special effects were amazing – pee in your pants quality. Your right in it doesn’t seem to have a moral at the center. But there is, sort of. BLUF: All that you know and love will pass away, per an old Buddhist saying.

    Here in Ankara you can visit the Anatolian Civilizations Museum and pace out 10,000,000 years in about 400 meters. Mr. Ali the tour guide will cheerfully inform you 29 civilizations crossed through Turkey in that time. Shamefully, I know of only a few. The Hittites rose and passed away under mysterious or at least controversial circumstances. The Assyrians were just passing through. The Arab civilization came in the wildfire of the first jihads and passed just as swiftly. The Romans came in with a bang and out with a whisper as their culture and government faded. The Byzantines came in with a whisper, lasted almost a millennium, and went out with a bang at the final epic siege of Constantinople. The Ottomans took the city, made all the crowned heads of Europe tremble, only to go out with a whimper and be replaced by the current Turkish Republic.

    All these people lived, loved, fought, worshiped, and built here. But plagues, wars, and natural disasters took them. Some of their mosques, churches, and cities survived in one form or another. But most do not and archeologists are lucky to know what mounds on the side of the road mark them. The great city of Ephesus, once the third largest in the Roman Empire, lost its harbor to silt, the ocean moved ten miles away, and it was abandoned. Nobody lives there now except stray cats. The beautiful city of Amorion was destroyed by the Arabs during their wars with the Byzantine Empire, possibly because it was the childhood home of the young Byzantine Emperor. He reputedly died of a broken heart. The golden city of Constantinople, filled with marvelous churches, palaces and monuments, considered the eternal capital of Christendom by the Greeks, was devastated by the Fourth Crusade. It was a shell by the time the Ottomans seized it and they rebuilt it over long centuries to equal or surpass the Greeks. Only to lose most of it in terrible fires in the 19th century. I could go on and on.

    Yes, some things, oddly, will remain in some form. The Romans carved Backgammon boards into the marble stones in the marketplace in Ephesus for idle old men. Now the old men play it in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. The silversmiths that flogged statues of the Mother Goddess Artemis and vexed St. Paul now flog statues of Mary, Mother of Jesus instead. The Arabs left but Islam remains. The Byzantine Greeks would recognize the food. And no matter what a Turk tells you, the Ottomans live on in their hearts.

    As for all the rest, it’s long gone. I don’t know if we can reverse the effects of climate change, but even if we do all the things depicted in the movie 2012 will happen. Hopefully over the long, slow march of centuries, but they will. And some more rapidly than others (i.e., the Soviet Union; World Trade Center) So all that we can do is appreciate what we have now and preserve it as best we can.

  • Doug: Thanks for the great suggestion. I understand the Michael Jackson “This Is It” DVD is coming out soon, and I’m waiting for that.

    Roz: Johnny Depp was just named “the sexiest man alive” (again) by People Magazine, in today’s issue. Any chance you can get him to join your walk? You know that you want him there. 🙂

  • The actual event coming in December 21, 11:11 GMT, 2012, is that Earth will be lined up physically with a break in the Milky Way, and there won’t be anything between us and the center of our Galaxy, which might result in an influx of energy that we’re unaccustomed to. The Galactic Center is thought to be a swarm of Black Holes. I won’t guess about this, but something could happen, for sure.

    Oh, by the way, the poles do shift, and they’re in the beginning of the 5,000 year process now. Not something that happens quickly.

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