Sunday, November 15, 2009

Reel Low: ...And I Feel Fine

Or, at least I would if I could sustain myself on the sugary sweetness of special effects alone.
This weekend brings us 2012 [2009] the latest apocalyptic disaster picture from director Roland Emmerich, who has digitally demolished beloved world wonders and national landmarks previously in such films as Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow.
The global scope seems broader in 2012 than those two movies, although we're still only concerned with a handful of miraculously intertwined families. Why focus on the families? Because it's the best way to tug at your audience's heartstrings between visually stunning calamities. Unfortunately, that leaves us with a bunch of sap, and lots of it.
Make no mistake, the effects in this movie are superb. It's the reason to see it on the big screen.
In truth, I didn't dislike this movie; in fact, I was surprised that it hadn't been completely horrible while making my way back to the car. But the next day I woke famished, realizing I had only filled up on a big piece of cake the night before.
Emmerich seems to be more interested in the destructive aspects of the apocalypse, which is fine. It's fun to watch if nothing else. However, in doing this he misses grand opportunities to illustrate his repeated theme of the strength and importance of the familial bond. This is exactly why The Road is going to collectively mindfuck everyone with awesome in mere days. By all accounts I've seen, it follows the book very closely. This means we'll never see the the apocalypse itself, just the aftermath (trust me, not an important spoiler). For me, the struggle for humanity to survive in the long run is the real story. It just doesn't look as pretty. To compare 2012 to The Road is unfair, I understand this (my thoughts on Cormac McCarthy's novel are here). The genre-phile in me hopes that a balance can be struck in more films that include awe-strickening effects as well as emotional depth and resonance.
I'm not sure why I hope for something meaty from what is essentially a popcorn movie released in the fall. I suppose it's the lure of the giant flood waves and hurling fireballs in the trailer that somehow fool me into wanting to see these movies despite my better judgment.
Even if the prophecies of 2012 don't come to pass, it could be a very scary year. I mean, even warnings from Woody Harrelson may not be able to save us from this horror.
Oh, but could he save us all if the events of Zombieland [2009] came about.
This movie was just plain fun. Primary to achieving that was due to Harrelson's zombie-slaying badassery. Honestly, I don' t think I've seen him in a better role. And, yes, I've watched The Cowboy Way. He was tailor made for this movie.
Zombieland takes a very different perspective on the post-apocalypse tale than most other zombie movies in that it mocks the tropes that befall most of them.
We follow Jessie Eisenberg's character, Columbus, through his sets of rules that have allowed him to stay zombie-free, such as "limber up" and "beware of bathrooms." I'm not a big fan of Eisenberg. To me, he's gone to the Michael Cera school of awkward-kid acting, only hasn't graduated yet. I believe his chances are dubious of ever doing so. Fortunately, his character is well constructed and I found him tolerable for the most part. Anyway, he's our hero.
The best part about this movie is that is has heart. There's lots of splattering zombie guts all around that heart, but heart nonetheless. Columbus started out as a socially phobic teen that is alive because he applied the same rules to survival in the post-apocalyptic world as he did before the zombies came about. It's only when he breaks his self-administered rules does he truly begin living life.
But you don't really care about that. It has zombies. Lots of 'em. And plenty of 'em get put down for good. Oh, it also has a very cool cameo that hopefully hasn't been spoiled for you by some jag-off. I will say no more.
It probably won't be in theaters much longer, but it's certainly worth a rental.

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