Roland Emmerich and the Mayan Apocalypse (TQP0094)
This July, there will be many excited movie-goers, and no doubt very few of them are going to go see John Cusack vs. the End of the World. 2012 is Roland Emmerich’s new, glossy, mega-budget disaster-porn epic, and god damn but I want it to fail so badly.
You might remember Roland Emmerich from other porny movies like The Day After Tomorrow (released in the Philipines as Dennis Quaid vs. the Weather), Godzilla (aka Hank Azaria is Pretty Funny In This!), and Independence Day (aka Remember When Will Smith Punches That Alien? Awesome!). He also made that 10,000 BC movie that I didn’t see (and, apparently neither did anyone else). I don’t really know what that was about, so we’ll say its alternate title was A Dirty Guy vs. the Elephants.
Roland Emmerich is a sterling example of David Foster Wallace’s “Inverse Cost to Quality Law,” section a, which posits that the more expensive a movie’s effects are, the shittier that movie will be in all non-effects related areas. He also may be an example of ICQL section b, if we consider that Emmerich was the writer for Stargate (aka Kurt Russel vs. Ancient Egypt), and Stargate was actually pretty cool.
2012 is a movie about terrible weather destroying the world, or maybe earthquakes destroying the world. Roland Emmerich likes special effects. He likes movies where things that we recognize are destroyed, and I kind of wonder what that’s about.
I mean, when you watch the White House being detonated in Independence Day, you know that the White House isn’t really being destroyed, right? It’s not the same kind of feeling that you get when you crane your neck to see a really bad accident, or watch video of the devastation left in the wake of Katrina. You feel guilty when you watch that. Sad, depressed, maybe even a little fearful that something like that could happen to you. Certainly, a little tawdry for taking any kind of interest in someone else’s suffering.
But the White House explodes, and there’s no need to feel any guilt. No one really died. Nothing’s really been destroyed. And that secret perverse desire you have to see other people’s accomplishments torn down is satisfied. You get that little Tower of Babel frisson, seeing arrogance put in its place.
In retrospect, this is at the heart of all of Roland Emmerich’s films. The arrogant aliens in Stargate getting nuked by their own bomb–that was awesome. Tell me you weren’t a little thrilled when that happened–tell me you didn’t get excited by being able to shout out “FUCK YOU, ALIENS!”
Independence Day is the same thing, only the scenes are drawn out, giving us little tasty bits of defiance (“Welcome to Earth!” POW! “UP YOURS!” EXPLODE!) all throughout the film, until the invincible enemy is brought low.
The Day After Tomorrow is quite the same thing. Scenes and scenes of our best accomplishments destroyed by the unstoppable onslaught of Mother Nature. The arrogant Dick Cheney analogue finally forced to admit that he was wrong about global warming, letting all us liberals bask in our finally-justified self-righteousness. “I’m sorry the world had to be destroyed to prove it, but WE WERE RIGHT! FUCK YOU!”
My friend Malia saw this movie in Mexico, and when full-of-itself America had to humbly ask poor old Mexico to house its refuges, the cheers were resounding.
Roland Emmerich, he brings the mighty low!
He still mostly makes shitty movies, and I’ll tell you why.
Here’s a quote that I got from here, of Roland Emmerich explaining the artistic inspiration behind 2012.
This whole movie I’m doing next was inspired by just the phenomenon of the internet when you type in Google, ’2012′, you get 240 million hits. That’s a lot. And it’s just, so many people write about it, believe it, that our world comes to an end in 2012. I said wow. I kind of said before I will never do a disaster movie again. I said, for this idea I have to do it again.
You see that? It’s not because he thought the idea was interesting, or because he had something worth saying, or even because he’d conceived of something worth seeing. It’s not even because he’d found an even greater Tower of Babel to strike down–indeed, 2012 deals entirely with natural cataclysms that can’t even be blamed on Republicans!–there’s no art here at all.
240 million hits is what 2012 is based on. That’s it. 240 million hits. Roland Emmerich isn’t an artist. He’s not even a person. He’s a Google app that writes pitches based on internet traffic. In a year his job will be obsolete because someone will combine one of those screenplay formulas, a random-name generator, and a “Most Searched For” function. It will be Roland Emmerich 2.0–autonomous, user-generated movies. Just keep looking for things that you find interesting, and in two years a vast network of self-regulating processes will provide you more slippery, sickly-sweet and pandering shit than you can choke on.
This is potentially a roundabout way of filling out my adversarial, “Audience as Enemy” approach to art. But it’s also my own way of sticking it to someone that I hate. Someone that I can’t hurt in real life, someone who’s richer and more successful than he deserves to be, someone that karma needs to punish but never will.
But really it’s just about driving traffic. I mean, 240 million hits? I want a piece of that.