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The End of the World in Our Ordinary Multiplex on a Night Full of Rain 

Published November 28, 2009 at 1:30 a.m.

To reward myself for working on Black Friday, I finally saw 2012 this evening. Having watched the trailer, I knew it was going to be stupid, but I was up for that. So was our intrepid video journalist, Eva Sollberger. We both have a high tolerance for stupid disaster movies and enjoy watching the world end.

As we grabbed coffee at Starbucks, Eva told me about the local news reports of Black Friday shopping she'd just watched. According to stories like this one, many Vermonters are still struggling to get by this holiday season, and they lined up at 3 a.m. to shop at deep discounts. One interviewee Eva had seen spoke of trying to feed two parents and a couple kids on $150 per month.

We went into the Majestic feeling rich and lucky. And found our theater packed with folks also eager to watch the world end.

After about 45 minutes of cutesy kids, hamming character actors and annoying exposition, the destruction finally began. The people on either side of me were snorting and giggling when L.A. started falling in pieces, as was I. With John Cusack and his annoying family always barely on the leading edge of the chaos, somehow dodging flying debris without being choked by smoke, it was more like a virtual theme park ride than an even vaguely plausible simulation of disaster. (I can't wait till the good folks at Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics get hold of this one.)

Remember back in 2001 when they said there would be no more movies where big glassy buildings collapse? Yeah, so do I. (See still above.)

When you see a movie with a big audience like this, you can feel them sort of rippling, like grass in the wind. Emotions are contagious. Ripples of laughter for the "money shot" destruction scenes and the cheesy laugh lines. Ripples of "awwww" for the cute kids. Ripples of disapproval when good people die. (This happened often, and every single death was bloodless, no charred corpses to be seen. Usually a tsumani just kinda rolled over somebody and they were gone, perhaps after crossing themselves or whispering, "I love you, Mom. I'm sorry we never reconciled".)

Basically, the message of the movie is that if the world ended, only the rich and powerful would survive, and possibly also a brilliant scientist and trashy novelist or two. But they have to be careful and make sure they don't lose their humanity while clawing their way to safety over the corpses of the less fortunate. If you want to watch something that actually delves into such moral dilemmas, I suggest the revamped "Battlestar Galactica." Sure, it's science fiction, but it's more realistic than 2012.

That's not why you watch a movie like this, though. There's a reason the studio didn't give The Road a wide release on Thanksgiving weekend. When it's the holidays and you're trying to make ends meet, you don't want to watch people starving in a bleak landscape. You want to watch Big Colorful Apeshit Destruction of national landmarks and cities where rich people do frivolous rich-people things, like L.A. and Vegas. You want fireworks. At least, I do.

Another thing I learned from this movie: You can always get a laugh by showing a redneck's ass cleavage, even when he's about to be barbecued by a wall of fire.

I think the audience liked it. They got up afterward making approving noises, like, "Well, that may have been a little silly, but it sure was a sight to see!" I agreed.

We came outside into cold, intense, driving rain. Wind whipped and water gushed everywhere, sometimes half flooding the road. Then I remembered that when I woke this morning to find mist that didn't dissipate, I wondered if the volcanoes in Yellowstone had erupted, blanketing the Earth in ash. (This happens in the movie. But if it happened for real, life on our planet might go kaput for quite a while.)

Nope. It was only mist foretelling a storm on Black Friday. I hope the shoppers at Maple Tree Place got good deals before they watched the world end.

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About The Author

Margot Harrison

Margot Harrison

Margot Harrison is the Associate Editor at Seven Days; she coordinates literary and film coverage. In 2005, she won the John D. Donoghue award for arts criticism from the Vermont Press Association.

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