Friday, 26 November 2010

Trash Cinema

Even trashy films can save themselves from being total schlock by sticking to their guns and playing out the way they're supposed to. I'd even go as far as arguing (perhaps unconvincingly) that narrative missteps in a trashy film are more serious than in more mainstream fare. A stupid plot development in a trashy film can instantly convert it into total trash, whereas a comparable blunder in a more conventional film merely consigns it to the misguided bin where it can be quickly forgotten. Basically, a narrative cock-up in trash film (which, by definition, contains no redeeming features) confirms that, yes, you really did waste your time with it.

And so it is with 2012, a film that, for a good while, luxuriated in the trashy apocalypse it created and looked for all the world like it was going play out the way it had been aiming from the start: a sentimental paean to family values. Instead, John Cusack's deadbeat dad, who was surely heading for a noble death in The Poseidon Adventure mould, is spared, only for his love rival, who's more than proved himself worthy of Cusack's screen-family's love, to bite it in the closing minutes. This is not how things should have ended (nor should they have been dragged out in a ridiculously lengthy screaming-children-in-watery-peril section). Up until this point, the film had me. It was trash but, damn-it, it was good trash. But the film-makers managed to stomp all over my goodwill in a volte-face that made no narrative sense. Fools.

In passing, there was a moment, not long before the film threw everything away, where it could even have aspired to greatness by wiping out the entire human race through making the humanitarian pleadings of one of the lead characters backfire spectacularly. It would have been completely plausible, a marvellously nihilistic headstone to Man's place in the uncaring cosmos, as well as beautifully illustrative of the maxim that "no good deed goes unpunished". But, again, the film-makers totally stuffed it up. Losers.

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