Spoilsports keep repeating that the Mayan calendar does not end in 2012, but merely begins a new cycle. Ah, but the advent of a new cycle may well be an occasion for turbulence, dislocation, realignment - "the end, when God untunes the sky" - if only temporarily.
Belief that the world we know it is about to end, or has to end because it is unsustainable, is at a very high point. There is a longing, not yet overwhelming but tangible and growing, for radical simplicity and renewal. And if we have to look at images of California sliding into the Pacific in overbuilt chunks to stir up our juices, so be it, I guess.
The film itself manages to turn people from just about every continent into stock figures: the earth mother, the waffling pol, the clandestine-murderous pol, the selfless scientist, the blonde bimbo with toy dog, the obnoxious overweight rich kid, the absentee father, and so on. Millions of tiny computerized human figures die terrible deaths by fire, earthquake, volcano and tsunami as our heroes escape by airplane. Then their sneaky breach of one of the "arks" intended to save the elite of the earth and man's cultural treasures nearly gets everyone aboard killed. Then the selfless scientist risks all the arks by suddenly deciding to let in the thousand or so folks about to be abandoned at the ark site. Everyone feels better about himself (forget the other billions) and of course the rescue succeeds without a second to spare and miraculously there are no ill effects from having taken on extra hundreds of people.
The director reportedly just laughed when asked if he were going to include scenes of Muslim holy sites undergoing destruction; he commented, "My co-writer Harald [Kloser] said, 'I'm not writing this to get a fatwa on my head.' We have Jesus falling apart in all kinds of forms. The Vatican falls on people's heads, and we can do that because we're a free, Western society, but if there would be, like, Mecca destroyed, there would be an outrage. And so you don't do it." Yes, the film shows the Pope, all the cardinals, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's basilica and the whole square full of praying believers being crushed and buried in mid-prayer. One thing you can say about modern Christians, they sure can take a joke.
I have a strong weakness for end-of-the-world scenarios, but usually prefer those with more realistic and achievable odds for survival. Of all the world's-end narratives I've heard, the "planetary alignment/solar flare/neutrinos mutating into microwaves/core boils/crust destabilizes" one is by far the least likely. I have to agree with Robin Cook that, barring a sizable asteroid that just blunders in out of nowhere, our most likely big die-off will come of a mutated influenza virus combining the high transmissibility of one strain with the high lethality of another.
There really are a lot of dooms to choose from, though. So many ends, so little time.