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Some people have far too much power. Elected politicians, generally speaking, do not have nearly enough. The popular premise behind the election of Barack Obama was that an easygoing liberal guy – who is rather like you or I – was being made the most powerful man in the world, when in reality Obama would turn out to have as much power and influence as those Barbie dolls which are sometimes attached to the fronts of trucks. The present generation of British politicians seem to have no ability to recognise power – let alone wield it – and they have duly just pissed away even more of our remaining sovereignty with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. But to behold somebody with genuine personal power one should look no further than the figure of Roland Emmerich.

Emmerich is turned on by apocalypse. Take some of the most beautiful, brilliant human achievements – New York’s skyscrapers, the Sistine chapel, the Houses of Parliament – and then obliterate them, smash them into smithereens! One suspects that  Emmerich’s assistants daily build massive and elaborate cityscapes out of Lego – presumably in some sort of soundproof bunker – before Emmerich is unleashed naked and raving in amongst the skyscrapers, to kick them over and tear them apart and jump on them.

His films – Independence Day, Godzilla, and the latest, 2012 (which will be released on the 13th November) – entail pretty much the same process. The world’s leading CGI technicians and artists find themselves in the hands of a quite glaringly flawed individual, and they are made to transform his unhappy personal fantasies – which at best deserve to be drawn on diary pages in biro – into monumental, million-dollar visions of exquisitely-choreographed apocalypse. The power of these scenes derive from their weightlessness, their effortlessness – skyscrapers disintegrate as easily as clocks of dandelion seeds. In a pre-released five-minute clip of 2012, we see Los Angeles falling apart, its infrastructure unravelling and liquidating into a sort of apocalyptic goo, and the whole thing could not look more beautiful or immaculate if interpreted by ballet dancers.

2012 would probably be a much better film if there were no characters or plot – just twenty or so minutes of Emmerich’s apocalyptic porn. It is unfair to require a filmmaker with a naked hatred of humanity and human achievements to try and imagine scenarios which feature sympathetic human beings. The hitherto-released five minutes of 2012, however, appear to indicate the enlistment of the established old hands of apocalypse land: the unheeded profit of doom, doubtlessly the embittered but still-determined holder of a powerless job (John Cusack), the miserable wife whom he divorced but must now befriend again in the face of disaster (Amanda Peet), and the mandatory rosy-cheeked children, who will be repeatedly exposed to exploding buildings, falling meteorites, and flying debris to tiresomely tease us with the vain hope that they will be gruesomely killed. The sad little faces of those children as they watch the Gomorrah-style levelling of Los Angeles – in which millions die like ants (all off-camera) – they look as if their budgie has just died!

Emmerich’s historic achievement as a filmmaker is to make apocalypse boring. It is not just that we do not care whether his characters live or die, but he has such a limited and inhuman vision of humanity – as essentially ants in clothes – that we do not care whether their entire world survives. Just as a child may conclude that the sole purpose of ants is to be jumped on, Emmerich’s cities seem to be purpose-built for apocalypse. Why else would they exist, other than to be raised to the ground? Amusingly, Emmerich invested the usual mayhem in The Day after Tomorrow with the moral purpose of warning against climate change, which is rather like somebody who enjoys being whipped by prostitutes claiming that they are championing the power of women. Emmerich is, incidentally, not very talented at political correctness: in admitting that he spared the Meccan Kaaba from his apocalypse for fear of being subjected to a fatwa, he achieved the twofold insult of implying that Christians are pussies whose outrage can be safely ignored whilst Muslims are humourless and potentially-murderous.

Whilst 2012 was marketed with a lousy and unimaginative “viral” internet campaign, commentators have already subjected the as-yet-unreleased film to a jolly good trashing. The Guardian‘s Anna Pickard had to content herself with tearing apart the trailer, quipping that:

Yes, the world can end in so many different ways, but only some are cool when rendered in CGI. Tidal waves and meteors exploding into the earth? These look cool. Everyone coming down with a bad case of the runs all at once and pooing themselves to death? Not so cinematic. Unsurprising, therefore, that no one has ever made a film with that as the plot.

Meanwhile the five-minute preview is accompanied on Latino Review by a wall of vitriol, which includes such tributes as “Roland Emmerich really fucking hates the Earth,” “This movie is going to tank so hard,” “I’m tired to disaster movies. What’s the point?” “Is it just me or are disaster movies getting worse and worse?” “this is the first time i could not sit through the whole teaser for a movie.…,” “I think that was possibly the worst thing I’ve ever watched,” and “There is no way in hell I’m going to waste two hours of my life watching this shit.” And I feel fine.

Perhaps Emmerich’s days of obsessively destroying city after city are finally numbered, but I think that this is to underestimate the power of the man. It is inexplicable how such an unimaginative and incompetent storyteller could have been installed as our culture’s king-of-all-apocalypse in the first place, and it is unclear what constitutional levers exist to remove him. We may have many more years ahead of Emmrich aimlessly levelling cities like the Old Testament God, a law unto himself. Thankfully Emmerich is just a filmmaker – some madmen had whole armies at their disposal – and CGI provides a safe space where his potentially dangerous compulsions can be rendered inconsequential and banal. One is only saddened that something as sensible as the Mayans’ prophesy of a 2012 apocalypse should be caught up with Emmerich’s personal problems.