(A Mockbuster Exclusive)
There’s something endearingly blasphemous about a Christian movie whose main characters must follow an ancient Mayan prophecy to prevent Armageddon. The ancient Mayans, of course, had no concept of Jesus. In this film’s reality, however, an archaeologist must return a golden crucifix to a Mayan temple so that he can stop the End of Days. The plot is like a Mad Libs mash-up of The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto. Thankfully, it’s way less bloody and unpleasant than those Mel Gibson gore-fests.
Our main characters are: a missionary, an archaeologist, a pregnant woman, a scientist, and a paramedic. The world is coming to an end, and they are each drawn to a Mayan temple, where they may or may not be able to save humanity. (Honestly, after watching the whole movie, I’m still not sure if they succeeded. But I’m getting ahead of myself.)
The film starts 36 hours before doomsday, when a scientist explains why the world is ending: “The Earth’s rotation is slowing because of a black hole at the center of the solar system.” Like most Christian films, 2012 has the utmost respect for the scientific community, and its screenwriter must’ve taken great pains to research this astronomical disaster.
Right away, freak weather events strike down in unlikely places, killing untold millions. Of course, the audience is meant to infer this information. We see a few events, but not enough to really show that the world is ending. At one point, a character announces, “The president just evacuated the entire West Coast.” In a bigger budget movie, that would be shown. Instead, we have a single line of dialogue.
Because this is one of The Asylum’s Christian films, we lose some of the action set pieces in favor of long conversations about God. One of the film’s main messages—not surprisingly—is the importance of believing in God. During the climactic birth scene (more on that later), a character says, “No matter what happens, we have faith.” It’s kind of a weird message for this movie to make, because the characters are faced with all sorts of proof that God exists. If the world is ending in a wild flurry of disasters, if people disappear in front of your eyes (more on that later), then isn’t it easier to believe in God? I mean, it’s one thing to believe in God without any proof whatsoever, but this movie (and a lot of Christian movies with the exact same message) are full of proof. And that sort of contradicts what they’re going for.
Anyway, we do get a Cliff Notes version of the Rapture in one inexplicable scene where exactly two (2!) characters magically disappear. One is a random pilot with about two minutes of screen time, and the other is an old lady. Are these the only two people in the world worthy of teleporting up to Heaven? According to the movie, it looks like it. It’s bizarre how the film treats the Rapture like an afterthought. Perhaps the director was halfway through shooting his Christian disaster movie and said, “You know what? People are expecting the Rapture. Let’s give it to them. I’m sure there are a couple side characters we can get rid of in the second act!”
What the quickie Rapture scene does, unfortunately, is drive home the film’s unintentional thesis statement: Just give up. For a movie about people struggling to survive, most of the characters are weirdly resigned to their fate. The missionary wants to investigate a village full of sick people, but her friend tells her to give up. A man gets shot, and he bleeds to death because he’s too busy praying to get medical attention. A paramedic wants to help her mom evacuate her home before a flood hits, and the mom basically shrugs it off. And finally, when the Rapture comes, both of the magically disappearing people make speeches that boil down to: “Eh. It is what it is.” Then they disappear. It’s profoundly creepy. There’s a difference between accepting the will of God and sitting around as the world crashes and burns around you.
That said, the acting isn’t bad (preachy speeches go down a lot better when the actors can trick you into making them sound like real conversations), and the special effects are as good as you can hope for in a movie by The Asylum. I’d like to give a special shout-out to Tiny Juggernaut, the movie’s effects house, for making a scene of killer hail seem believable. That must’ve been a tough day at work.
Aside from the lecturing parts, most of the movie plays like a gleeful mash-up of natural disasters. People get crushed by rocks, they fall down cracks in the Earth, they bleed to death in the snow, and (of course) they get jabbed in the heart by that pesky falling hail. There’s always something happening, and it’s never quite what you expect.
Much like the rest of the film, the climax zigs when you expect it to zag. We get a very fast (less than fifteen seconds) montage of global destruction. (We see the West Coast flooding, Jerusalem in rubble, and London on fire. No people. Just quick snapshots of big picture devastation.) And let me repeat, this lasts less than fifteen seconds. This is a movie with the word “doomsday” in its title, and the actual destruction of the Earth gets less screen time than a burp.
Instead, the real climax takes places inside the ruins of a Mayan temple. The archaeologist uses his golden crucifix to open an Indiana Jones-style secret chamber—a birthing chamber, actually—where a pregnant Mexican woman will give birth to… Jesus, perhaps? I was confused. The rest of the main characters show up to fulfill their God-given assignments. The pregnant lady is there to give birth, the missionary is there to say a prayer, the paramedic is there is help with the delivery, and the scientist father is there for… well, it seems like he’s there for moral support. But good for him.
In the end, most of the world is destroyed (well, the West Coast, London, and Jerusalem are destroyed, but we’re going to assume that other places are affected, too), and the Mexican girl gives birth to a glowing baby that the audience never fully sees. In that way, the Jesus baby is like the briefcase from Pulp Fiction. In one last monologue from the missionary girl, we learn that “It’s just the beginning.”
And surprisingly, it was. 2012: Doomsday is the beginning of a three-part franchise for The Asylum. In the following year, we got 2012: Supernova and 2012: Ice Age. Neither of them have anything to do with the Rapture, glowing babies, or Mayans at all. One is a jokey riff on The Day After Tomorrow and one is Armageddon for Dummies. While both those movies have their charms, neither rises to the glorious ridiculousness of this entry. Then again, if your disaster film has killer hail AND a glowing baby, that’s a pretty tough act to follow.
***NOTE: I wrote this article as part of my ongoing mockbusters series for Slickster. Turns out, the topic was a little too religious for their publication. I'm posting it here as a blog exclusive instead.