This is one of those movies which are fun and enjoyable if you don’t take it at all serious and view it as a tongue-in-cheek picture of humanity at its very best and decidedly worst in the midst of unrelenting natural disaster.
A scientist- Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) discovers that the world as we know it is coming to an end and goes to government officials with the proof. We have seen this scenario played out before in dozens of recent movies and at least once a week on the Sci-Fi channel.
They have a couple of years to prepare and the US government along with 43 other nations sponsor a secret black ops project to save several 100,000 of the supposed best of humanity which in many cases translates out to be among the very richest who can afford a $Billion or so apiece to fund the project. We never are exposed to the plans or the development until near the end except it seems to be located in China.
Several years go by and we follow a divorcee—our designated hero Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) picking up his children and taking them on a camping trip to Yellowstone. Then the fun begins. The place isn’t anything like he remembers it and Jackson gets his family arrested by the Army when they hike into a restricted area. There they meet up with Adrian Helmsley who is in charge and happens to be only one of 500 or so people in the entire World who has actually read a book written by Jackson who makes a living as a limo driver but is really a starving writer—go figure.
Later they meet up with a crazy radio broadcaster/apocalyptic nut played by Woody Harrelson who tells them it is all coming to an end soon and that he has a map of where the secret government project is located. Jackson thinks he’s a nut and of coarse he actually is the comedy relief and also one of the most delightful characters in the whole movie. Then the fun begins.
A major earthquake strikes LA and Jacksons ex (Amanda Peet) wants her children back home. Back home a Russian billionaire hires Jackson to drive his family to the airport. They seem to be going to some secret place in China. Later it occurs to Jackson that everything the Nut (Harrelson) told them in Yellowstone was coming to pass. He hires a pilot to fly his family out of there and goes back to get them all just as the big one hits.
It really is non-stop from there with one unlikely escape after another along with numerous fortuitous connections that get them all the way there. 30 seconds or so one way or another and they would have missed it all. In the end Jackson is actually a hero.
The movie has everything you would expect. Billions are killed and you really don’t have time to care. It shows humanity at its very worst as governments bureaucrats determine who is to survive. And at its best as some reach out with caring to others in the midst of it all.
Religion in the Movie
It is interesting to me how religion is portrayed in the movie. At the beginning there are the nuts carrying signs of doom in the name of God. The Pope and the entire Vatican is destroyed before our very eyes while 1,000s in the square pray in vain? The President begins to say the 23rd Psalm—”The Lord is my Shep..” –but is cut off. The Buddhist Temple is destroyed while the Llama rings the bonging bell. The statue of Jesus crumbles when Rio is hit.
Originally the director also planned to show the destruction of Grand Mosque in Mecca but later was concerned about the potential consequences:
“I wanted to do that, I have to admit. But my co-writer Harald [Kloser] said I will not have a fatwa on my head because of a movie. And he was right.”
In the end this is the story of Noah and the Ark turn on its end. God doesn’t choose to save humanity or the animals—scientists and governments do it all this time with no help from a deity and with every religious institution destroyed in its wake. Humanity gets to start all over and I didn’t see one minister or Priest brought along to ruin the next Garden of Eden.
However, one small humble Buddhist Priest did make it aboard and some of the best folks in the movie are obviously people of faith.
Rather than quotes from the Bible—the Noah of this movie–Adrian Helmsley, offers moral guidance in the form of quotes from an obscure writer (Jackson) instead.