This is the way the world ends

Posted by Bill Andrews
on Monday, November 16, 2009

This isn’t going to happen in 2012! Baseless theories, like a proposed planetary alignment on the scale of this photo illustration, have led many to fear the year 2012 needlessly. Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (NASA) photo
Rejoice, for the end is nigh. Not of the actual world, of course, but of 2012’s marketing campaign.

As you are no doubt aware, Roland Emmerich’s end-of-the-world epic, 2012, opened this weekend. As in Emmerich’s previous movies (Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow), 2012 features mass destruction and plucky everyday people who become heroes. But, whereas the destruction was somewhat limited before — even the aliens focused on large cities — the entire world now lies on the chopping block.

Infinitely worse, though, pseudo-scientific ads and posters featuring a fictional (but very realistic) Institute for Human Continuity were part of the movie’s ad campaign, making people think the world really might end in 2012. And being in charge of correspondence here at Astronomy magazine, I bore the brunt of many letters asking about the supposed planetary alignment, or the phantom Planet X/Nibiru impact, or why we help NASA cover up the facts that point to planetary destruction. This meant the movie 2012 went from “seems dumb, but it might be fun to watch” to “I hate this movie” pretty quickly for me.

And apparently I’m not the only one. NASA set up a web page explaining, “Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012.” While that sure is nice of them, isn’t it a little sad that NASA has to go on record and officially let people know these random Internet rumors and hoaxes aren’t true? Do people really need to be reminded that what happens in movies isn’t necessarily true?

So, basically I want to know: Did you see or do you plan on seeing 2012? Given my personal animosity, you may be able to predict my response, but the reviews aren’t making it sound that great either. One thing’s for sure, though. Once the movie’s been out a while, the ads will stop, and my life will get a lot easier. For about a year and a half, anyway.

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