We've had a chance to screen the two upcoming apocalyptic movies The Road and 2012, and while they seem to differ on many levels—for example, one is directed by a filmmaker with a singular vision and an uncompromising view of the human condition, the other is directed by Roland Emmerich—we couldn't help noticing the similarities.
Our 2012 review is over here, but we can also offer some guidance about the movies and point out their common themes. (Possible spoilers ahead if you haven't seen any trailers.)
2012 opens today; The Road opens Nov. 25.
There is a father at the heart of each story
In The Road, Viggo Mortensen plays a character simply called The Man, who is traveling across a blasted post-apocalyptic America with his young son, called The Boy.
In 2012, John Cusack plays a character simply called Jackson Curtis, who careens across a blasted apocalyptic America with his young son, called ... well, does it really matter? Oh, and he drags along his ex-wife, his young daughter, his ex-wife's new husband, a Russian tycoon, the tycoon's twin sons, his mistress, her St. Charles spaniel, a Russian pilot ...
In The Road, the world has come to an end for an unspecified reason. Everything is dead: trees, animals, birds. Only people remain.
In 2012, the world comes to an end for reasons that don't really make any sense, such as neutrinos that come from the sun and make lava a lot hotter than it already is. Everything dies: trees, animals, birds, but particularly national landmarks such as the White House, the Sistine Chapel, the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro and the giant Randy's Donut sign in Los Angeles.
The human race seems doomed
In The Road, the surviving humans have devolved into two groups: good guys like our heroes, who struggle to maintain hope in the bleakest of circumstances, and bad guys, who prey on the weak for their own survival.
In 2012, the surviving humans devolve into two groups: good guys with really nice hair like our heroes, who struggle to maintain hope while narrowly escaping collapsing buildings and exploding volcanoes over and over again, and bad guys, who are all kinda pudgy-looking, who want to sacrifice the weak and non-American to facilitate their own survival.
Our heroes fight against all odds
In The Road, the father does everything he can to keep his son safe and is willing to sacrifice himself for the boy.
In 2012, Jackson Curtis drives everything he can—a limo, a small airplane, a large airplane, a Bentley—in order to keep his son safe, and also his ex-wife, his young daughter, his ex-wife's new husband, the Russian tycoon, the tycoon's twin sons, etc. He seems willing to sacrifice himself for the boy, etc., but not really.
The movie may deal with apocalypse, but its true theme is hope
In The Road, human virtue survives, just barely, and we leave the theater sad but optimistic.
In 2012, humanity survives in the nick of time, just barely, and we leave the theater sad and optimistic that we won't have to sit through a sequel.