2012: the year of the dumb blockbuster

Just how daft were the plots of the year's biggest films? Plus, Prometheus: a scientist tries to explain it

If there's one thing the blockbuster merchants realised in 2012, it's that movies don't really have to make sense any more. And no one will notice so long as you take yourself very, very seriously. In fact, the more serious and illogical movies got, the better they went down. Exhibit A: SKYFALL. It was presented as a Bond movie for grown-ups: Death! Character! Psychology! MILFs! But think about Javier Bardem's unfeasibly cunning plan. He must have basically worked out everything in advance: that Bond would kill that Shanghai assassin, which would lead him to Macau, where he'd be seduced by a disposable love interest, who'd lead him to Bardem's secret baddie island, where Bond would overpower him, bring him back to London, get Q to feed his deadly computer virus into the system, and so on. Tube schedules, sewer plans, police disguises, helicopters, perfectly timed getaway drivers, plus a small army – hosting the Olympics was a village fete by comparison. All this to get to M, while Bond simply broke into her apartment.

The Batman franchise is no stranger to infeasibly cunning plans, either, and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES was so riddled with plot holes you could use it as a sieve. But again, the movie's Occupy-referencing "political significance" papered over the idiocy. For example, the whole story hinged on Bane's siege of Gotham – but why did he do it? To give the city back to the people? The same people he planned to blow up with his big nuclear bomb? And since the bomb could have been set off at any moment, why did they wait three months to do it anyway? Mind you, the whole thing could have been avoided if they hadn't decided to send EVERY COP IN THE CITY down into Bane's tunnels. D'oh!

Illogic spread across our screens like a mutating alien virus. Which brings us to PROMETHEUS (see below). Yes, remember that monolithic compendium of sci-fi dumbness? Its tagline could have been: "In space, no one observes basic health and safety guidelines." In some distant part of the universe higher life forms are still trying to count the ways in which Prometheus didn't make sense. Us Earthlings just paid up and scratched our heads.

By contrast, nonsensical popcorn movies such as THE AVENGERS, MEN IN BLACK 3 and CABIN IN THE WOODS were redeemed by their flagrant, uninhibited silliness. Flying aircraft carriers, Norse gods, an alien Andy Warhol, the Merman – it's not real! We're still trying to work out if LOOPER makes sense or not, but did it matter? It didn't matter!

At the higher end of the pecking order meanwhile, we were made to feel stupid for even expecting HOLY MOTORS to make sense. What was holding this coup de cinema together? A chimpanzee family and talking limos, of course, you uncultured idiot! Meaning disintegrated before your eyes in BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO and by coincidence, what's been widely regarded as the year's best movie THE MASTER, concerned a pompous, self-important writer whose incoherent and contradictory fantasies are lapped up unquestioningly by his followers. What could Paul Thomas Anderson have been trying to tell us?

Prometheus: A scientist tries to explain it

Prometheus was the most dissected release of 2012, but the crew's search for the meaning of human creation was nothing compared to the audience's search for the meaning. Still baffled, we asked an expert – Graham Shirling, a biomedical scientist working for blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan – to make sense of the violent liquids and aliens.

"Nothing in the film seemed too unreasonable. Obviously there's nothing in it that comes directly from anything we're doing at the moment, but it's the direction we're trying to go in. The whole GM scare, people are saying, 'You're acting like gods'... people can be frightened of science, through ignorance. Then again, if we're able to do more and more, we could become arrogant enough to want to engineer worlds, engineer species. And Prometheus is, in a way, an extrapolation of trying to cure diseases and faults in the system. The fluid in the film is used to create and destroy life, and actually it is the way things are going. At Anthony Nolan we're using stem cells to cure diseases and put missing things back. So that could be argued as a step down that road, with what's happening with GM, putting DNA into things."


Steve Rose, Alex Godfrey

The GuardianTramp

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