by Dennis Harvey, published on Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - 9:19pm PT|
Better planetary conservatorship through psychedelics is one message among many in docu "2012: Time for Change." A kind of cinematic New Age magazine flipping through hot-button issues negative (global warming, resource shortages, apocalypticism) and positive (green living, online activist communities), this plug for "conscious evolution" is both glossily crafted and exasperatingly catch-all. Its vegan food for thought has already played one-off gigs with filmmaker appearances. Single-screen Seattle engagement starting June 4 may not spur further theatrical bookings; pic will reach its ultimate audience via DVD and Internet dissemination.
There's a lot of earnest truth to what first-person narrator Daniel Pinchbeck (author of "Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into Contemporary Shamanism") guides us through here. Still, one wishes he were a more probing interviewer or prepossessing camera presence. He seems entirely lacking in humor, as does the film, aside from witty animated segments. The latter primarily illustrate Mayan creation myths suggesting 2012 brings the end of another Earth cycle in which humanity's latest failed form will be destroyed by the gods for showing cumulative disrespect toward the planet itself.
Pinchbeck doesn't necessarily buy into that literally, but uses his admitted personal depression over escalating world crises as a spur to go on a globe-trotting quest in pursuit of good news and bad. The resulting view of a "crisis in human consciousness" sweeps through everything from visionary R. Buckminster Fuller (seen in archival footage) to transcendental meditation to musician Sting (oddly avoiding eye contact) talking about the psychedelically induced "only religious experience I've ever had." (It's even odder when we get a few seconds of Ellen Page saying she recovered from "Juno's" fame-burst by "shoveling goat shit" on a communal farm.)
There are some highly articulate commentators here, including "EcoCities" author Richard Register, who compares good intentions with good deeds. "It ultimately comes down to, are you gonna do something about it?" Register says. That hits a queasy spot, since "2012" casts its net so vaguely wide; it sometimes comes across as an instructional manual for well-off do-gooders who might attend Burning Man in an air-conditioned RV. Moreover, every subject the pic touches on has been dealt with more probingly, at length, by other documentarians.
Nonetheless, "2012" is remarkably tight, considering its wandering focus and whiff of the well-intentioned vanity project. Veteran animator-turned-director Joao G. Amorim, co-lenser Felipe Reinheimer and editor April Merl do a terrific job assembling disparate materials into brisk semi-cogency. Soundtrack is the requisite smart mix tape of global dance/trance sounds. Excellent cartoon segs aside, the pic sports one for-the-books visual grace note: a simple cut from yoga-class stretching to a big cat luxuriantly extending its loins in the wild.