Nostradamus: 2012 – Blu-ray Review

As far as I’m concerned, The History Channel should be ashamed of itself for airing this tripe, much less releasing it on Blu-Ray. The prophecies of Nostradamus and the belief that the world will end in 2012 are historical, but only in the sense that people choose to believe in them (not because they are correct).

I’d take a softer view of this program had The History Channel not presented Nostradamus’ quatrains as fact. Instead the program begins with a brief disclaimer that the belief in the prophetic powers of the French writer is controversial, but leaves it at that. From that point on various Nostradamus experts and 2012 doomsayers spend the rest of the program detailing proof of his prophecies and then extrapolating what that means for the supposed apocalypse that will happen in 2012.

Nostradamus was not a prophet, and his quatrains are less predictive than the “Farmer’s Almanac.” People point to certain quatrains because they share tenuous similarities to events like the rise of Hitler, the fall of the Twin Towers, and the Iraq war; however, the quatrains are written in such a vague, poetic style that people can read just about anything in them if they try hard enough. Not to make light of 9/11, but that’s not the first time a tower-like structure has been felled (and probably won’t be the last). As for the Iraq war, I can predict that there will be a war in the Middle East in the next twenty years, but that hardly makes me a prophet; just a student of history.

What makes this even more galling is that the quatrains the experts quote mainly come from reinterpretations of Nostradamus’ original writings. Most Nostradamus scholars rearrange letters, words, even change punctuation to make the passages fit the event they want them to refer to. These scholars also completely disregard the historical context in which Nostradamus wrote. Certain words and symbols meant very different things in that time than they do now, but the vagueness and dense symbolism allow for a great deal of interpretation on the part of the reader, and that combined with the outright jumbling of the words, letters, and punctuation, mean that these quatrains can mean anything anybody wants them to.

Even if The History Channel presented this as strictly for entertainment, Nostradamus: 2012 is in bad taste. The concept of history brings with it the ideas of facts and truth, and presenting this material as a serious documentary on a channel supposedly devoted to history gives it a subtext of being genuine. I take issue with this because it perpetuates false notions based on false reasoning.

I’d love to think that nobody would be gullible enough to believe this, but doomsday cults have existed since the beginning of recorded history. The turn of the century, the industrial revolution, even the Civil Rights Movement have been viewed by some as indicators that the end of the world is nigh. These groups take their leave from esoteric religious documents, calendars created by other cultures, and even the writings of Nostradamus. Faulty logic based on faulty information leads to faulty actions, sometimes with disastrous results.

What Nostradamus: 2012 actually does is give us an insight into the minds of the people that truly believe in the 2012 prophecy. Towards the end of the program the experts talk about how this isn’t an end of the world in the literal sense, but an end to the world that we know, as if this is some sort of cosmic state line telling us we’re leaving the past and entering the future. Their idea of this future is that it will be somehow better than the past two thousand years: that we will be wiser, kinder, and more tolerant.

This I can understand, because that’s the kind of world I want to live in, too, only I believe that we can’t wait for some sort of cosmic event to bring it into being. The future is made every day by our actions, and the responsibility is on us to make sure that future is as good and just as it possibly can be; we can’t hand that over to prophecy.

The documentary is presented in fullscreen with no aspect ratios given. The only language track is English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. In terms of quality the documentary looks and sounds fine.

The only extra feature is a second documentary about a newly-discovered picture book supposedly made by Nostradamus. It suffers from the same problems as the 2012 program and is not worth watching.

Nostradamus: 2012 is not history: it’s a load of bunk presented as history. For those interested in the real story behind Nostradamus and his prophecies, read James Randi’s book, The Mask of Nostradamus. It’s meticulously researched and far more interesting and enlightening than any quatrain.

A&E presents Nostradamus: 2012. Directed by: Andy Pickard. Written by: Sarah Hollister, Jim Podhoratz, and Larry Weitzman. Running time: 94 minutes. Rating: NR. Released on Blu-ray: September 28, 2010.