Dr. Adrian Helmsley, part of a worldwide geophysical team investigating the effect on the earth of radiation from unprecedented solar storms, learns that the earth's core is heating up. He warns U.S. President Thomas Wilson that the crust of the earth is becoming unstable and that without proper preparations for saving a fraction of the world's population, the entire race is doomed. Meanwhile, writer Jackson Curtis stumbles on the same information. While the world's leaders race to build "arks" to escape the impending cataclysm, Curtis struggles to find a way to save his family. Meanwhile, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes of unprecedented strength wreak havoc around the world.
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
. Starring: John Cusack
, Amanda Peet
, Chiwetel Ejiofor
, Thandie Newton
, Oliver Platt
, Tom McCarthy
, Woody Harrelson
, Danny Glover
, Liam James
, Morgan Lily
, Zlatko Buric
, Beatrice Rosen
, Alexandre Haussmann
. Music by: Harald Kloser
, Thomas Wanker
If I had to select one person to crown the undisputed king of the disaster movie, it'd have to be Roland Emmerich. With such films as Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow under his belt, not many can go toe-to-toe with the German king of CGI. While I'll be the first to admit that I've got a little bit of a soft spot for his 1996 alien invasion blockbuster, I really didn't like his 2004 treatise on global warming (which, in one particularly harrowing scene, had its protagonists running from an advancing cold front). In any case, here is Mr. Emmerich testing his destructive know-how once again, trying desperately, I'm sure, to salvage any semblance of a reputation he has in the wake of the atrocious 10,000 B.C.
John Cusack (playing the role of Jackson Curtis) takes the lead in this latest effort. He's an aspiring author-'to be fair, his first novel had 450+ copies published, so "aspiring" might not be the right word-'whose day job is that of a limousine driver. When he's not shuttling wealthy Russians to and from LAX, he devotes his time to his children. This is where things get sticky, though, because Jackson is divorced; his wife, Kate, is now dating a yuppie plastic surgeon (Gordon) and his kids think this guy is, well... just tops. So, one weekend Jackson decides to take his young-uns to Yellowstone National Park for a little father-children time. What he didn't expect on this trip was to run into a conspiracy theorist (Charlie Frost, played by Woody Harrelson) who broadcasts a radio show from his Winnebago. This guy is a real nut job who spends his time mourning the state of the U.S. government and predicting the end of the world, which, according to him-'and, of course, the Mayans-' will occur on December 21, 2012.
Still with me? Good. Let's take a look at the story we've been presented with so far: a fairly level-headed man who's trying to hold his family together-'and who has absolutely no background in science (or any reason to be interested in it whatsoever)-'has had a strange encounter with a hippie living in an RV full of shoddy evidence to support a theory about the end of the world. Reason would suggest that Jackson would dismiss this man's ramblings as the byproduct of a strained psychosis, right? And, in fact, that's exactly what he does the first time he runs into Charlie. Not fifteen minutes later, however, he witnesses a fault line rip through a Los Angeles area grocery store on TV and he's lapping up this guy's commentary with a spoon. The instant turn around in his opinion of Charlie is shocking, and it's painfully obvious that it's nothing more than a plot device instituted to speed up the Biblical destruction we've paid so dearly to see.
Honestly, I wouldn't normally think this is a bad thing. I knew going into this one that suspension of intelligent thought was a prerequisite; Emmerich knows this too, and, for whatever reason, he decides to test his audience's patience by stacking one ridiculous scenario on top of another. In a Crash-like convergence of fate, eventually a sea of characters (with their own plots and subplots) come together in completely unbelievable ways. On top of all this is a syrupy coating of sentimentality that feels out of place (and, at times, just plain embarrassing). Patrons are paying to see mountains topple and familiar monuments crumble in a maelstrom of fiery, bass-heavy destruction. We go to 2012 because we wanted to be beaten silly by unchecked chaos. What we don't want from these characters-'who repeatedly worm their way out of impossible situations-'are forced emotions.
Static characters are given minimal backstory and then thrown into situations that are specifically designed to manipulate our pathos; which, by the way, just about all of us-'whether we're aware of it or not -'decided to check at the door. How many times can audiences tear up at the sight of family members embracing one another in the shadow of a mile-high tsunami? It worked surprisingly well in Deep Impact, for example, but, at this point in the history of disaster movies, it's a played out tactic. Really, it comes across as incredibly insulting.
But what about the computer-generated bedlam? Is it as good as the teasers indicate? I'm here to tell you that it's vicious and unrelenting. This is great, but there's one problem; it's predictable. You'll find yourself actually becoming bored as plane after plane barely rises above a crumbling runway. Employing a little creativity in the disaster scenario department, it seems, could've done wonders for a film whose sole job is to "wow" us with multimillion dollar effects. Though there are some memorable bits here, they're far from mind-blowing. In fact, we've seen pretty much all of it before, and often done in better ways.
Where 2012 falters most is in its lack of urgency. Since this is the end of the world, you'd think that we, as viewers, would have the nagging sense that there's a lot at stake. Any chance the movie had of generating such feelings is instantly shattered, for example, when we see a fru-fru dog we couldn't care less about prancing across a high- wire as a dramatic score bombards us with what I'll generically label "rising tension."
If 2012 pulls in the mass audience studio execs are banking on, maybe we can take it as a sign that the end of competent filmmaking is very, very near.
Review by piratecannon from the Internet Movie Database.