(Directed by Ronald Emmerich, running time 158 minutes)
DISCLAIMER: Before I dive in let me get one thing out of the way: I do not believe in the 2012 predictions nor should any of you. There is no evidence the Mayans ended their calendar for this reason (with no other reason to believe them even if they did) and no scientific evidence to support other predictions of impending cataclysms. It is purely fiction.
So we meet again Mr. Ronald Emmerich, back after the ludicrous Independence Day, misunderstood Godzilla, poorly executed Day After Tomorrow and downright confusing 10, 000 BC? And now you’re taking on the next Y2K? Sounds like a recipe for disaster, even if it may be a well executed disaster. Considering all of these films are hardly Oscar Gold, to go into the cinema with expectations beyond “big dumb action flick” only to then complain about it would be on par with visiting France and being surprised and annoyed by all the French people. By no means does that spare this film from a critical lashing, just don’t say I or even the film trailers didn’t tell you so.
It’s 2012, the always tolerable John Cusack plays amateur novelist Jackson Curtis, divorced whose two children live with their mother and cut in step father... *Strains* I’m already annoyed by how cliché this set up really is. Before the exposition can sink in further, on a camping trip Curtis is warned by new age doomsayer Charlie Frost played by Woody Harrelson (arguably the most likable and entertaining character who isn’t even used beyond the first half) of the impending apocalyptic prophecy handed down from the ancient Mayan people among other civilizations. Shortly after Curtis connects the dots including the rich and powerful leaving urbanized areas, disaster abruptly unfolds with California sinking into the ocean in a scene thats as jaw dropping as it is over the top. If that wasn’t enough to raise a few eyebrows, Yellowstone super volcano erupts engulfing most of America while the rest of the world follows suit, all the while Curtis and family journey to China where an ark project is about to be launched saving the soon to be remnants of humanity.
While this set up appears as a half-baked excuse to travel round the globe just as it goes to pot (and it is), to mix it up we cut to and fro from other would be survivors as they deal with the constant raging chaos. While the spotlight is primarily focused on the US President played by Danny Glover (a’la Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact) and pre-disaster concerned scientist played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (a character who screams “know your place Miiister Siiientist!”), we also get two jazzmen on a damned cruise, a Chinese monk leading his family through the backdoor of the ark and of course random cut aways to famous locations in the process of natural demolition. It’s a nice touch, especially with the ones you know are doomed from the beginning, taking away the cliché foundations the rest of the films rests upon. Others on the other hand do nothing but support it, such as dire European accents, impossibly good plane driving from someone who claims to be a learner and of course the coming together of a once broken family... did I already mention cliché? Dam. All in all the characters shouldn’t annoy you too much... unlike the dim-witted ignorant “douche-bag” teens of Transformers.
But of course you’re not here for the exposition (at one point I said in my head “I don’t care about how you weren’t around for the kids, I just saw the whole Vatican turn over!”), you want destruction on the grandest of scales and if you were disappointed with there lack of in The Day After Tomorrow, this should quell your catharsis. Earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis are part of the main course with plenty of landmarks to knock down and as it stands I wouldn’t have it any other way. When they’re not laying on the exposition, the special effects crew are hammering in as much worldly mayhem as possible to create the ultimate disaster flick. And while you get a good sense of the world actually ending, it’s also not edited in an overly fast pace manner to the point of breaking the sound barrier, allowing the many destructive set pieces to make their full impact you came to see.
Like I said from the very start, this is a film of simple tastes. You go for the mass destruction and you get it... a lot. In fact you would be better off to set your exceptions and standards even lower, because in all honesty it’s well executed and might even surprise you. Like all disaster flicks, the plot is so cliché the word loses all meaning and the dialogue can get hammy at times but at least it doesn’t try to make you laugh or be “down with the kids”. I know it might not be saying much but this is one of the better Ronald Emmerich films, IE a fine example of a movie-goer’s guilty pleasure.
Also stars Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton and Oliver Platt.