This film was inevitable. I suppose there is actually a fringe group of people out there who truly believe that, in 2012, the poles will reverse and humanity as we know it will be destroyed by every disaster cliché imaginable. For those who do believe it: I hope you’re in Las Vegas blowing your life’s fortune. For the rest of us, we have to deal with Roland Emmerich; a filmmaker who’s been doing him damnedest to one-up himself in terms of on screen destruction since 1996’s Independence Day. With those criteria, he succeeds with 2012. The success, however, largely ends there.
The film picks up in 2009, when government scientist Adrian Helmsley (Ejiofor), through an acquaintance in India, discovers that the prediction of the ancient Mayans will come to fruition. The Earth’s temperature will rise dramatically and on December 21, 2012 human life will most likely not continue. He shares the information with Carl Anheuser, a sniveling politician who immediately sets a plan in motion that saves the world’s wealthiest and smartest. Fast forward to 2012 and marginally successful author/limo driver Jackson Curtis (Cusack) is trying to retain his family after a divorce. Before you can say “we were warned” the entire clan is plunged into one disaster after another.
Director Roland Emmerich has made this movie several times over. Every arc to the story is telegraphed from a mile away and every character and disaster film cliché is taken to all new extremes. The whole world is fair game, and Emmerich does deliver in terms of sheer destruction. The visual effects are excellent, and those who show up simply for them will leave satisfied. There’s 158 grueling minutes of falling buildings, volcanoes, ash storms, crashing airplanes, and tsunamis.
2012 has one of the better casts of any Emmerich movie. Cusack is always dependable, and he does what he can here with a weakly written character whose main job is to scream and look for his kids. It’s at least an inspired choice for the lead in this kind of picture. Chiwetal Ejiofor is good as the clear-thinking government scientist who represents human compassion. In a smaller role Danny Glover is effective as the President, especially one who makes a very noble decision that one may wonder if any real-life U.S. President would make. Also turning up is Woody Harrelson in a multiple-scene-stealer as a conspiracy nut who, after all these years, turns out to be right.
Because of its title, 2012 has a pretty limited built-in lifespan. Why not hold this film off until December 22, 2012? Run an ad campaign asking if we’ll even be able to make it until the release date. The film takes a pretty grave, almost serious tone, with the material so why not cash in on the gloom and doom? Kidding aside, 2012 is exactly, and I mean exactly, what you think it is. If you can’t get enough of cinematic mass destruction, then, by all means, don’t miss this. If you feel like you’ve seen all this genre has to offer, save your ten dollars and take comfort that you’re probably right.
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Length: 158 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense disaster sequences and some language.
Theatrical Release: November 13, 2009
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Roland Emmerich & Harald Kloser.
Cast: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt