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Admitably, there’s something innately satisfying about watching the hypothetical demise of the entire planet by means of natural disaster/earth crust displacement. There might even be something profound science fiction-wise lurking about in the concept of the Mayan apocalypse and the end of the world as we know it. For better or worse, 2012 is a little more interested in humanity’s gross interest in its own near-extinction aka stuff crumbles.
Who better to envision such a disaster than The Day After Tomorrow director Roland Emmerich, also the thrills genius behind Independence Day, a fact that gets mentioned in every trailer for his subsequent movies as if no film has come close to the “gold standard” set forth by that 15-year-old antiquated alien invasion movie adored because of an infamous movie speech.
To his credit though, Emmerich doesn’t make boring movies. 2012 is long, but it’s not all that dull. It just takes about a half hour for hell to break loose — literally, if hell is indeed underground, it tears it loose in California.
Before the offensively unrealistic escape scenes though, we get our set up that an Indian scientist has confirmed that the Mayan apocalypse will indeed happen on 12-21-12 and it leads to an operation organized by world leaders to build massive refuge boats. It’s kept entirely secret, however, to avoid unnecessary mass hysteria. Reasonable considering almost the entire world population is going to be wiped out anyway.
To relate to this disaster through people we get Jackson Curtis (Cusack) who is divorced but trying to mend his relationship with his kids when disaster strikes. On a trip to Yellowstone with the kids, he meets Woody Harrelson who has been following the conspiracy and possesses maps to the ships, a helpful tidbit when all of LA starts to go underwater. Fortunately, his ex’s (Peet) boyfriend has taken flying lessons and they manage to procure the maps and escape certain death when Yellowstone becomes the world’s biggest erupting volcano.
If there had been any attempt by Emmerich to make the escape realistic, it might have saved his movie for me, but it’s too implausible to ignore. Once they get out of the United States and time marches on it becomes less of a sore spot, but it certain cuts into one’s enjoyment of the film. I like to be entertained on a base level, but I don’t like to be insulted in my make- believe either.
The visual effects are strong and certainly watching things just disintegrate is among the most enjoyable aspects of the movie. Then there’s also that little thrill you get from disaster flicks when people who suck die painful deaths. Emmerich is certainly all about killing off characters that violate his moral principles; this script does hit on the idea of our world leaders being selfish and thinking they would be the most vital to start the human race over again, but other than one impassioned speech, ignores themes in general.
In this trend of apocalypse movies, there is certainly a chance for a film to come along and provide that sick thrill of seeing destruction yet also raise some important questions about human nature. 2012 is not that film, but it does highlight the possibility for that film.
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Written by Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser
Starring: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet
Other Player Affinity Reviews:
Chris thought: “My personal all-time favorite actor John Cusack fails me on this one. It’s three hours of stuff blowing up and Cusack showing mild emotion while running through pre-determined disaster areas. Now don’t get me wrong, I love disaster movies. Hell, I even enjoyed The Core. But other than the special effects, this movie fails. We love how it started out with Apocolpyse HO, but then quickly 360s into some science that makes no sense. It’s so far-fetched that NASA has created a website to dispel rumors and/or theories that are presented in 2012. Save yourself a couple of bucks and rent any other disaster movie out there including other Roland Emmerich films such as The Day After Tomorrow. Rating: 6/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 5.5/10