You all knew this was coming. We are at the end of the first month of the year when all of this is about to take place, so I figured I should give Roland Emmerich‘s 2012 a review. A negative one!
Emmerich promised his final disaster film to be the craziest and most destructive one yet and indeed, 2012 is a grand spectacle in terms of special effects and action scenes but sadly its unecessary length makes the action scenes redundant, especially since the film lacks any especially interesting characters and a plot with some semblance of sense. Don’t get me started on the scientific accuracy.
Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Adrian Helmsley, the scientist who figures it all out in 2009. Solar flares are doing something peculiar to the Earth’s core or something, which means that the end of the world is near. He alerts the President’s Chief of Staff Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), who takes it to the President, who for some reason is played by Danny Glover. I guess they couldn’t get Morgan Freeman. The governments of the world come together to arrange an evacuation which will take place in 2012, just as the apocalypse is about to arrive.
After a long opening showing all this, we meet our protagonist, a failed writer named Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), who is also the chauffeur of wealthy Russian man Yuri Karpov (Zlatko Burić) and is taking his two children camping in Yellowstone. Here they encounter a lonely, crazy conspiracy theoirst named Charlie (Woody Harrelson), who knows of the government’s ships, constructed to evacuate Earth in time. Jackson is skeptical, but his ex-wife Kate (Amanda Peet), now married to the obviously expendable Gordon Silberman (Thomas McCarthy), asks him to return home with the kids when Los Angeles begins to fall apart. The conspiracy theorist was right! “Again”!
Eventually it happens – the end of the world. As all of California begins to crumble and sink into the ocean, Jackson has to take his kids, his wife and her new husband for some reason into his limo – yes, his limo – and drive them through Los Angeles and then take off in a small airplane just as the ground crumbles below them. They go to Yellowstone, find out where the evacuation ships are and take off in an airplane just as the ground crumbles below them. In Las Vegas, they come across Karpov and his family and their dog – which has to survive the disaster, naturally, so that PETA won’t get mad – and take off in their private airliner just as the ground crumbles below them. I dare not tell you what they discover about the ships, but did I mention the son is named Noah?
The supporting, mostly pointless cast consists of Thandie Newton as the President’s daughter, Blu Mankuma as Adrian’s father Harry Helmsley, George Segal as Harry’s musical partner Tony, John Billingsley as a painfully obvious fake Brit, Ryan McDonald as a colleague of Adrian, Johann Urb as Karpov’s pilot, Beatrice Rosen as Karpov’s girlfriend Tamara, Chin Han as a Tibetan worker who smuggles his family onto the ships, Morgan Lily and Liam James as the kids, Stephen McHattie as the captain of the ships and Jimi Mistry as Adrian’s Indian colleague Dr. Satnam. Have I left anyone out?
Because this is a huge disaster movie with many pointless and uninteresting side characters with equally pointless subplots, many of them must be killed off. This gets really unsettling towards the climax in Tibet, where many supporting characters die disturbingly callous deaths only for the main characters to shrug it off like it didn’t even happen, no matter their relationship with the deceased character. I guess that doesn’t matter as long as the dog lives, right?
My biggest problem with the film is that it tries to do two things at once. It tries to be 1) a dramatic and heart-wrenching tale of the end of all things, and 2) a goofy and intense action film along the veins of Independence Day, also directed by Emmerich, which I must admit I liked. Despite that, I would’ve much preferred to see a straightforward drama with greatly tear-jerking moments that omits characters like Charlie, who seems to be the only one to understand what a stupid film he’s been put in.
The other characters seem under the impression that this film can be taken seriously. You can’t put a somber image of a family embracing each other, awaiting their demise, in the same film as an image of a tightrope-walking dog. Yes, I’m still annoyed that Tamara’s dog didn’t bite the dust.
In the film 2012, a man can outrun an ash cloud, a man can drive like a NASCAR driver in a limousine, people can witness multiple deaths and only cry over them for a few minutes if not less, cell phones and the government’s equipment can still work even if all means of communication stop working amidst the apocalypse, solar flares can make the core boil but not oceans, a plastic surgeon can learn to fly just as easily as Tintin, the Mayan people can predict an apocalypse but not their own extinction and a dog is considered less expendable than a human. At least I can take comfort in the fact that the world that’s getting demolished in this film can’t possibly be this world.
Pointing out each and every plothole, stupid moment and inconsistency in 2012 would take too much time and my review would be abnormally long, so let’s be honest and acknowlege the good stuff. The special effects are insanely great and real-looking and they make the action scenes cool before they get tediously repetitive. I also enjoyed the cruise ship story with Harry and Tony, even if that was the most useless one in the film. There is a charming call back to The Poseidon Adventure there. You can guess what happens. Other than that, 2012 is confused, stupid, redundant and far too long.
Obviously, I don’t think the world is going to end this year (at least not figuratively) but if it does, I’ll let John Cusack drive.