Honestly, I was not looking forward to this. These next few weeks are going to be particularly hellish in terms of the movies I have to see. Before I get to experience Avatar, I have to contend with a slew of stinkers, including New Moon, Old Dogs, and Armored. But, to start off, I saw movie that, while terrible, is so fun that anything less then a recommendation would be cruelty. 2012, the latest tryst by Roland Emmerich in his fetish for destroying the Earth, is loud, obnoxious, poorly written, badly acted, and certifiably nuts. But, I don't care! This movie is so ridiculous, so over the top, so bat-shit insane that it puts all other disaster movies, past, present, and future, to shame! Don't say I didn't warn you; you may never want to see another disaster movie again.
So, it's the year 2012, and this movie is going under the assumption that the Mayans were correct in their prediction of the end of days instead of the bumbling idiots that they really were. The sun, and bear with me here; this is a little ridiculous, is emitting an exorbitant of neutrinos, which are, in turn, rapidly melting the core of the earth. This causes the plates to start to violently shift, causing all kinds of fun devastation and death! Los Angeles sinks into the Pacific Ocean, a tidal wave utilizes the John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier to bitch slap the White House, and Yellowstone National Park explodes! Contending with all this chaos is Jackson Curtis, a failed writer turned limo driver, who reads the signs, rents a plane, and attempts to get his estranged family to China, where the world's governments are secretly building massive ships to preserve civilization. Very Noah's Ark. The story, penned by director Roland Emmerich, is the exact same thing we've come to expect from him. Ruined relationships are healed amid the end of the world. We saw an ex husband and wife reconcile amid an alien invasion in Independence Day, old flames reconnect whilst a giant lizard rampages around New York in Godzilla, and a father and son forge a greater relationship during the onset of a new ice age in The Day After Tomorrow. Mr. Emmerich is a one trick pony in every sense of the term, but, his movies make tons of money. Go with what works, I guess.
It always boggles my mind, but how does Emmerich always get such talented actors in his movies. Everyone knows what a schlock meister he is, so why do big name stars always work with him. Here, we get John Cusack, doing a fairly decent job as the horribly unlucky and unrealistically brave Jackson, Amanda Peet, looking unhealthily thin as his estranged wife, Chiwetel Ejiofor as the President's chief science officer who discovers the whole mess, Oliver Platt as a world class douchebag of a Chief of Staff, Danny Glover as the President who gets crushed by an aircraft carrier (sorry to give that away), and an under utilized Thandie Newton as his daughter. Emmerich usually gets marginally good performances out of his actors, and 2012 is no exception. They pale in comparison to other performances by more gifted artists, but, for the quality of the material they have to work with, it's not terrible. Cusack especially stands out as a shining spot. His comic time, and chemistry with the actors playing his children is great, and put to great use amid all this mayhem. It is a little ridiculous how he turns into Jason Bourne in a tux throughout most of this film, but he keeps a straight face, and manages to keep us interested.
So, let's move on to the real player here, Mr. Emmerich. I'll be honest. I've been a bit unfair to him over the years. Sure his movies suffer from underdeveloped characters, dumb plots, and present science as iffy as four month old orange juice. But, they are fun! Really fun! Come on! You can't tell me you didn't crack at least one smile when Will Smith owned an entire alien civilization. That was friggin' awesome! 2012 is in the same category as his other movies. It's a fucking great ride! Emmerich even changes things up a little bit, and doesn't destroy New York. Well, he does, but we don't see it. He instead acts a bit more tasteful with his destruction, as when we see Hawaii melt thanks to a massive eruption of all the volcanoes in the area. We only a see airborne shot. He doesn't get close, leaving us to imagine what's happening, which makes it a lot more foreboding. Indeed, many parts of this movie are much darker then what we've come to expect from him, as when a man talks to his granddaughter on the phone and is an audible witness to her demise. It's those little things that hint at a maturation of the director, though that isn't likely. Also, the special effects are spectacular.
There are a slew problems, however. There always are. First off, the pacing. It takes a good 45 minutes to get to the disaster porn, and then it's a non stop roller coaster of destruction and death for a good hour and ten. Then, the movie just falls flat, opting for a Poseidon Adventure retread for a finale. The ending is so anticlimatic, I wanted to scream! Also, Emmerich's love of destroying monuments hamstrings him a little. There's a scene at the Vatican, where thousands of people are praying. Emmerich could have just shown this scene, and then moved on to the rest of the story, but oh no, he has to bring all of St. Peter's Basilica down on the worshippers. It's completely unnecessary and projects an unwelcome grim feeling on the audience. And, finally, the biggest problem with this movie is the tone. There are countless scenes where we are witness to terrible things happening. I think this the first Roland Emmerich film that is ok with showing the deaths of children. We see many little kids get crushed by falling debris, fall into bottomless pits, or get engulfed by massive tsunami's. Throughout most of the movie, the tone is pretty grim. And then there's the ending, which is all happy and shit. The ending sees the main characters looking out onto the new world, bathed in sunlight and happy. They just completely forget about the 5.9 billion other people that just died! Emmerich's other movies have suffered from this same problem. The man just doesn't learn!
But, when it comes down to it, 2012 is not trying to send a message or anything like that. It's just a popcorn movie, and a good one at that. It is the mother of all disaster films. It's pretty terrible on a subjective level, but, God Damn, is it fun! B