2012 (2009)

13 Feb


Smith’s Verdict: **1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

John Cusack plays Jackson Curtis, a talented but struggling author of adventure novels who is divorced from his wife Kate (Amanda Peet). Kate has a new boyfriend (Tom McCarthy)—a nice guy who loves their two small children (Liam James and Morgan Lily) as much as Jackson, who spends very little time with them. Now something is destined to bring this broken family together and Roland Emmerich doesn’t disappoint with a simple solution. What is the solution? Well, seeing as how it’s a Roland Emmerich movie, you know it has something to do with massive destruction. But here’s something that makes it even harder—it’s the whole planet that’s now a hazard! We’re talking violent earthquakes, monster tsunamis, and a massive volcanic eruption that destroys all the major cities in the world like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C. We also get annihilation on Mount Everest, in which everyone must be protected from the grandmother of all tsunamis.

Wow! What a trip! Roland Emmerich and his co-writer Dean Devlin have done it again—they destroyed a lot of popular landmarks and killed dozens of people. Only this time in the movie “2012,” they’ve really gone too far—they’ve turned the whole world into the Poseidon ship from “The Poseidon Adventure.” This makes their earlier end-of-the-world movie “The Day After Tomorrow” look simple. This movie, “The Day after Tomorrow,” and “The Poseidon Adventure” are all disaster movies in which something hazardous occurs and a colorful group of people must set aside their differences in order to survive together.

But is “2012” as good as those other two disaster movies? I’m afraid, not quite. There is hardly a sense of quality character development (then again, there is hardly any quality in this movie), there are many scientific inaccuracies that would have been OK if it didn’t seem too silly, and the movie runs for almost 2 hours and 40 minutes which seems way longer, even through what the characters have to go through in the final half. But there are things I found pleasurable about “2012.” One is, even though these characters aren’t particularly well-developed, I still get an adrenaline rush watching them survive one disaster after another, barely escaping death about…2,012 times! I’ve always liked John Cusack, who is one of the most reliable actors not to get to an Oscar nomination yet, and he makes his writer character likable enough for us to root for him. The best performance in the movie goes to Chiwetel Ejiofor, who carries the movie’s major subplot. You see, while Cusack is racing to keep his family safe as the world collapses around them, Ejiofor is a geologist who really knows what’s going on and constantly argues with his superior (Oliver Platt), telling him that they need to save as many people as possible. But Platt is telling him that there’s no time and that they need to save the people they reserved for seats in secret arks (don’t ask) and not to worry about the other people. So while Cusack races to save his family, Ejiofor races to save what’s left of humanity and that’s kind of interesting to me. Plus, Chiwetel Ejiofor is an actor who has one of those voices that you can’t help but listen to in times of warning and trouble.

There are some pretty nifty disaster scenes, including the destruction of Los Angeles. These special effects are definitely top-notch. The adventure is set in motion when Jackson grows suspicious after what he had heard from wacky radio operator Woody Harrelson (a hoot), who warns Jackson of the coming apocalypse and shows him a video he made indicating when it would happen (reminds me of the video in “Jurassic Park”). So when Jackson returns home in a stretch limo, he picks up his wife, her new boyfriend, and the kids and they drive away right when the monstrous earthquakes (excuse the pun) shake everything up. To me, it’s fun when you’re driving away from something and there’s someone shouting, “Car! Tree! Donut!” (The big plaster donut rolls along the streets of LA.) There are also attempts at black humor, such as when the big Randy’s Donuts plaster donut comes sliding down the street and when the boyfriend says to take the freeway, there’s an instant cut to the freeway being destroyed as well. Now, it’s impossible to outrun falling buildings and earthquakes in a stretch limo, but I have to admit I didn’t care. All I kept thinking was, “GO GO GO!!!”

There are many more disasters these characters must face. Will they survive all of them? Well, let me say this. This is another Roland Emmerich disaster movie that makes you feel good at the end. Billions of people may have died, but as the feel-good music is heard, you feel a sense of redemption and relief. But there is a sense of creeping past billions of people who are definitely not going to make it out alive while you’re rooting for the main characters (including kids and a little dog) to survive. While I can’t recommend “2012,” I do have some affection for it. This is kind of a black joke at prophecy and disaster movies themselves and at that level, I guess I enjoyed it. But as a whole, the movie tries too hard and gets too silly that it’s almost tiresome.

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