|Directed by:||Roland Emmerich|
|Written by:||Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser|
|Cast:||John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt|
Roland Emmerich has amassed himself a divided fanbase of movie-goers, primarily regarding his "disaster films" that deal with global destruction and the people of the world (be it man & woman, rich & poor, young & old, black & white) to band together to save the future of humankind. 1996's INDEPENDENCE DAY achieved lots of strong imagery that I'm sure seems more humbling in our post 9/11 society. 1998's GODZILLA may not have been high art but it sure was a lot of fun. And 2004's THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW actually moved me with its characters struggling with a modern-day ice age scenario. Now, Emmerich has made what I can only assume is the be-all-end-all of disaster flicks with "2012". Sadly, I wish I could have been as engaged as I was from Emmerich's previous epics, but it just wasn't the case here.
This time, the core of the Earth is overheating. A government scientist (Chiwetel Ejiofor), working in concert with a colleague in India (Jimi Mistry), calculates that soon the Earth's crust will destabilize. Entire continents will disappear, and other landmasses will migrate thousands of miles in the course of a day. This means the guaranteed death of billions and billions of people (and animals) and the end of the world as we know it.
First off, the cast (while they do their best to convey strength with what little material they're given) fail to make their characters stand-out amongst the billions of individuals that walk this earth and could've made for an intriguing character arc or two. John Cusack (in CON AIR necrotic action-hero mode) plays a divorced father of 2 kids, whose wife (Cusack's MARTIAN CHILD co-star Amanda Peet) has shacked up with a new doctor beau (actor/director Tom McCarthy). Their dynamic before and after the on-screen destruction begins to unfold is as paint-by-numbers as one can be. Gotta give strong credit though to the two young actors (Liam James & Morgan Lily) who played the kids for not making them come off a annoying (always a challenge in movies like this) and actually play a significant part in the story's action.
Woody Harrelson makes the most of his entertaining bit as a conspiracy-theory-loving radio host who Cusack meets shortly before the shit hits the fan. And Ejiofer (SERENITY, CHILDREN OF MEN) gives the movie the most regarding heart & soul as the man who wants to save as many people from the apocalypse as possible.
Disaster films pride themselves as being ensemble films and it usually makes the drama much more cinematic. Unfortunately, "2012" suffered from having too many characters with very little material to warrant proper dramatic heft (once again, no fault to the actors themselves). Storylines that should have been removed include a naive Russian family, and an elderly cruise ship jazz-singing duo (the great George Segal & Blu Mankuma) the latter of which offered a couple of tender moments that belonged in a better movie. Oliver Platt serves as the political antagonist of sorts who spends most of his time shouting at Ejiofer in front of high-tech equipment. Even Danny Glover & Thandie Newton weren't able to overcome the faux-hearted dialogue in their respective roles of President of the U.S. and First Daughter.
But I'm sure what really matters to movie-goers in the end is whether or not the effects are worth the price of admission. On that note, I give an unequivocal "hell-to-the-yes". In fact, the bigger the screen you see this movie on the better. I had the fortune of checking this out on Iowa City's largest movie screen and I was genuinely open-mouthed with overwhelming sensations as the city of Los Angeles came crumbling down in pornographic glory. The money shot bit that almost made me creme in my pants was the sequence where Yellowstone National Park suddenly becomes the world's largest volcano and erupts with the force of a nuclear bomb. Truly outstanding.
I'm not sure how to end this review. Seeing the end of the world is not an easy thing to experience. Emmerich sure made the end of the world LOOK truly awe-striking but he failed quite miserably at conveying the tragedy and pathos that such a thing would really have on society (even in the fictional movie world). If you decided to see "2012", see it on a big-ass screen, you just might enjoy it more that way.