Let's be honest. As soon as everyone saw the first trailer for 2012, we knew exactly how the movie was going to play out. A big budget Hollywood disaster film with oodles of special effects, near death escapes, moments of touching human drama, a cast that would represent the diversity of our cultures and how they would all somehow come together in moments of dire need. There would be death, but never too gruesome since it's almost all CG. There would be questionable science.
I am here to say, yes, we were right.
We've already seen this movie. A hundred times. Deep Impact. War of the Worlds (the Tom Cruise remake). The Day After Tomorrow. Independence Day. Yes, this is the same film, only starring John Cusack and an ensemble of other known actors in various predictable roles. Danny Glover is the President of the USA. Amanda Peet playing every mother who has divorced the main character in every film ever. Oliver Platt as the White House hardass who has to make the big decisions, which of course casts him in the light of the Great White Villain of this film (even though not a single decision he made was unreasonable...). Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton as the bright young romantic interests. Perhaps the best character in the film is Woody Harrelson, playing a hippie conspiracy theorist radio DJ who gets the best scene in the entire movie. As for the rest? I could not have cared less. Oh, actually I like John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox, etc) in this film too. He's typecast as another scientist, but it's always good to see the man making some pay. Isn't it time we just gave him a film of his own? At any rate, these actors are just the tip of the iceberg. Stephen McHattie, Patrick Bauchau, George Segal and a slew of others appear in smaller roles.
You already know the story to 2012 because you've seen it before. If not, well, take this as your spoiler warning. A remote scientist discovers a strange, terrifying change in our universe? Check. An Indian copper miner has discovered that a large solar flare creates a neutrino storm that can microwave the Earth's core. Next, to convince THE MAN about the problem! Check. One of our protagonists (Ejiofor) is called in and then has to make his awkward report at the middle of a social gathering to the President's Environmental aid (Platt). Will a 'Noah's Ark' plan be enacted to save the rich that can afford passage once the shit goes down and the world blows up? Check. The arks are impressive here, giant armored ships that can take a beating while the Earth settles down. Because, sure, everything is alright in the end, if you've got a Billion Euros. Those evil whites and Chinese are once again flexing their economic muscles, even towards a world WHERE MONEY WILL NO LONGER HAVE VALUE BECAUSE EVERYONE IS DEAD. Though, grudgingly, as Platt's character admits, the Arks could not have been built without the money. So we'll leave this as a neutral point... Hell, in this film, Cusack's eye-rolling, emo boi is even named Noah! Thank you Captain Obvious!
Through the usual cliche string of coincidences, almost all the characters are connected here in some way. Characters you see in brief scenes at the beginning of the film will play important roles later. Cusack's Jackson Curtis happens to be a failed writer who Dr. Helmsley (Ejiofor) has read in the past, and takes his kids out to stumble across research conducted at Yellowstone by the government after a lake there has dried up. Then the troubles begin, and the film becomes a series of hair-raising escape scenes as Curtis and his family first flee the destruction of California in a limousine, then the destruction of California in a small aircraft...and then, hooking up with rich Russian Yuri Karpov (to whom Curtis was a chauffeur, for his pudgy twin sons, another coincidence), they manage to escape once more in a larger aircraft, in a stretch of film redundancy I hadn't witnessed since the underwater sequence in The Phantom Menace. You know all this from the trailers already, and I won't spoil anything else.
Because who cares about the fucking story? Or the drama? What we want to see in this film is DEATH and DESTRUCTION. And though a lot of people die (probably 99% of the world's population), we see very little of it, aside from CG ragdolls being knocked into chasms in the Earth or implied death from flooding as characters watch the waves come (which has zero impact, since we've seen it already many times). The destruction can be impressive, the CG artists certainly spent long hours on this film and the scene of California getting it, though nothing new, is a wonder that brought tears to my eyes and popcorn into my stomach. No offense, Californians, but everything is your fault. So if your state gets destroyed here or there...well, it gives me a little joy. I am more or less kidding. Anyway, we do see some peripheral destruction (Italy, India, Hawaii) but not nearly what I was hoping for. Perhaps the most beautiful scene in the film is where Harrelson stands atop a ridge in Yellowstone as it blows up, though here the science comes into question, since Yellowstone's supervolcano erupting would probably coat most of the atmosphere in ash and prevent the rest of the movie from appearing as it does...
But alas, noone expects a science lesson from an idiot like myself, nor for a Hollywood blockbuster. This is Roland Emmerich, who himself gave us The Day After Tomorrow, 10K BC, Universal Soldier and the mostly awful Godzilla remake. He has only one good movie to his credit, Stargate, and a lot of people even hate that one. So what did we expect? Not much. And this is what we got. Nearly 2 1/2 hours of nothing except cliches, far too staged touching moments of family and bonding, all wrapped up in CG destruction. About the only positives I can grant the movie are that it's long length is not really a flaw...the film moves along at a good pace and the dramatic, predictable flourishes are kept brief. Also that the effects crew did some nice detailing, there are some scenes where skyscrapers are falling and you can see so many objects inside them, it must have taken some time to sculpt. As for the acting? Well, Harrelson is fun, and it's good to see a few genre greats (Billingsley, McHattie, etc), but the rest are really just here for a paycheck. I hope it was worth it, Mayans.
Verdict: Fail [4/10] (Camping sucks! And so does this movie!)
Who will survive? Let me guess, the principle actors in the film and the beautiful women of their lives and their beautiful children and fuck everyone else!