A Review by Jason L. King
Starring: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover, Oliver Platt, Chiwetel Ejofor
Directed by: Roland Emerich
Rated: PG-13 for intense disaster sequences and some language
Movie Released: 2009
According to the Mayan calendar, December 21, 2012 will be the last day on Earth. For those of you political buffs that’s a little more than a month after Sarah Palin could potentially be elected president. For those who could care less about the political circus, that is means you have only 2 more Christmases to spend with your family. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you the end is near. I haven’t put on my tin foil hat and hit the streets with my homemade cardboard “repent: the end is near” sign just yet. However, a few people out there may think I’m close, after all I do listen to the Glenn Beck radio show on a regular basis. But in the back of my mind, and maybe even yours, there is that inkling of a thought asking you: “What if the Mayans were right?”
Now you know as well as I do, there could be a ton of answers to that question. Maybe the Mayans did know that the end of the world was happening on December 21st, 2012 or maybe they just ran out of paper. After all, if you were a Mayan calendar scribe, wouldn’t you want to pick an ending point so your calendar would be complete? Maybe his son had a baseball game, so he took a day off and just never came back to work. Maybe the calendar scribe caught a nasty cold and then never finished the calendar. We could play the what if game until we are blue in the face. But as a movie buff, knowing that potentially the end of the world is coming in a little under 3 years means I should probably help you focus on watching “good” movies. After all, do you want to be watching The Adventures of Pluto Nash on the day of the apocalypse?
Director Roland Emerich is known for his colossal end of days type entertainment. As the director of Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, and now 2012, Roland has shown us the destruction of mankind and their national monuments for the last decade and a half. Emerich’s films have become known to be based extremely loosely on scientific fact, and focus more on the “what if” rather than the “is that logical?”. 2012 is no different.
After a slow start the film follows a divorced writer (Cusack) and his two kids who stumble upon a government site in Yellowstone (and a cheap plug for “Goodnights” underpants) the film finally gets to the point. During their strange camping adventure, they are told by a crazed, end of days, wilderness AM radio host (Woody Harrelson) that the end of the world is near and the government knows about it. In preparation for the end times, the leaders of the world are creating giant space ships to transport them off earth once the end times begin.
At the same time a young scientist ((Chiwetel Ejofor) -for the record that name is pronounced “chew-it-tell edge-oh-for” or “Chewy” as I like to call him) discovers that the earth’s core is heating up, causing the crust of the earth to break open, continents to shift and giant tidal waves in the oceans. As a government scientist, he wants to warn mankind before it is too late.
As many of you may guess what follows in the destruction of city after city as the crust of the Earth opens up and swallows city after city and tidal waves attack the remaining shore line. Cusack and his family begin narrowly escaping the disaster and continue forth to find the “secret space ships” that will save them as mankind is destroyed.
2012 will be right up your alley if you want to see the CGI destruction of every major city and landmark around the world. Emerich takes great care in making sure to destroy everything he can think of through giant Earth quakes, tidal waves or by simply having it swallowed into the abyss known as the earth’s core. The CG work is spotty at best. You go from scenes that look visually amazing, to scenes that look so incredibly fake that you want to laugh out loud. Visually when it comes to disaster and destruction of mankind, no body quite does it like Roland Emerich. Emerich is sort of the “extreme natural disaster” master. People who see his work know that going in and can easily overlook the lack of any logic and even some corny effects from time to time. Die hard Emerich fans are much like Michael Bay fans, they don’t go in to the film looking for the highest of quality or intellectual thought- they just want to see stuff explode. In the case of 2012, Emerich delivers.
Where 2012 goes awry is the ridiculously long run time of two and a half hours of destruction. The film easily could have been made into a great mini-series but instead they felt the need to drone on for two and a half hours and make it one giant epic theatrical release. Sadly enough, one grows old with the earth swallowing up city after city much faster than Emerich does. To top that off, Emerich tries to build an arching story line with multiple characters, many who could have had less time on screen. We spent too much time dwelling on Chewy’s father who was a jazz musician on a boat and his aged friend, an old man who had been estranged from his son for years. Much like that plot line, there were many smaller parts like this that drug on and on having little to do with advancing the plot. A plot line involving President Danny Glover (yes, I said Danny Glover) droned on past that story line’s high point. As a viewer, you’d be much happier to have a tighter focus on this film rather than jumping around from story to story surrounding the apocalypse.
I’m sure many a self pro-claimed critic will find ways to bash on the film’s ending. Don’t worry folks, I’m not going to spoil anything. All I am going to say is a film like this is very hard to end. If you end with the destruction of the world and every one in it, movie goers leave the theaters feeling quite sad. However, if you let some people survive, you really haven’t created the “end of the world” either. Point is Emerich was doomed from the beginning on this one, and so I think one should be very careful when throwing stones Emerich for his ending on the film.
However, if one was throwing stones at Emerich’s film, one could point out the very spotty acting in this film. Cusack is enjoyable yet seems to phone it in with little new brought to the table. Amanda Peet puts on a forgettable performance as well. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Oliver Platt give a great performance. The two actors work very well together and the film works well when they are together on screen. As I noted before, Danny Glover plays the role of the President. If my memory serves me right, Glover was saying he “was too old for this shit” back in the 90’s. Well, Glover should have listened to himself back then. He doesn’t fit the role of President at all, and delivers an all around terrible performance. However, the silver lining in the cloud known as “Glover’s Presidential Performance” was that his daughter was played by Thandie Newton. It is my belief that years ago someone challenged someone in the world to find the worst actresses of all time. Spanning the globe that man presented the world with Kirsten Dunst and Thandie Newton (it wasn’t until years later, that same person discovered Kristen Stewart, and Katie Sackhoff). Point is, Newton as always is such a terrible actress that she makes every one around her including Glover look like a talented and gifted muse.
When it is all said and done, 2012 had it’s moments. If you are looking for a drawn out, forgettable popcorn flick then the film might be for you. However, if you are going in and looking for substance or quality you may want to run away quickly. I leave you all with this thought: with a supposed only 2 years left on the earth, choose what you watch wisely. There are plenty of films worse than 2012 out there. However, if you pop 2012 into the DVD player just don’t be surprised if you feel like the end of the earth may actually occur before the end credits roll.