2012 Review

Posted on December 3, 2009 by


Someone fetch the spirit level!


Godzilla. Independence Day. The Day after Tomorrow. Roland Emmerich really likes destroying the world. And now comes his latest offering, 2012. Wherein nothing original happens, but there are a lot of explosions, and John Cusack.

2012 is your average disaster movie fare. There’s roughly half an hour where characters discover that, essentially, bad things are about to go down in no uncertain fashion, and start discussing what the hell they’re going to do about it.

The premise is this- A long time ago in a continent far, far aw- wait, no that’s star wars. Anyway. The Mayans- you remember them, right? Like the Aztecs but less violent. -Plotted out a calendar that suggested the world would come to an end on the 21st of December, 2012; (It is of course entirely possible that they just got as far as three thousand years into their future and decided that they wouldn’t need to come up with any more calendar for a while) due to made-up science about the planets lining up making the sun go berserk and flare up like a spoon in a microwave.

This excites particles in the Earths core, and makes it all unstable. We’re treated to a few little earthquakes early on, and a lot of scenes of serious looking men (Americans, obviously) deciding that something must be done. Because naturally the rest of the world can’t look after itself for ten minutes with some sort of US intervention.

Of interesting note is the President- played by a black man. Now, it may just be me, but is the disaster movies where things end badly, there’s always a black man in charge of the White house. We all remember Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact. It could just be a (not so) sly reference to Barack Obama’s election. Dude gets elected, world ends. If the world does end in 2012, Obama will be in charge…

So the story follows two central characters. A government geologist (hollywood seems determined to make geology sexy) and a (sort of) failed writer and divorcee, played by John Cusack.

The geologist is aware that the world will be coming to end as far back as 2009, and does his best to get the President to plan for this eventuality. The President then gets together with the G8 leaders and comes up with a master plan- build half a dozen really big boats called, guess what? Arks, on which to ride out the destruction. They start loading precious artworks onto them, animals, and try to come up with a genetically broad group of several hundred thousand people who will be responsible for re-populating the species post-apocalypse. Although of course, people being people, the worlds richest buy themselves onboard for €1 billion. This provides the financial backbone needed for something as preposterously silly as re-enacting scenes from the bible.

Cusack meanwhile, takes his kids camping at Yellowstone national park. Yes, the one with the enormous supervolcano sitting just underneath it. There’s he meets the geologist, who is doing more research on the end of the world, and an -apparently- crazy hippie played by Woody Harrelson, who has worked out what’s to come and is trying to spread the word on his blog and radio show. (Harrelson is one of the few actors in the movie who isn’t as wooden as heather mill’s spare leg, and is one of the most memorable and entertaining characters in the entire film) Cusack starts to believe too, after noticing that his boss, a Russian Billionaire, is making a hasty retreat to somewhere with ‘big ships’. He decides that he doesn’t want to die, gets his family, and they escape California just before the entire state apparently drops into the ocean, making their final CGI-gorged bid for safety on a plane, presumably to show off all the destruction from a better angle.

To say that this film is CG-heavy would be a terrific understatement along the lines of suggesting that Hitler was a bit of a tit. The CGI is very, very good. But there’s so damn much of it that no matter how amazing it is, it all starts looking fake. Which could also be said of Cusack himself. He’s known for having a relaxed air about him, but in the scenes where he isn’t obligatorily screaming, he has all the dissonant serenity of Keanu Reeves on morphine.

2012 isn’t a bad movie. It isn’t a good movie. It’s a cliche monsoon. They come thick and fast and are consistently played totally, shamelessly, straight. This movie is so full of half-assed writing that I saw every ‘twist’ coming like a giant pink rhinoceros charging down the high street. It didn’t do a single inventive, original thing. It wasn’t even very bloody.

It needed to bloody. It needed so badly to be visceral and gory. That would have made it good. People are dying left right and centre, and you see some stuff like people getting crushed by flying cars and falling out of buildings, buts it’s always in the distance and they’re tiny. When there’s lava rolling down the streets, I expect people to burst into flames from the convection and melt. I expect to see limbs flying and blood everywhere. I honestly do not recall, at any point, any actual blood in the entire film. A film where billions die one way or another. It was disappointing. If your going to end the world, end it with an 18 rating and don’t give everybody a disney death.

One final thing; Monuments. Emmerich must have a serious hate for monuments going on, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many destroyed in such quick succession. In most disaster movies you usually see one or two things get destroyed, with the target of choice usually being the statue of Liberty or the White house. Lady liberty surprisingly doesn’t make a showing, but the statue of Jesus in Rio does. The Vegas strip gets torn up. An aircraft carrier (which by 2012 will have actually been decommissioned and dismantled) lands on the white house -with a little help from a preposterously high tidal wave. And Yellowstone park explodes. Spectacularly. I don’t think you can call any of this spoilerific, because the entire damn planet goes to hell. It’s sort of the point.

This is the worst part- it was too long. I found myself looking at my watch and thinking ‘I’m actually kinda bored of this now’, and when the entire gods damned planet is going kablooie I do not expect to be bored. They could have trimmed a good hour by getting rid of superfluous character segments and just having stuff blow up. I wont say ‘don’t see it’, because the sheer badness of it actually makes it quite funny, and the destruction is very fun to watch. If you do see it, save yourself the cost of a DVD and catch it at a matinee at the flicks because it does at least deserve to be seen on the big screen.

And that cruise ship should have been fine. You just don’t get tidal waves like that in open ocean. You just don’t.

Posted in: Movies