Movie Review: 2012
Roland Emmerich has it in for humanity. Practically making a career out of REM’s “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It,” Emmerich sent us alien invaders in “Independence Day,” resurrected Tokyo’s infamous radiation breathing lizard “Godzilla,” and brought forth the next Ice Age in “The Day After Tomorrow.” Opening this weekend is his newest threat to life as we know it, “2012.”
Based on the notion of global doomsday coinciding with the Mayan Long Count Calendar, “2012” appears to be the final “check-your-brain-at-the-door” movie of the year. With this movie, you might as well throw away logic, reason, any desire to care about the film’s characters, and keep your willingness to suspend every ounce of disbelief that you have. Let’s face it, if you walk into a theater looking for any of the aforementioned–sans suspension of disbelief–you came to the wrong movie, and shame on you.
For those of us who wanted to see chaos, mass hysteria, people in perilous situations that would make Irwin Allen envious, we got our money’s worth. Oh yeah, things blow up real good, too.
Government geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejoifor) discovers that solar flares have showered the planet with particles known as neutrinos, causing the earth’s core to heat up. The earth’s crust will melt, huge continental plates will shift, earthquakes, tsunamis, and everything bad that can possibly happen to us, will. This discovery has caused the world’s leaders to plan ahead, building a series of arks in the Himalayan Mountains. The plan? Save as many different types of animals as well as “genetically perfect humans” (just trust me on that one) in order to rebuild mankind. If you’ve seen “Deep Impact,” you’ve seen that aspect before. . . minus the gene pool folks. The problem is that the earth’s core is heating up much faster than expected, leading a rush on the construction of those arks.
What would a disaster movie be without that cardboard character that you want to care about, at least a little. Enter author Jackson Curtis (John Cusack). He’s the guy who ruined his marriage by being too self centered for his own good, still loves his ex, and is on a weekend getaway at Yellowstone National Park with his kids. Curtis, seeing that the lake he used to swim in has dried up, has a run-in with Adrian Helmsley (again, just go with it) as well as the park lunatic/conspiracy theorist Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson). It’s through Frost that he learns of the impending doom and rushes back to save his Ex along, with her new husband. If that’s not devotion . . .
Emmerich has never been one to let plot override a good special effect, and that’s the main star of this movie. With fetish like glee, Emmerich proceeds to do what he’s always done best: take as many recognizable national and international landmarks and pulverize them to kingdom come. Yellowstone National Park? You’ve just turned into a one massive, raging volcano. The Sistine Chapel, you’re toast. The Capitol Building? He’ll just send the USS John F. Kennedy on a tidal wave to take it out and have it look like the Hindenburg crash in the process (and destroy the Washington Monument while they’re at it). The Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil? History. Los Angeles? What happens to L.A. in “2012” is on the most indescribable, grandest, most epic scale imaginable. It’s a stunning, jaw dropping, “just when you thought you’ve seen it all” sequence that has to be seen to be believed. That stretch of film alone would be worth the price of going back. Every time the movie started to feel self indulgent by trying to flesh out characters that we’ll never care about anyway, and at 158 minutes there were more than enough opportunities for boring exposition, yet another disaster or harrowing situation would be thrown into the mix. Eye rolling will be required but remember, with movies like this, that’s assumed.
“2012” will never be recognized as a great film. It should win for Best Special Effects, probably the only category Roland Emmerich’s movies ever wind up being nominated in.
If you’re looking for deep plot and character development, pull out your DVD of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” If it’s a big, dumb, Hollywood spectacle that numbs your senses for two and a half hours that appeals to you, there’s no going wrong with “2012.”