I think it’s only fair that I preface this review by saying that I absolutely love disaster movies. Bruce Willis versus an asteroid the size of Texas in "Armageddon?" I’m there. Jake Gyllenhaal battling wolves in frozen New York in "The Day After Tomorrow?" Save me a ticket. Kurt Russell fighting to get out of an upside-down cruise ship in "Poseidon?" Oh hells yeah.

So I came into "2012" with rather high expectations, and for the most part, if you want a disaster movie, it delivers, cliches and all. At nearly 150 minutes, the movie is a bit overstuffed, but the pacing is solid throughout and never boring. And Emmerich lovingly covers every imaginable disaster movie clich©. From the cute and precocious kids to the dog with a better survival instinct than most humans, to the tearful goodbyes between survivors and their doomed family members- all the predictable beats are hit.

“2012” is delightfully preposterous. A mash-up of pretty much every disaster movie ever made, the movie depicts worldwide destruction on an impressively massive scale. Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and clouds of ash combine to not only destroy the world, but to kick it in the face while it’s down for good measure.

Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Starring: John Cusack, Chitewel Ejiofor, Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton
Runtime: 148 minutes
Rated: PG13

Roland Emmerich brings a destructive glee to the proceedings, depicting the end of the world with real ©lan. Emmerich, having already destroyed the world twice in "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow" knows how to handle his set pieces and puts his reported $200 million dollar budget to good use. He constructed scenes depicting entire cities crumbling in 10.5 earthquakes and being washed away by 100-foot tidal waves that are stunning in their scope. Unfortunately, a fairly cheesy script hampers the film and detracts from the visual delights.

When US Geologist Adrian Hemsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) discovers there is something screwy going on with the Earth’s crust that is going to have cataclysmic consequences for the planet’s surface, the US President (Danny Glover) and the rest of the world’s leaders decide to keep Earth’s impending doom a secret from the majority of the planet. Instead they offer safety to the select few with a bank account big enough to bankroll hastily-built arks in China- even salvation is getting outsourced these days.

While the idea of a massive worldwide conspiracy to cover up the world’s end is intriguing, it is handled rather ham-fistedly. At one point, a possible whistleblower threatening to expose the conspiracy is killed in a car crash in the same tunnel where Princess Diana died. A detail meant to give the death gravitas and shock value, got a laugh instead at my screening.

Fortunately some inspired casting enables the movie to roll past most of its narrative rough spots.

The conspiracy storyline may be a dud, but Chiwetel Ejiofor is not. Ejiofor- in the year’s most earnest performance, and I mean that as a compliment- makes Hemsley’s decency feel like a genuine trait and not a result of simplistic screenwriting. Oliver Platt does just the right amount of scene chewing as presidential advisor Carl Anheuser, who battles Hemsley’s more noble instincts. You know Anheuser’s a jerk because he doesn’t let his ex-wife or his senile mother know the world is ending.

John Cusack puts in a solid everyman turn as Jackson Curtis. Curtis’ quest to prove himself to his children and ex-wife is the emotional core of the movie. Cusack brings a just the right amount of quirkiness to the part and emerges as a surprisingly adept action lead.

During the family’s mad drive through a Los Angeles that is slowly crumbling into the Pacific Ocean, Curtis proves himself to be the world’s greatest limo driver- dodging falling buildings, tumbling billboards and collapsing freeways. The scene is genuinely thrilling and the film’s most exciting.

"2012" is not high art, but it is a lot of fun. Emmerich’s genuine affection for the material, and solid acting by an interesting cast helps keep things moving and delivers some solid popcorn-ready entertainment.

“2012” is now in theaters.

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2 Responses

  1. RFWoodstock

    There is hype and truth about 2012 even some doom and gloom. At Woodstock Universe we believe 2012 is the beginning not the end. What we envision now post-2012 to be, is what will manifest.

    We will giveaway a Woodstock Universe Prize Package to the best member blog on “What will happen in 2012?”

    Prize package includes Woodstock Universe T-shirt and magnet, WDST decal, Radio Woodstock Live in Woodstock CD and Woodstock 3 days of peace and music Director’s Cut DVD.

    Join Woodstock Universe to blog.

    Check out 2012 info and listen to RADIO WOODSTOCK 69 which features only music from the original Woodstock era (1967-1971) and RADIO WOODSTOCK with live music from the original Woodstock era to today’s artists who reflect the spirit of Woodstock. Watch Woodstock TV.

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    Peace, love, music, one world,

  2. Lily

    I am a firm believer in audience reaction, our money at the box office makes and breaks a movie. Yesterday at 10am this movie played to an almost full house at AMC, and throught the movie you could feel, see, and hear the audience’s involvement. Cliches you say? Who cares, audience loves it and they will be laughing all the way to the bank while we are thoroughly entertained. I didn’;t love it, but I liked it a lot. No Oscars here except for special effects and related ones.


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