Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton
It is the year 2012. The end of the world as we know is fast approaching. Due to a rare planetary alignment, an unprecedented solar flare is heating up the Earth’s core to the point that the crust will destabilize. The ensuing seismic and volcanic activity followed by gigantic tsunamis are bound to wipe out all life from Earth. There is no way to stop the cataclysm. But there may be a way to weather it out. Or is there?
Roland Emmerich’s latest blockbuster is an apocalyptic movie in the vein of his other well-known productions, like Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. Long, yet tenuous, 2012 offers front seats to one of the most incredible disasters depicted on screen. The computer graphics and the amazing cinematography blend seamlessly and are likely to captivate even the sternest audiences. Few movies have come close to depicting, in such brilliant colors and bold camera angles, the fury of nature unleashed. Human civilization and all of natural life are brought to their knees and then utterly destroyed in a glorious spectacle that is more awe-inspiring than horrifying.
Unfortunately, when compared to such outstanding graphic depiction of the disaster, mankind’s desperate struggle for survival appears secondary. Indeed, there is a plot where characters we are supposed to identify with are scrambling away and coming up with Biblical plans (ha! that almost gives it away, right?). However, the plotline never quite unfolds. The disaster is too neutral and perfect to contend with. On the one hand, there is no real villain. In Independence Day, there were the aliens. In The Day After Tomorrow, mankind itself, especially highly developed countries were being pointed at for causing the climate changes that led to the disaster.
However, in 2012 there is no one at fault. The planetary disaster just happens — impartial and immovable like the laws of physics. In addition, the choice of protagonists doesn’t contribute to delivering the plot. While they realistically depict our society with all its rotten pragmatism and whimsical squabbles, they fail to convey the reasons for which they should be alive by the end of the movie. There is barely any love, any emotion.
Unlike other disaster movies, such as Armageddon or even Titanic, which are heavily drenched in sentimentalism to keep the audiences engaged (the feeble hearted ones, at least), 2012 maintains a rather distant emotional perspective. Although it surely sets a record for the casualty count, 2012 fails to make us empathize with it. Most dying people feel serene, almost happy to be done with. Those who do fight, have usually so little screen time that we barely acknowledge them. I wonder if Emmerich tried to make a point in not indulging in any sappiness or simply failed at it. In all its glorious 2 hours and 45 minutes, 2012 can barely squeeze a few tears, with some of the very few incongruous and awkwardly placed romantic scenes.
Despite the shortcomings of the script, the cast does a decent job in bringing to their (often short) life the characters of the movie. John Cusack’s portrayal of the aloof writer caring for his divorced wife and children is quite believable. Amanda Peet in the role of the divorced wife is less impressive. An exciting performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor as one of the scientists that predicts the disaster will surely give all scientists and especially geologists a field day. But then again, all disaster movies do. Other notable presences are Thandie Newton and Danny Glover, but their screen time is disappointingly short.
Despite its cataclysmic premise, 2012 develops some internal humor. Some of the funny overtones are cleverly woven in, playing especially on social and ethnic stereotypes. Other funny moments are probably unintentional, derived from the unlikely heroics of the protagonists. However, these light-hearted moments will most likely play the biggest role in keeping you entertained to the end. Despite failing to be a masterpiece, 2012 is nevertheless the ultimate apocalypse movie and may be worth a Blockbuster rental.