2012 is about the titular year and oh what a year it is. There's a longstanding belief that the world will end in December of that year, as that's the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar. NASA has compared the 2012 hysteria to the Y2K hysteria of the late 1990s, but many stand firm in the belief that the apocalypse is just around the corner. Filmmaker Roland Emmerich saw the prediction for what it truly is: a fantastic movie idea.
John Cusack plays Jackson Curtis, a science fiction author and divorcee that's trying to get his kids, ex-wife Amanda Peet, and her new boyfriend to supposed government spaceships that have been built to transport the Earth's survivors to safety. Chiwetel Ejiofor is the scientific advisor that keeps Danny Glover's President Thomas Wilson informed about the cataclysmic events taking place. Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Thomas McCarthy, and Woody Harrelson co-star.
I wasn't sure how to write this review. I'm still not sure. I am very much winging it. It's not a question of whether or not I was entertained. I absolutely was. But that isn't enough for me. You could make the argument that as long as the film is entertaining, it's a good film, but I disagree. I hate to use a tired analogy, but a fifty car pile up is also entertaining. The difference between "entertaining" and "good" is that I'm going to come out worse for wear. If I take pleasure in a spectacular car wreck, I'm going to lose a little piece of my soul. With 2012, I think I came out a little less intelligent.
This is one of those instances where numerical scores mean nothing out of context. I gave the movie an eight out of ten not because I was entertained, but because Roland Emmerich set out to make a certain type of movie and he pulled it off. Emmerich's career is full of big budget, special effects-driven movies. He wrote and directed Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, and 10,000 BC. This is the man's art and 2012 is undoubtedly his masterpiece. At the same time, it's limited by his inabilities.
Roland Emmerich is a great filmmaker but an awful storyteller. I don't know how much sense that makes, but it's the most accurate way I can describe him. He's an enigma. His films are amazing visceral experiences, but they're loaded with nonsensical plots and unintelligent characters that make unintelligent decisions while running from one cliché situation to the next.
When things stop making sense, it breaks your focus. When the plot takes an illogical turn or a character makes an uncharacteristically bad decision, it takes you out of the movie. That's why when movies put action and excitement above realistic storytelling, it doesn't work. Poor storytelling is almost always too distracting to let you enjoy anything else. But Emmerich knows what he's doing and he does it well. I can't remember that many movies where I was so absorbed in the visuals and the tension that I was able to separate it from the numerous leaps of logic, but this is definitely one of them. I was still aware of the film's weak backbone, I simply didn't care.
Of course, the film's strongest point were the amazing effects, which Emmerich himself is not responsible for. He deserves credit, though, for taking full advantage of them, more so than other directors. Instead of giving you a quick glimpse of something destructive and letting your imagination run with it, he's not afraid to let the camera linger and show you both the complete and total destruction of the Earth and the capabilities of today's CGI. It's a great decision on his part. In most instances, anything that your imagination produces will be more effective than what can actually be shown, but it's hard to grasp the severity of the planet falling apart without a visualization, which is generously given.
There was a moment in the film that briefly took me out of it. Characters are escaping from water rushing through an entrance and, since the characters are so close to the water, the green screen effects were strikingly obvious. In that moment, I became painfully aware that I had been bamboozled by pretty visuals and forced tension. To the film's credit, I was back on board within a matter of minutes.
2012 is a hell of a lot of fun. The plot, although rooted in science, was overblown and laughable. The characters weren't fleshed out enough for me to care about their survival (although good performances kept me at least curious). Not only was I willing to overlook these serious flaws, I did so gladly.
Roland Emmerich has stated that 2012 is his final disaster movie and "it has to end all disaster movies." He succeeded.
What do you think of 2012
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