2012_Jimi Mistry tidal wave.bmp-1 © 2009 Lord Christopher Laverty. All rights reserved.

Film Review: 2012

Starring: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet
Directed By: Roland Emmerich

2012 is an unbelievably dumb and sentimental movie. The plot sags like a soggy biscuit and the science is utter garbage. Neither of which would matter much but the whole thing is so drawn out it could give you haemorrhoids. If the end of the world is coming, you’ll be preying it would come a damn sight faster and preferably right on top of where you are sitting first.

Okay, so even for a disaster movie 2012 is definitely stupid, but is it funny stupid, say in the same way as Irwin Allen’s deadly Styrofoam wasp drama The Swarm (1978)? No, not really, though it does provide a few satisfactory jolts before whisking its audience into a saccharine induced coma.

The visual fx are awesome, especially when depicting the end of somewhere you might immediately recognise, such as the toppling of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro or an aircraft supercarrier somersaulting onto the White House lawn. When director Roland Emmerich pulls back for a wide shot the screen fills with jutting earth crust left right and centre, but the CGI works more effectively in tighter scenarios where actual human beings are involved. Fleeing dad Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) and family zipping along the tarmac of a rapidly disintegrating airstrip is an early adrenaline rush after a slow, if engrossing, build up.

Problem is this particular action scene is repeated three times, twice with the same small plane and then once more with a really big plane. Our heroes make a run for their transport as the cracks appear, get along the runway as it all starts falling down, then fly up into the air just in time to watch the world collapse around them. Make a bathroom pit stop anytime during these moments and you’re liable to suffer some serious déjà vu on your return.

Clearly 2012 is not intended as a major costume movie. In the strictest sense it might be ‘period’ but thankfully costume designer Shay Cunliffe (The Bourne Ultimatum) has not risked any obvious fashion statements, choosing instead to have her fun subverting character archetypes through uniform.

Cusack’s Curtis as action man in a plain black suit and tie (his limo driver’s outfit) or plastic surgeon Dr. Gordon Silberman (Thomas McCarthy) as a scrubs wearing amateur pilot, mommy Kate (Amanda Peet) in her best weekend peasant dress with casual hoody thrown over the top, even Tamara (Beatrice Rosen) as the bimbo with a heart of gold – don’t judge a person by their stilettos; she may look like a whore but will happily save a couple of kids above her own life.

Nobody in 2012 behaves how you might expect; this is to say nobody is out for themselves, apart from one or two sneery villains who chop and change as the mood takes them. The costumes are fun as they provide no indication as to who will do what. Surprised that Dr Silberman was a pilot? We bet you were. He was wearing his scrubs at breakfast for goodness sake.

Typical for a disaster movie the cast is a cache of A-listers, B-listers and craggy types you have not seen in years (yep, George Segal certainly has changed from those late night Rollercoaster repeats). For once in his life John Cusack comes across as mildly annoying. His everyman character is lucky rather than brave and in the early scenes just a tad too smart-ass and sorry for himself to get on board with.

No such charisma trouble for deservedly rising star Chiwetel Ejiofor as White House scientific advisor Adrian Helmsley. Despite playing someone who is frankly too good to be true, Ejiofor sells so much with his eyes that you cannot help but believe every syrupy humanity sermon he spurts. If Helmsley is not set-up to be President of the New World then we have missed something big time.

The gargantuan gaps in logic throughout 2012 are impossible to miss however. Granted this is the kind of movie where audience suspension of disbelief is integral to enjoyment. All disaster flicks are this way, in real life nothing ever happens as quickly or neatly as it does in a Hollywood movie. People do not usually get chance to finish sentences before dying and phone lines barely function beyond a particularly ferocious thunderstorm. This is all fine, but 2012 just pushes everything too far.

For example, how is it possible to predict precisely to the nearest minute when a tsunami big enough to submerge Mount Everest is going to hit? Or design and build several submarine/boat ‘arks’ in the side of a mountain that are so enormous they can withstand force of said tsunami with just a single cracked windscreen? Never mind that the pressure would flatten them like tin cans, how would it be feasible to build these things, in secret, in the meagre three year warning the top brass gets? Three years!

Moreover how could anyone negotiate such a cross-international treaty of diversified funds and executive, building materials, labour, power, ownership, etc? Of course they couldn’t and not for one single second will you believe they could. It is just too much. The ships, the secret, the manpower; it is all just too big.

Amazing as well that the film’s main characters all seem to bump into each other at some point and, even better, actually have a history. Tamera is Russian but as luck would have it her breast enlargement surgery was carried out by L.A. based Dr. Silberman. Maybe because he is the best in the world and her sugar daddy Yuri (a funny performance from Zlatko Buri) wants to pay for the best? No and no. Billionaire Yuri is, as we discover, something of a cheapskate where Tamera is concerned and Silberman is far from being No.1 plastic surgeon on the planet because he lives in a rather modest house and does not even drive the best Porsche (after learning about his character we know he surely would if he could).

Possibly we are reading too much into this, but so many similar coincidences pile up that everything begins to make no sense. By the time Helmsley recognises Curtis’ kids trapped in the gearing mechanism of one of the arks on a tiny CCTV screen he just happens to be staring toward at just the right moment, you will be either laughing or crying.

Laughing along with 2012 would have been easier were it an hour shorter, cut practically every line of sentimental mush that does not proceed a building falling on someone’s head and upped the planetary destruction quota even more.

Though if the promised lure of a popcorn night out is too great to pass up, bear two of Roland Emmerich’s previous films in mind as barometer. The science in 2012 makes The Day After Tomorrow (2004) look like a Discovery channel documentary, yet it is nowhere as daft as 10,000 BC (2008). Same goes for dialogue, pacing, acting and CGI – none are as bad as 10,000 BC.

If you can see this as any kind of recommendation then go for it. If not, stay at home and whack The Day After Tomorrow in the DVD player again. Compared to 2012 it is a work of god-like genius.

© 2009 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.

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  • Bladerunner

    Totally agree. What a shitload of garbage. I usually skip this kind of “movie” but i was tempted on a saturday binge, and believe me, i was sober after 20 minutes of watching torture. I had to grab a cup of expresso and popped as fast as i can the first dvd i could grab from the shelf which turned out to be Short Cuts by Robert Altman. God, what a difference between a real movie and a piece of (2012) stinky garbage.

  • Melodian

    Much like one of the movie’s crashing buildings, “2012″ goes from standing proudly upright — yet slightly trembling — with plausibility, then begins to rumble and tilt over into incredibility (in the sense not of “cool and awesome” but as in “lacking in credibility”), before picking up speed and disintegrating into ludicrous.

    With casualties in the billions as the planet implodes, are we really expected to give a crap about two cute yet annoying children? Or that neutrinos (supposedly the source of this catastrophe) can’t actually cause these effects, so the plot suggests the particles “mutate” into something else that microwave-cooks the earth’s interior but has no apparent effect whatsoever on surface-dwellers? Or that whatever mode of transportation John Cusack is in (land, air or sea) somehow manages to just barely avoid the destruction all around him? Or that regardless of what remote location they may be in, and despite the planet’s shifting tectonic plates (which should theoretically disrupt electric power, mis-align satellite dishes and bring radio towers crashing down), the cell phones of the main characters always seem to work just fine? What carrier are these people using? I don’t get that kind of coverage from mine even on a good day.

    All this is bad enough, but once we reach the ark-ships in the Himalayas, the movie devolves into an annoying rehash of “The Poseidon Adventure”. Then, in an obligatory feel-good finale to all the carnage, the earthquakes, tidal waves and mass destruction simply … stop … and the survivors sail peacefully into the sunset towards a habitable destination. Please.

    I know any film of this nature requires the viewer to suspend disbelief, but for one that purports to derive its scariness from the proposition that these events are based on science and could actually happen, I found myself reaching for the fast-forward button all too often. Despite the mildly entertaining over-the-top special effects, this film left me with the feeling that I had just wasted nearly three hours of my life.

  • Steve

    Your review caught my eye as being the most accurate. This movie was just incredibly painful to sit through. It’s like they took all the worst elements of every movie I’ve ever seen and put them into one giant crap-pile.

    I can’t even count my complaints: The Ridiculous Length, the storyline, the acting, the absolutely ridiculously liberal personality of that scientist guy who wanted to save every damn person in the world with no plan, the science (or lack of..).

    I mean this film is so dumbed down and it’s STILL not entertaining at all. The special effects were somewhat good, and that’s probably the only reason the movie didn’t get a 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

    And to Roland Emmerich, man you’ve gone downhill. How did you start off with such a great movie as Independence Day, move on to Day After Tomorrow which still had *some* magic left, and then create this stinker!

  • Vineet

    Oh Come on .. critics…
    If you want to see Real science, I think you are better off with Discovery and NGC ….
    Nowhere on the movie was written, “You HAVE to BEAR WATCHING THIS”!!!
    Me, enjoyed every bit of it. Sure, it has no storyline, no good acting, no science whatsoever… BUT.. wait for it….. Personally, I LOVED IT. PERIOD.
    Oh… what a spectacular ride was 2012 in CGI….!!!

    • cassie

      Why did you like it? You have no business calling other people’s opinions uncredible if you don’t support your own. So, you liked it because it had bad acting, plot, and no research involved. Congratulations, I hope you enjoy other B-movies and leave the real reviewing to the real reviewers.