23 November 2009

Movie Review: 2012


2009, 158mins, PG-13
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer (s): Harald Kloser, Roland Emmerich
Cast includes: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oliver Platt, Wood Harrelson
Release Date: 13th November 2009

“2012” represents the disaster titan known as Roland Emmerich working at full pelt, cramming special effects, paper thin characters, illogical plot twists and risible dialogue into a bloated running time. I have found some of Emmerich’s past works to be guilty pleasures but “2012” skips the fun and goes straight for the dumb. Fans of destruction on a massive scale will enjoy healthy portions of proceedings but for those desiring a little extra meat to go with their visual cheese, this isn’t the blockbuster for you. Very little of “2012” is worth watching, a particularly disparaging fact when you take its 158 minute length into consideration.

The film riffs on the idea that according to the Mayan calendar the world will end in 2012, a fiery and watery apocalypse set to engulf the planet and take humanity down with it. After a hokey scientific explanation for the impending doom we meet struggling writer Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) who is suffering from a lack of direction and a broken family. Upon taking his two children away for a weekend vacation he meets Armageddon nut Charlie (Woody Harrelson) who informs him of the upcoming 2012 based disaster. Initially skeptical Jackson quickly starts to believe when everything around him starts to collapse, fleeing with his family from the newly ravaged landscape he calls home. The family learns that several ships have been designed to take selected members of humanity to safety and so in a bid to ensure the future of his wife (Amanda Peet) and kids, Jackson makes a beeline for the escape craft’s Asian destination. Elsewhere scientist Dr. Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) struggles to try and find a solution whilst all around him the world’s fiercest and most famed leaders (including Danny Glover as the US President) succumb to the inevitability of unstoppable chaos.

The key problem with “2012” is that it isn’t particularly exciting; indeed by the final third the film becomes positively boring. It’s sad that Emmerich can compose such a lavish digital feast yet utterly fail to construct a decent script or interesting characters. I don’t require detailed profile analysis or groundbreaking and dynamic relationships from my popcorn cinema but it’s nice to have halfway engaging or modestly affable screen entities to latch onto, especially if the movie demands a big running time. “2012” presents the viewers with a selection of lightweight characters and uninspired story arcs, not helped by a set of thespians all operating on autopilot. John Cusack provides a lazy and generic turn as the father on a redemptive mission whilst supporting players like Thandie Newton and Amanda Peet fair little better. Peet has always been an extremely questionable acting presence and in “2012”she tears through her scenes with an almost intense blandness, creating absolutely no chemistry with Cusack as his estranged wife. Danny Glover isn’t horrendous in the Presidential role but he’s also instantly forgettable whilst the like of Oliver Platt and Woody Harrelson are wasted in useless parts. The one saving grace is Chiwetel Ejiofor who despite a ridiculous romantic subplot alongside Newton actually injects a little heart and flavor into his character, and some much needed drama into the film.

The disaster sequences look excellent but generate little adrenaline. Emmerich takes great pleasure in eviscerating global landmarks but he appears to have lost his touch with creating entertaining set-pieces, as a man who can tolerate even “Godzilla” the lack of tension or credible excitement is depressing in “2012”. Indeed before the end Emmerich has milked several ideas more than dry, sequences continually involving the taking off of an aircraft are inane to start with so on the third go around, they really don’t work. The job done on “2012” must have stemmed from many computers working at full blast but it would appear from a creative standpoint the film represents the half assed efforts of a doped up monkey. Nothing seems original and the small portions that do boast fractions of imagination are rendered hopeless via the filmmaker’s inability to play it subtlety or exploit it but once.

There are far too many subplots and silly characters in “2012”, a genuinely terrifying revelation given its mammoth duration. Why Emmerich needed to include a rich Russian, his booby girlfriend and their two obnoxious kids is anyone’s guess as they only worsen the unapologetically horrendous pacing further. Alongside this assortment of needless freaks we also get a supply of asinine humor and some seriously ridiculous moments of action. I’m all for suspending disbelief when a movie is good but “2012” asks far too much and delivers much less, a moment with a dog shimmying it’s way to an escape vessel is probably amongst the most idiotic sequences I’ve seen all year. The dialogue is resoundingly rubbish but I was expecting as much, it’s the other failings that sting the most.

“2012” is big and stupid but represents little in the way of proper fun or escapism. I was expecting more and whilst from a purely effects driven standpoint it is spectacular, nothing else really approaches the levels of quality I associate with great blockbusters. Apparently this is to be Emmerich’s final toss of the disaster dice and I can’t say I’m sorry, based on the evidence provided by “2012” his filmmaking skills have severely dulled over the years. “2012” is a bloated carcass of a motion picture and a depressingly expensive waste of celluloid.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


elancep said...

I thought compared to other disaster films it did not do so poorly. See my review here.

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