Monday, November 16, 2009

Movie Review: 2012

2012 **
Directed By:
Roland Emmerich.
Written By: Roland Emmerich & Harald Kloser.
Starring: John Cusack (Jackson Curtis), Amanda Peet (Kate Curtis), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Adrian Helmsley), Thandie Newton (Laura Wilson), Oliver Platt (Carl Anheuser), Thomas McCarthy (Gordon Silberman), Woody Harrelson (Charlie Frost), Danny Glover (President Thomas Wilson), Liam James (Noah Curtis), Morgan Lily (Lilly Curtis), Zlatko Buric (Yuri Karpov), Beatrice Rosen (Tamara), Alexandre Haussmann (Alec), Philippe Haussmann (Oleg), Johann Urb (Sasha).

At this point I think it’s safe to assume that everyone out there correlates the name Roland Emmerich with big, stupid disaster movies like 2012. In Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and now this film, Emmerich takes joy in destroying many landmarks that people hold dear, killing thousands if not millions (and in this case, probably billions) of people and then somehow coming up with a happy ending. The movies follow the same basic pattern: A family in crisis in brought together by the impending disaster, and despite the fact that many people die, they come out stronger for it. A brave junior member of the government tries to get people to take the impending doom seriously, and is mocked. Disaster strikes, people die, and then there is a happily ever after for the people left alive.

2012 is no different. Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) and his wife Kate (Amanda Peet) are divorced. They have two kids, Noah (Liam James), a smart alecky son on the verge of adolescence and Lilly (Morgan Lily), an 8 year old girl with a perchance for hats. Kate has moved on and is living with Gordon (Thomas McCarthy), a plastic surgeon, although she still loves Jackson in her way. Jackson has the kids for a weekend camping trip in Yellowstone National Park, when things start to go wrong in California. Massive earthquakes keep hitting, and for some reason the army is in Yellowstone. Jackson meets Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson), a paranoid guy with his own radio show that he broadcasts from Yellowstone who is issuing dire warning about the fate of humanity, and how everyone better get right with their Jesus, because the Apocalypse is coming. Jackson dismisses him as a lunatic, but we know better.

That is because at this point, we have already seen Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejifor), a young geologist travel to India to talk with his friend who tells him that they are seeing unprecedented activity in the earth’s core, brought on by things going wrong with the sun. He takes his concerns to Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), an aide to President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover), who initially mocks him, but then takes him seriously. Wilson brings up his concerns at the G8, and a plan is hatched. They start building something in China to prepare for coming doom.

All of this happens in the first 45 minutes or so in a movie that clocks in at more than 2 and half hours. The rest of the movie is made up of one frantic chase after another, as Jackson and his family try and escape for the massive craters that are forming in the earth, first in a high speed chase in a limo, then in a small engine plan, and finally in a much bigger plane, as they head for China – there only hope of salvation. We flash between the family being tested, and scenes of Adrian as he tries to convince Carl to go public with the information to give people at least a chance to survive, but Carl is so focused on getting to China, and being safe, that he refuses. Adrian even has time to start a tentative romance with Laura (Thandie Newton), the daughter of the President, during this time. They are bonded by the fact that they are the only two people who seem to care about the rest of the country (other than the President, who bravely decided to “go down with the ship”), and because as the only two black people in the movie, they have to fall in love, right? Intercut with these scenes are scenes of the world literally falling apart. We see the White House and the Vatican destroyed among other things, and massive tsunamis that wipe out millions at a time.

If we could take the movie seriously, all of this may seem to be in bad taste at best and truly offensive at worst. Manhola Dargis commented in her review that Emmerich seems to be trying to punish his audience as if you do not flash to 9/11 several times throughout the movie than Emmerich would be disappointed. Personally, I think that’s giving Emmerich too much credit. I think he just likes to blow things up real good, and doesn’t even think about anything too seriously. There is certainly nothing as interesting as Spielberg’s 9/11 allegory in his underrated War of the Worlds. Emmerich is just having fun.

And I suppose, if you go with the movie than perhaps you will too. Emmerich certainly knows how to use special effects. It really does appear like the White House and the Vatican are destroyed, and the scenes of exploding lava and tsunamis are also quite convincing. If you do not expect any sort of logic in the film, you may actually enjoy it.

I did enjoy the film, to a certain extent. True, it is horribly written. When you get actors the caliber of Cusack, Peet, Ejifor, Glover, Platt, Harrelson and Newton and even they cannot sell your horrible dialogue, you know you are in trouble. While I am certainly no scientist, even I had a hard time believing much of the science they try and pass off as real during the course of this movie. During the parts of the movie where I was able to turn off my brain, I did kind of like what I saw. It’s only when I started to think – which I did far too often in this film, unlike say Independence Day which is no more logical, but a hell of lot more entertaining, that I got into trouble.

I kept thinking of things that the filmmakers probably didn’t want me to think about. Like why America would trust all the ships construction to China, even to the point where all the ships are in China. Are they all of a sudden friends? And did Danny Glover’s President actually run a full on campaign to win re-election in 2012, which is of course an election year, or did he not even bother knowing that the world would end when he was still President anyway? And what the hell George Segal was doing in the move?
I’m sure to a certain audience, 2012 will provide just what they are looking for: a few hours of escapist fun. I certainly was not bored by the movie, despite its horribly long running time. But that doesn’t really mean that the movie is good. If you enjoyed Emmerich’s other disaster films, then you’ll most likely enjoy this one as well. But if you demand any sort of intelligence with your entertainment, then stay away.

1 comment:

  1. I actually think there is a little more to the movie :) I'm just writing my BA-Thesis on it. Believe it or not. Thus, I have seen it more than 5 times and found many many riddles to be solved. If you're interested I give it to you to read, when it's finished.