Saturday, November 28, 2009


Roland Emmerich said he wanted to create the disaster movie to end all disaster movies. Here's hoping he's right. He may not make the best disaster movies, but the director who brought us Independence Day (which I actually loved), Godzilla, and The Day After Tomorrow, certainly makes the biggest ones. Given the genre you can't expect a brilliant movie, but you can experience a feast for the eyes. In this regard, and only this regard, 2012 delivers.

2012 exploits the theory that the world is going to end on December 21st 2012, coinciding with the end of a cycle in the Mayan long count calender. The movie actually makes a solid, albeit, absurd attempt at a scientific explanation for the end of the world. Increased solar activity is causing the core of the Earth to heat up, and essentially destroy everything. I guess this was the only idea they could think of that would result in Earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. When the movie opened in an underground neutrino detection lab, I got extremely excited. This ended up being the highlight of the movie for me.

The movie is long, nearly 3 hours, which enables story to follow essentially 2 plot lines. The primary one involves the Curtis family (led by John Cusack and Amanda Peet) as they trek their way across the globe, escaping Los Angeles as it falls into the sea, and Yellowstone, as a volcano destroys a majority of the country. The second story follows the politicians (including Danny Glover as president, and Oliver Platt and Chiwetel Ejiofor as science advisers) as they attempt to continue the human race. I don't want to give away the few plot developments in the movie, suffice it to say that these two stories obligingly come together in the unnecessarily drawn out climax.

The true star of the movie was the visual effects (certainly wasn't any of the characters). They looked spectacular, if a bit goofy at times. I didn't think Emmerich could top the snap freeze of New York in The Day After Tomorrow, but he managed to do it- many times over. The shots of a plane flying through toppling buildings as LA falls into the ocean, or of an RV outrunning a pyroclastic flow in Yellowstone, or of a global flood wiping out the Asian subcontinent are over the top.

There was no shortage if cringe worthy moments. The president staying behind as Washington is destroyed- seriously? Our intrepid band of heroes sneaking onto an ark that's supposed to save humanity? You've got to be kidding me. On the other hand, the goofy conspiracy theorist played by Woody Harrelson almost made going to the movie worth while.

In the end, this is really nothing more than a spectacle of visual effects. If you go into it expecting as much, you'll probably come away happy. If you expect anything more than that you'll be sorely disappointed (and after 3 hours sitting in a movie theater seat, just plain sore). If anything good comes out of this movie, it will be to make film makers think twice before making another disaster movie.


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