2012 reviewed

Better late than never…

2012
is the latest film from director Roland Emmerich, who could perhaps also be called contemporary cinema’s Master of Disaster, seeing as he has already given moviegoers the big, dumb, but highly enjoyable disaster epics Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. 2012 is no different.


The film uses as its basis the infamous Mayan prediction that the world as we know it will end on 21 December, 2012. Fortunately the filmmakers get the numbskull scientific explanation for the apocalypse out the way very early on and don’t tend to dwell on it. For the record, it has to do with solar flares penetrating through to the Earth’s core, and heating it to the point that the planet’s crust becomes unmoored – leading to catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis.

Like the great ‘70s disaster films The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake and The Towering Inferno, as well as more recent genre entries, 2012 centres on various groups of very different people - played by recognisable Hollywood faces - who, at some point during the catastrophe, find their paths crossing. The chief protagonist in 2012 is failed novelist-turned-limousine driver Jackson Curtis (the always likeable John Cusack) whose inquisitive nature ensures that he realises what is happening before the vast majority of the public, and promptly sets out to save his ex-wife and emotionally distant children. Then there’s principled scientist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who finds himself clashing with Oliver Platt’s White House Chief of Staff over the issue of publicly announcing the truth about the impending catastrophe.


Basically, as the world is destroyed 2012 becomes an examination of the battle between the base human desire for survival versus man’s capability for selfless compassion. Other issues that are touched on, although never really explored, include the right for people to know about their impending death, what makes something a culturally significant artefact worth saving, and what qualities would you prioritise when choosing people to continue the human race.

Of course though, no one really goes to see disaster films for their deep philosophical debates. Audiences are there for mayhem and maximum destruction… and 2012 delivers in spades. The film’s world-ending effects are absolutely stunning, even if the best moments – the toppling of many iconic monuments and buildings – have already been revealed in the trailer. It feels horribly macabre to say this, but personally I wish that the film had included more of this footage instead of shifting its focus to the Arks – giant ships designed to save a lucky (and frequently mega-rich) few.


Once the Arks become central to 2012’s storyline, the film becomes increasingly cheesy. Characters who have come so far die to save others, children are disobedient, couples reconcile and of course there’s a literal spanner in the works to put everyone at risk. At least there’s a final little treat for South African viewers right at the very end of the movie.

For a film that is just short of 3 hours long, 2012 surprisingly doesn’t feel its running length. It does however lose some of its momentum towards the end, around the same point that the audience is submerged in clichés, and no longer has the amazing CGI visuals to distract them. Still though, for a big dumb disaster film, 2012 is one of the recent best.

Just don't think too hard while watching it...

Comments

Tara said…
Gimme big, dumb and highly enjoyable any day of the week ;)
Running Wolf said…
Nice review. I agree totally. This film was way too long and cheesy and not fast-paced enough. My friend walked out of the cinema.
Tara said…
Dude you went to an Emmerich movie and didn't EXPECT cheese? C'mon, that's just asking for punishment ;)
Solar flares...strong enough to melt the core of the Earth...but apparently not strong enough to burn everything on the surface to a crisp?

I can't suspend my disbelief THAT much.
123 123 said…
Cool post as for me. It would be great to read something more about that theme. Thnx for giving that info.
Joan Stepsen
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Pfangirl said…
Thanks for the comments, Tara and Running Wolf. I know you weren't a fan of the film, Wolf, having read your review. Tara, I thought you'd enjoy the cheese - although I felt that it only really kicked in later on in the movie. Arks = cheese in 2012 :)

MJenks, I think they did give some reason for why the earth's surface wasn't cooked. Something to do with the solar flares creating a special kind of particle that could penetrate without destroying, blah, blah, blah... Like I said, the filmmakers quickly skipped over the science part in the first 10 minutes.
Pfangirl said…
Aha: "neutrinos from a massive solar flare are acting as microwave radiation, causing the temperature of the Earth's core to increase rapidly."
...aneurysm...forming...

Too bad they have NO idea how microwaves work, huh? They can only penetrate very shallowly into something. Plus, all the water on Earth's surface would boil away first.

Sorry, I told you my suspension of disbelief was lacking...

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