Roland Emmerich, master of cinematic apocalypse a la “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow”, is back to the armageddon in the risible “2012”. We all die horribly, either from tectonic plates shifting or laughing to death from the horrendous dialogue. I don’t think a better ensemble cast has looked this silly on screen this year. All of the familiar players are here – the smart scientist (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the President (Danny Glover), the prick rich guy (Zlatko Buric), the bad government guy (Oliver Platt); and last but not least, our everyman hero (John Cusack) trying to save his family (Amanda Peet, Liam James, Morgan Lilly). The difference is that while Emmerich’s previous efforts had their share of poorly written monologues, 2012 is loaded with cornball speeches that will have you falling out of your chair from laughter. I’m pretty sure this was not the dramatic response Emmerich was hoping to get from his disaster epic.
The plot is simple. The Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world on December 21, 2012. The sun will erupt into a huge solar flair that affects Earth’s core and triggers a global shift in the crust. The government covers it up while engaging in a clandestine effort to save humanity. This idea is actually pretty good, lots of meat on the bone to work with. Unfortunately, the filmmakers didn’t pay attention to how bad the dialogue in the script is. They put the effort in. The film runs a whopping two and a half hours, so there’s a lot of speaking roles. The complaint is that there’s an overdose of sappy, melodramatic monologues given with teary eyes, quivering lips, and erratic arm gestures. These efforts to hammer home the dramatic nature of the situation fail miserably. It makes 2012 look like a Mexican soap opera with bad ass special effects.
Despite my previous mocking of the script, I have to recommend seeing this film in the theater, on the best screen possible. The carnage and mass destruction on display here are absolutely incredible. Emmerich knows how to destroy the planet. The scenes of Los Angeles and Washington D.C. being annihilated are so amazing, I have no doubt this is what the apocalypse would look like if it actually happened. The detail, sound effects, flawless integration of the live actors with the composited effects are probably the best we’ve seen to date. That’s pretty high praise, but I really can’t think of a film that has shown planetary destruction better than this one. 2012 is a lock for the technical Oscar nominations. Jim Cameron’s “Avatar” has to be really impressive to outdo this film. I knew that the effects were going to be good walking in, but was blown away by the magnitude of the destruction and continuous flow throughout the story. It helps the runtime tremendously or the film would have been impossible to sit through.
Sometimes you have to leave your brain at home and enjoy the spectacle. It’s cool to watch lots of stuff blown to bits and millions of CGI people dying horrifically. This is one of those movies. I am a fan of Roland Emmerich, but he needs to shore up his scripts. 2012 and his previous effort, 10,000 BC, have not been nearly as good as his early work. I hope he realizes this and gets back to more complete filmmaking. I don’t think anyone would call Independence Day, Stargate, or The Day After Tomorrow masterpieces, but they were fun and have stood the test of time. 2012 won’t even be a decent rental when that year comes around.