Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2012 (2009)


I wasn’t expecting much. I’m not a huge fan of disaster movies in the first place but I just wanted something brainless and fun to watch. I figured this big budget special effects fest would fit the bill. Usually these have some bad acting, silly dialogue and hilarious action sequences to provide a fun evening of silly entertainment. I chose to ignore the fact that Roland Emmerich had anything to do with it. That may have been my first mistake.


In the year 2012 the world is going to end because of a bunch of pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo. The governments of the world know it and have a plan, but when things go wrong (as per norm in these movies) they realize they have less time to execute their plan. Mixed up in all this is writer/limo driver Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) who tries to save his family from worldwide destruction. He puts his trust in a nut job played with gusto by Woody Harrelson, and his map to the escape ships. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton and Oliver Platt round out the cast.

Good Points:

  • Some very fun special effects

  • Ejofor is very good as the concerned scientist

  • Provided some solid unintentional laughs

Bad Points:

  • Bogs down when developing the boring characters

  • Not as much fun as you’d think

  • Most of the acting is pretty bland


Ok, here’s a tip. Don’t make your disaster movie boring. These things are supposed to be big, noisy and over the top. But “2012” has a kind of dower feel to it, one that saps the fun away. A few of the actors bring some life to their characters, Harrelson, Platt and Ejofor. But everyone else is dull. The action sequences get redundant and thrill-less by the end. The best portion is Cusack’s race against the earthquake and the plane lift off that follows it. After that, the movie just sinks under it’s bloated running time. 158 minutes is too long to spend with a movie this dumb.

Scores (out of 5)

Visuals: 4

Sound: 4

Acting: 3

Music: 3

Script: 2

Direction: 2

Entertainment: 2

Total: 2

In Depth Review

Like I mentioned Roland Emmerich and I don’t have a good relationship. I found his three films from the 90’s (Stargate, Independence Day and Godzilla) to be really, really dumb. You could argue that it was his intention with those films to make simple popcorn movies. Fine, but there is a line between simple and stupid and I think Emmerich and his cohert Dean Devlin crossed the line. Most of these films had great ideas at the core, but the execution barely scraped the bottom of the entertainment barrel. But hey, I know I’m in the minority on that. A lot of people loved Stargate and Independence Day.

Godzilla seemed to stop Emmerich for a couple years, but he was soon back in the disaster movie saddle with The Day After Tomorrow a movie I avoided like the plague. But the other day I felt pretty brain dead and wanted to watch something dumb and fun. Stargate and Independence Day had their moments and at least entertained.

Not this time. 2012 suffers from a major problem to keep it from being fun. It takes itself deadly serious. Not once does it wink at the audience, or thrill to the adventure. Instead it takes inordinate amount of time building up characters we don’t care about in a vain hope that you’ll feel even more thrilled when they escape. But when you are laughing your butt off when one of them dies, I think the creators missed the mark.

First off the plot is stupid, really stupid. It’s an excuse to destroy the earth. Ok, fine I can work with it. But don’t pretend that what you wrote is some amazing revelation about humanity’s cruelty to the earth. Accept that you want to have cool special effects and you need a reason for them. The script tries to keep things in a dark apocalyptic tone and it ends up being depressing. Hey Roland, that’s the opposite of fun.

The best parts of the film happen in the beginning. The race between the limo and the crack in the earth culminating to a flight through collapsing buildings is great stuff. It has lots of humor and over the top zeal. That’s exactly what the whole movie needed. It turns out to be the only scene with these elements. Afterward Emmerich seems content to repeat the same type of sequence two more times, and each time it gets more and more boring because we’ve seen it before.

My favorite character was the scenery chewing antics of Woody Harrelson. While he’s around the movie clicks along. Granted he’s annoying, but he’s more interesting to watch than Cusack. And I like John Cusack! Oliver Platt is also having fun as the determined Anheuser. Platt is good at playing a real jerk and he makes you wish for his demise.

Disaster movies can usually be counted on for some good laughs usually at the over the top destruction or the hammy acting. Well Zlatko Buric manages both. He’s hammy and unintelligible half the movie. His swan song is so contrived and shot with so much false pathos that I was rolling on the floor. Great job. That’s what I came here to see.

But the movie never ends. It goes from one glum and hopeless scene to the next. It mopes along, trying desperately to engage but really it’s flaying around. An editor should have seen the tonal problems and cut, cut, cut. This movie should have been around 90 minutes. Instead you spend almost 2 and half hours watching pointless special effects and bland characters.

Some glimmers of fun can be found, and they keep this from being a complete loss, but this is not a fun summer movie. It’s a mess that should be avoided. Rent a real Godzilla movie instead.

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