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Movie Review: 2012

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For almost a decade and a half, director Roland Emmerich has been intent on destroying parts of the world and causing general chaos amongst its inhabitants. To facilitate this he has made full use of the special effects available, whether it be the giant lizard in Godzilla (1998), the flooding of New York in The Day After Tomorrow, or the destruction of the White House in Independence Day, his best film to date. However, not content with what's done so far, Mr. Emmerich has targeted the entire world and made 2012, using a Mayan doomsday prophecy as the basis – or perhaps excuse – to reek havoc on Earth once more.

And as hard as it may be to imagine, especially if you've seen Emmerich's previous work, the man has outdone himself in terms of scale of destruction and the visual effects which make it all believable (if that word can be used to describe an Emmerich movie). The film is all about, for its whopping 158-minute runtime, causing as much destruction as possible on a worldwide scale. And for that it achieves its primary goal. However, there's never anything different to the film than that, not really, and because of that it gets boring by the time we get to the fifth or sixth visual effects-laden destruction scene, and watching our hero, played by John Cusack, and his family narrowly escaping death gets more than a little bit repetitive and tiring.

The story is simple: a Mayan prophecy predicts that the end – or rather, destruction – of the world will happen in the year 2012. The government prepare for the worst, keeping that a secret from the public until "the time is right." Finally we land at the dreaded titular year, and things start to go very bad for humanity. Sea levels rise, floods are abound, earthquakes appear left, right and centre, building collapse, volcanoes erupt and you can add every other type of disaster you can think of to that list. We specifically follow Cusack's Jackson Curtis (something to be noted: switch those two names around and you have the real name of rapper 50 Cent – on purpose or just a coincidence?) and his family as they try to flee and evade disaster at every interval.

I won't explain anymore about where the plot heads (the ads probably do that for me), but needless to say there's a chance at survival for at least some of the population. The plot of an Emmerich film is never important, nor are the characters, and that's once again an issue once the appeal of the visuals and general destruction wears off. That sort of thing can only go so far before it gets tedious, and most of Emmerich's films have gotten away with it (just barely) because their runtimes are rarely that lengthy. However, at almost two hours and 40 minutes, 2012 far outstays its welcome, and the fact that it doesn't let up with its worldwide destruction means it gets boring way before the end credits roll.

On the surface it may seem like some attention is paid to the characters and the importance of their lives, after all the whole movie is about humans trying to survive what seemingly can't be survived (a certain pointlessness and hopelessness is at play). But if you look past the surface you can see it's all just "insert here" for any emotional moments regarding specific human characters Emmerich thinks we care about but we really don't. There is talented actors to be found, from Cusack to Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oliver Platt and Woody Harrelson (who's easily the best character in the film), but they're all completely wasted for the most part, with nothing to do but react to what's going on around them (something which is entirely unconvincing at the best of times).

The visuals really are spectacular here, even if the destruction they make at least quasi-believable gets tiring after a while. Shots of tsunami's sweeping cities, earthquakes causing buildings to collapse, and volcanoes spitting giant fireballs are often jaw-dropping. However, isn't that to be expected with a price tag of around $200 million? You get what you pay for, as they say.

For some reason a Roland Emmerich film has failed to have both epic destruction and crazy visual effects along with great character development and a strong story since 1996's Independence Day. Since then his movies have only really facilitated a sort of morbid curiosity in movie goers in seeing parts of their world destroyed, whether it by giant monsters (Godzilla) or by natural disasters (The Day After Tomorrow). 2012 is just another one of those, a movie which at first is entertaining in a "switch off your brain" sort of way, but which gets tiresome and repetitive before the half-way point, leaving you looking at your watch and wanting the credits to roll.

Some laughable dialogue and ridiculous plot points, under-developed characters played by wasted actors and a far too long runtime leads to the conclusion this isn't worth the time and money it takes to watch it. If you're a big fan of disaster movies you'll want to see it, and will be able to forgive it's huge flaws in lieu of the visuals more than others. But for everyone else you might as well rent one of Emmerich's other movies – in the end you'll get the same effect.

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About Ross Miller

  • Andrew

    Sure thing the world wil end, sooner or later, but it is well known that absolutley no one knows for sure when, and all this presumtions are nothing else but simple opinions and historical interpretations of old prophecies. Either way we should be prepared for it in absolutley every moment!

  • Jim

    This was a very interesting movie. I beleive that the world will end when I dont know. The bible say that there will be signs of Christ coming. Earthquakes, weather changes, famine, disease, war,nations rising against nations. We have been seeing these things come to pass. We all don’t know the time or day of his coming. Just know that he is coming. Read the book of revelations.

  • Mary

    Roland Emmerich’s 2012 movie pretty much depicts what is to happen in 2012, only the cause of the cataclysm is wrong. He, unknowingly, has done a great public service by making the public aware of the Mayan end time date of Dec. 21, 2012. The Maya were not the only ones who knew about 2012 as most of the ancient world did from 3,000 BC up till the 1800s when the knowledge was lost. Washington DC was laid out to reflect 2012 as a reminder to visitors. Monuments carved in stone were left world wide to warn our generation of 2012. Christ taught it in the Bible but few today have understood it. The ancient world understood 2012 very well; the modern world, lest of all the modern Maya, lack the knowledge and understanding thereof, and are stumbling in the dark for answers to 2012. Read the non-fiction 2012 trilogy, The Ark of Millions of Years, by E. J. Clark, the most comprehensive 2012 books in the world…for the answers…thanks.

  • Bill

    What everyone seems to miss is that 2012 is the story of the human body; the ravages of a microscopic warfare we do battle with every day of our lives – until our demise when the elements win.

  • Rudy

    This movie was extremely dissapointing. The special effects were good but not great. Special effects do not make a movie though. John Cusak is not a very convincing hero. He is just not believable. The story was very cheesy and the acting was horrible. Is there evr going to be a disaster movie that has it all?? I have high hopes for a good story and incredible acting in the upcoming movie “The Road”. Pleas do not waste your time with 2012. Woody Harrelson did a great job but that is about it. Way too long too.

  • Dyd

    I saw last night the movie, and its really cool. i think it desives, many congrats:)
    There are some funny moments in dialogues and lots of special effects.

  • Shazan

    I still cant wait to see this. Although you say “since” Independence Day, I found that wasnt very strong either. All of his films are fun up to about half way. ID fades after the destruction, Will Smith doing Will Smith got boring, Godzilla was the same, and after the flooding (except maybe the ice) DAT got boring too. This will probably be the same, but what can I say, I am a sucker for disaster movies.