Pack your bags. The world is coming to an end on December 21, 2012. And if Roland Emmerich’s latest massive disaster film is any indication, it will be one hell of an end. 2012 is a surprisingly entertaining disaster movie featuring some of the best special affects of the decade and even managing to pose [...]
Pack your bags. The world is coming to an end on December 21, 2012. And if Roland Emmerich’s latest massive disaster film is any indication, it will be one hell of an end. 2012 is a surprisingly entertaining disaster movie featuring some of the best special affects of the decade and even managing to pose a few interesting questions about humanity although it drags in a number of places and the dialogue is hokey.
As the year 2012 approaches, a Mayan prophecy about the end of the world looks to come true. As the U.S. government realizes the earth’s core is being heated up and will be destabilized causing mass destruction, we follow Jackson (John Cusack) a failed novelist and divorced husband who takes his kids to a camping trip. There, he meets a crazed stranger Charlie (Woody Harrelson) who warns him about the apocalypse. As the dreaded day nears, Jackson is on a run with his family to survive as the world faces earthquakes, volcanoes, floods and pretty much every simultaneous natural disaster in the most dramatic way possible.
After watching the trailers, I was under the impression that they had shown the best bits already and the movie would be nothing more than an empty spectacle. That’s why I was surprised to see that the film not only had a lot more unseen sequences to offer, but also poses a few interesting questions about humanity by tapping into our deepest fears. Don’t get me wrong – this is a big action spectacle and was clearly meant to be an entertaining popcorn event picture and nothing more. It’s not a great film, but one of those few films of its kind that do the job that they set out to do very well – entertain the audience. This is one disaster movie for the ages considering no one for at least another decade will be able to top the mayhem portrayed here, and is also the best disaster movie to date.
The biggest reason why anyone would want to see this movie is the special effects. And in that category, it definitely doesn’t disappoint and manages to exceed expectations. Major cities get razed to the ground realistically and all the destruction and mayhem including ash-clouds, volcano erupting from the mountains, major tsunamis, and crashing buildings are a breathtaking visual delight to experience. The real apocalypse would probably not be as cinematically awe-inspiring as Roland Emmerich’s version here, and for this reason alone a theatrical viewing is a must.
But not everyone wants a spectacle and a human story is required for a movie to work, and in this aspect 2012 does a surprisingly decent job. Although the trailers lead you to believe its all destruction every minute, there is actually a large amount of time devoted to the ensemble of characters in the film and each has his/her own dilemma in the crisis. However, there are many characters that never receive any closure and are undeveloped which. The source of the problem here is cramming too many characters from all ethnicities into the film to appeal to all audiences but eventually not being able to devote enough time to all of them. The major characters are all pretty fleshed out although stereotypical.
Another part where the movie falters is the first half hour, which is nothing more than an exposition dump and most of the scenes here are lifted from Emmerich’s previous film ‘The Day After Tomorrow’- Serious boardroom meetings, officials talking theory and others. But even after a half hour of explanations, the movie fails to dig deeper as to why the Mayans predicted the date in the first place. It’s briefly mentioned but instead of further exploring the Mayan beliefs for possible solutions, the movie forgets all about it. It ends up with a first half hour that plods to the point of boredom, but thankfully the movie picks up with full force after that.
One thing to keep in mind here is that the movie is surprisingly long – 2 hours and 38 minutes to be exact. And though most movies with this runtime tend to run out of gas midway through, 2012 manages to keep one’s interest because it cleverly spaces its action scenes. Since the whole world is at stake here, there’s a lot of material for the movie to use and the movie uses the road movie structure where characters are on a journey (in this case, from America to China) which gives time for dramatic scenes followed by a long action sequence and so on. However, melodrama drags the film down at times. The minor unnecessary character that are mentioned above take up too much time going into emotional speeches that have no impact on the viewer most of the time and drag too long. A little bit of editing would have tightened the experience even more.
Dialogue is also a minor complaint – when it is not clichéd, it’s unintentionally funny. I’m pretty sure Emmerich didn’t want his serious boardroom scene dialogues to be received with chuckles, and a certain Russian character in the film has so much of bad dialogue that pretty much every line he says comes off funny. The ending speech is well-done, but the rest is nothing we haven’t seen before.
Although not a lot of acting is required in a movie of this sort, the actors seem to do a pretty good job. John Cusack is perfectly cast as an everyday man in a crisis of epic proportions, but brings his unique charm and expressions into a role that doesn’t demand much anyway. Woody Harrelson is genius in his role (although the role is wasted), and Danny Glover gives a surprisingly emotional performance as the U.S. president. But Chiwetel Ejiofor is the one who takes the cake in a meaty performance as a government official conflicted with the choices his government seems to make. The rest of the actors are run of the mill, but none of them are particularly bad.
Overall, you already know if you like these kind of massive entertaining spectacle event pictures. If you are going to see it, you have to see it in theatres otherwise you wont do it justice. If you aren’t into movies of this sort, nothing can change your mind but I’d suggest you still give the film a try. It’s no Oscar material, but it does what it sets out to do – entertain the masses with breathtaking visuals.