Rated PG-13 for intense disaster sequences and some language, 158 minutes
"2012": Who knew world destruction was so entertaining?
The ads for the new disaster film "2012" state: "We Were Warned." Well, you've been warned: "2012" is guilty-pleasure entertainment that makes the apocalypse enjoyable. Directed by Roland Emmerich, the guy who brought you calamitous events in "The Day After Tomorrow" and "Independence Day" goes for the jugular in this one: total world destruction, taking an all-star cast down with it. Completely, totally and utterly ridiculous, overlong and overwrought at every moment, it's also ridiculously entertaining.
"2012" is inspired by the idea of global doomsday coinciding with the Mayan Long Count Calendar's current cycle on December 21, 2012. With these apocalyptic events predicted by the Mayan Calendar, it's 2009 and all the world's government's are aware of the events, including the U.S. President (Danny Glover) and his top scientist, Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who despite their best attempts, are unable to prevent it from happening in 3 years. The governments have worked together to build indestructible "arks" to repopulate the Earth after its destruction.
Flash forward to 2012 and caught up in the apocalypse is writer and sometimes limousine driver Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), who ironically wrote a book on the end times. Spending sometime with his kids on a camping trip in Wyoming, he runs across a weird radio host and end times expert Charlie (Woody Harrelson), whose been aware of the coming events all along. Before long, California starts to fall off in the ocean and he must rush home to get his estranged wife (Amanda Peet) and her new boyfriend (Thomas McCarthy) and then race against time in an unforgettable adventure to get to the arks to save their lives.
"2012" is preposterous popcorn entertainment for the masses, but there's strange enjoyment and merriment in destruction and people running for their lives, we'll be up a creek if this really happens, which may be a stretch in this case. Inspired by the events supposedly foretold by the Mayan calendar, which is in fact untrue and largely a Westernized myth to stir up trouble. But what watchable entertainment it makes in "2012," even if none of it is remotely plausible.
But Emmerich is becoming the Irwin Allen of this generation, with a fascination in destruction that Allen had in the 1970's with "The Poseiden Adventure," "The Towering Inferno" (my favorite of these films) and "Earthquake." Emmerich, much like Allen, assembles an all-star cast of familiar A-list names from Cusack, Peet, Harrelson (who seems to have the most fun), Glover, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, among many other familiar faces. Heck, he even managed to include '70s movie star George Segal ("Rollercoaster" anyone?) in all this, as if you've been wondering whatever happened to him. But the real star of "2012" are the loads and loads of impressive but busy special effects with total, messy destruction in mind (it is fascinating to see chunks of California fall into the ocean); those quality CG visuals are truly the most memorable part of the film.
Even more so than his own "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow," Emmerich stages so many over-the-top, ridiculous scenes, mostly involving Cusack, of just barely making it before the world cracks open or blows up that you'll get a kick out of it, particularly in the film's first fast-paced sections, when the world falls under earthquakes and tsunami's. The last act, in the race to get to the ark's (yeah, right) is so overwrought you'll be tired by the end, until you realized you've been holding onto your seat for 2 1/2 hours, which is far too long but at the same time goes by so quickly.
Emmerich tries and fails badly at staging some sort of emotional, human drama - it just doesn't work; throw story, character and plot development out the window as you won't need them here, after all "2012" is a disaster flick and disasters take center stage. This brand of forgettable event movies gives Hollywood great pleasure in making, and the masses will likewise enjoy "2012" but hardly remember it the next morning.
Get comfy in your theater seat and enjoy your popcorn and drink, after all the world's about to end, and you won't want to miss it.