At the Movies: “2012”

First Posted: 11/29/2009

Here we go again. Make amends and say your round of goodbyes, because according to the Mayan calendar, were all a bunch of goners. Dec. 21, 2012, is the day that the Earth will self destruct.
There will be fireballs hurling toward us from the deep, dark depths of the sky. There will be tidal waves as tall as Mount Everest. There will be earthquakes that split the world in two … or three … or thousands of pieces. No one and nothing can survive it.
Except for John Cusack. That guy can do anything.
In Roland Emmerichs long-awaited disaster movie titled 2012, Cusack is Jackson Curtis, an author, divorced father with two children, and an unknown hero. Packing the kids up for a camping trip to Yellowstone, Jackson pops the tent and runs into a kook named Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson). Charlie rants and raves about the arrival of the apocalypse, and tells his sparse radio listeners about a space ship that the U.S. government is building. On those ships will be the only survivors, carefully chosen by the government. Scientists, wealthy patrons, military advisors, teachers, doctors and other essential experts have been secretly given boarding tickets and a map of how to get to the space ships launch pad.
Jackson dismisses Charlie as a mere lunatic, until the earthquakes begin the following day. A fireball here and there, a volcanic eruption or two, and Jackson sees Charlies predictions coming true. He packs up the kids and ex-wife Kate (Amanda Peet), and her plastic surgeon boyfriend, Gordon (Tom McCarthy), and rents a plane. From the air, they can see the unimaginable scenes of horror and disaster taking place before their eyes, and Jackson decides that there only chance of survival is to find Charlie Frosts map and get to the ship as quickly as possible.
Dr. Adrian Helmsley (Chjwetel Ejiofor) told them it would happen. He and his scientist colleague had been tracking the shifting of the earths crust, and had warned the officials of the impending doom. From the safety of the ship, experts track the regions of the world being destroyed as it closes in on them.
As far as disaster movies go, director Roland Emmerich says that 2012 is his last endeavor. The special effects were fantastic. Ships capsize on skyscrapers; volcanoes engulf entire continents in its liquid fire; and meteors fall like rain. There are hundreds of close calls for our hero and his small clan, and mishap after mishap makes their journey inconceivable. But disaster movies are supposed to be inconceivable, right?
Filmed mostly in British Columbia, the visual aspects of 2012 are a welcomed sensory overload. The plot, on the other hand, is a different story. If I had to sum up the plot in one word, it would be typical. There is nothing surprising (and barely engaging) about the storyline. Sure, you have the essentials. A man struggles to save his family and failed marriage see The Day After Tomorrow. Danny Glover is the president of the United States, and chooses to stay behind and die with the people of his nation see Deep Impact. Our heartstrings are yanked when we see the citizens of the world weeping for what will come, their hands folded in prayer and in begging for survival see Armageddon.
Nothing new here. But, undeniably, if you want great special effects and the heart thumping thrill of nonstop action, this is your movie. But if you wanted to feel something other than shock, go elsewhere. If you wanted a meaningful plot, move along. If you had hoped to use your brain in any form or fashion, find a different screen.
Rated PG-13 for scenes of death and destruction and some foul language, and running at 158 minutes, 2012 has great special effects and not much more. Kudos to Cusack for a job well done, but the rest of the cast seethed of mediocrity. 2012 gets 3 bags of popcorn.

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