With “2012 Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow Independence Day”) once again directs a big-budget visually spectacular disaster flick. When the solar activity of our sun threatens geological and environmental changes so severe they shift the south pole to Wisconsin you know the world is going to hell. “2012” can only be described as epic; it is an epic failure in many regards but also an epic success in others. But ultimately this film like all of Emmerich’s movies is just mediocre.
The plot is agonizingly formulaic and predictable. When the protagonist Adrian Helmsley (Chitwetel Ejiofor “Serenity”) visits India to discover that the neutrinos of the sun have somehow transformed into a material threat (the reason for this is never explained in detail) he informs the president of the United States and consequently the world that our planet is about to be destroyed. There are two plots— Jackson (John Cusack) and his family’s seeming superhuman ability to survive every natural disaster that comes their way and the top government officials’ attempt to create a temporary solution to the problem of Armageddon. Either way the suspension of disbelief is not only excruciatingly strained but completely broken within the first 15 minutes of the movie.
With nothing but cliched unrealistic dialogue “2012” establishes itself as one of the worst screenplays of the year. For instance after a mild earthquake nearly capsizes a cruiser the characters look at each other and say “What was that?” It was an earthquake morons. Worse still is the supposed comic relief. When all of Santa Monica and the surrounding area are falling into the abyss of the Earth Jackson hits Gordon’s car turns to look at him in the passenger’s seat and says “Sorry.” Everyone and everything within a hundred miles is about to be destroyed in a matter of seconds and Jackson takes the time to apologize for giving Gordon’s car some bumper damage? The film’s screenplay is so atrocious that within 30 minutes the movie the viewer will have either left the theater or resigned himself to the fact that intelligent dialogue and realism do not exist in this movie.
That being said this is probably the most visually impressive movie I have ever seen. Having a projected budget of more than $200 million this film will most likely win the Oscar for best visual effects. The most extraordinary scene is the 20-minute “escape” from the Santa Monica area. Whether it’s people falling into endless gorges buildings and cars crashing into each other or the ground itself becoming a black hole-like entity this action was undeniably exhilarating. And with a run time of nearly 2 hours and 40 minutes Emmerich doesn’t restrain himself in providing some of the most monumental disaster scenes in the history of film.
In essence the message of the film is that nature and God are indifferent to the suffering of humankind (as shown through the scene where an earthquake divides God and Adam’s finger in the Sistine Chapel). Furthermore the movie implies that only human beings can help one another. When devastation hits humans must learn to act against their egotistic nature and help their fellow man or else humanity is not worth saving.
The film had a few emotionally heart-wrenching scenes that were actually well done. For example Adrian calls his dad to let him know that his father’s location is about to be devastated. The realistic portrayal of a father and son’s last conversation is not only believable but may possibly bring a tear to one’s eye. Additionally Tony calls his son as he waits for his inevitable death. But before he can apologize for the mistakes he’s made (namely not being a part of his son’s life) an earthquake wipes out his son’s house killing the entire family. There are many scenes similar to this one that are as emotionally devastating as the physical damage; these sporadically masterful scenes almost make it worth sitting through the rest of the movie.
“2012” is cheesy and mostly unrealistic. Yet the visuals are thrilling the concept is intriguing and the few dramatic scenes are exceptionally well-executed. The movie had potential to be wonderful. But with all the money and focus going into the visual effects it’s understandable that other venues are lacking. Overall the film is mediocre; but I would recommend it if you are able to sit through a cheesy screenplay with brilliant visual effects that will blow your mind.