It has long been said that the ancient Mayans held the secret to the end of the world. When the earth's crusts begin to shift, global governments try to effect a survival plan, but Jackson Curtis (John Cusack, "Say Anything," "War, Inc.") is only intent on having his ex-wife Kate (Amanda Peet, "Syriana," "What Doesn't Kill You") and their two children live through the year "2012."
Cowriter (with Harald Kloser, "10,000 BC")/director Roland Emmerich ("The Day After Tomorrow," "10,000 BC") never met a civilization or national monument he didn't want to destroy and with "2012" he also heavily mines prior disaster films and silly actioners including his own, even including this one because if something works once it apparently works better twice. Cliched, bombastic, coincidental, corny and technologically implausible, "2012" is so silly it might be entertaining if it didn't go on so long.
In Tibet, a Buddhist monk tells young Tenzin (Chin Han) that he must empty his cup before he can fill it with understanding. In India, Dr. Satnam Tsurutani (Jimi Mistry, "The Guru," "RocknRolla") has ascertained (in a lab full of computers in 120 degree heat!) that solar activity is causing the earth's core to overheat at a rate that will eventually cause its crust to shift dramatically. His colleague Dr. Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Talk to Me," "Redbelt") brings this dramatic news back to U.S. President Wilson's Chief of Staff Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt, "Frost/Nixon"), who begins to build a plan to keep global government alive after the world is dead. What Helmsley doesn't know until much later, is that this is largely going to be funded by tickets to survival going to the highest bidders. The President's pretty daughter Laura (Thandie Newton, "Crash," "RocknRolla"), who has been working to preserve artworks such as the Mona Lisa, is more than a little suspicious when the Louvre's Art Director is killed in the 'Princess Diana' tunnel on his way to a press conference.
Meanwhile, our hero Jackson is late to pick up his kids, resentful Noah (Liam James, "Fred Claus") and darling Lilly (Morgan Lily, "Henry Poole Is Here"), for a camping trip to Yellowstone, so takes his work limo when his own vehicle won't start, because a limo will prove to be the more ridiculous wheels to evacuate a crumbling L.A. with later. Jackson wanders into a restricted area, meets Helmsley who read his little released book, 'Farewell Atlantis,' then runs into hippie doomsday radio jock Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson, "Zombieland"), who tells him Yellowstone is a hot spot signaling 2012 and that the Government is building giant space ships. Back home, Frost's words are confirmed by one of Jackson's Russian billionaire boss's (Zlatko Buric, "Dirty Pretty Things," deliciously hammy) bratty twins (the Haussmanns) and he races to get his family out of L.A. and into the air, which he does as freeways fall, canyons emerge, buildings collapse and runways crumble. There's so much disaster going on in this early sequence it's hard to take it all in, but the first 9/11 reference is unmistakable.
Luckily, Kate's new boyfriend Gordon (Tom McCarthy, "Duplicity") has a couple of flight lessons under his belt and he pilots them to Yellowstone where Jackson intends to use Frost to get them all to safety. But Frost's more interested in broadcasting the apocalypse, so Jackson drives Frost's RV (big wheels again!) back to the plane as Yellowstone becomes one heavy duty volcano, grabbing Frost's map that pinpoints China as the global survival spot at the-very-last-second. Along the way, with the earth falling about them, they will meet up again with Jackson's boss Yuri in Las Vegas (only to discover that Gordon did Yuri's girlfriend Tamara's (Beatrice Rosen, "The Dark Knight") boob job!), be found on the road by Tenzin, then run into Yuri again in China where Helmsley will see Jackson on a monitor and go 'hey, I know that guy!' Massive destruction, small world.
The better than average cast manage to play this straight (Ejiofor is actually convincing), even having to read relationship lines about 'things coming between us' to cue an earthquake's crack between them. As the U.S. President, Danny Glover ("Lethal Weapon," "Honeydripper") sounds like he has a frog in his throat, but he does the nobility thing well amidst the second overt use of 9/11 imagery (Jackson's book, about people sacrificing themselves for others at the end of the world, serves as a touch stone). As a cruise line lounge act Blu Mankuma ("Fierce People") and George Segal (TV's "Just Shoot Me!," HBO's ""Entourage") get to play "The Poseidon Adventure" the first time, with Cusack picking up the Shelly Winters role for the overblown finale, which also includes a repeat of Frost's demise when Buddhist lama Rinpoche bangs the gong as a tsunami crests the Himalayas. Rio's Christ statue is destroyed as a prelude to the Vatican itself and not one, but two U.S. military vehicles - the USS John F. Kennedy Aircraft Carrier and Air Force One - are hurled as weapons by waves.
That Mayan date, 12/21/2012, is not too far away - plenty of time to develop numerous drinking games based on Emmerich's latest. That way, by the time the fatigue factor begins to kick in, drinking to the funny bits will have also.
The film is presented in its widescreen aspect ration, however it appears very dark, as if it were being projected with dialed-down lamps. The menu is easy to navigate.
There are English and French subtitle options, along with a director's commentary subtitle and French dub. The director's commentary is often unintentionally hilarious, as Emmerich bemoans the many fabulous shots he had to cut because people thought it wasn't believable just as the unbelievably excessive destruction of L.A. is occurring. Even more hysterical is the alternate ending, a slab of cheese that would have been met with gales of laughter in theaters (and certainly was met with same in our living room). Deleted scenes are of interest and include a couple of alternate versions, one of which is more satisfying than what ended up in the film. A featurette paints Emmerich as the master of disaster, but goes too far with its praise (the director compares himself to Woody Allen!!!), typical of such promotional pieces. The Adam Lambert music video features the American Idol runner up in fine voice but the video itself is more promotional hash. There are numerous previews of the distributor's upcoming theatrical and DVD releases. On the whole, the extra material included with the disk is all worth a look and nicely rounded out. If only the film itself looked brighter. C+
The scientific world discovers that the neutrinos from a massive solar flare have penetrated the crust of the Earth, causing its core to heat up dramatically. (Damn neutrinos!) American geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetal Ejiofor) rushes to Washington to tell the authorities, including the President (Danny Glover), that catastrophic events are looming that will cause the end of the world in “2012.”
I missed the “opportunity” to see Roland Emmerich’s latest epic disaster tome at the theaters. However, after talking to Laura – who sat through the two and a half hour bombast – I figured she had taken a bullet for me. Forewarned is forearmed, they say, and I took the opportunity to review the movie on DVD. For the first hour, I got a kick out of the rollercoaster ride of jaw dropping escapes by car and airplane as Los Angeles crumbles and tumbles down, satisfied that I had been mildly entertained by the eye candy on my home screen. Then, I realized I had another 98 minutes to go! I hunkered down, got comfortable, and proceeded to watch more and more and more of the same.
What could have been a tight, action packed pop corner at about 90 minutes is a big, bloated bore fest, even with a campy attitude going in and the comfort of my own home. If one hair-raising drive through the harrowing LA landscape is good, then three or four such drives, with more explosions, collapsing bridges, falling cars and tumbling down buildings, must be great. The same goes for airplanes just making it off the airport runways as the earth gobbled them up – when one such escape would work perfectly fine, three is just a waste of time and celluloid. I have always though that Roland Emmerich was a hack director with a penchant for cheese and “2012” is no different from “Independence Day,” “Godzilla” and “10,000 B.C.” He just has a bigger F/X budget. His stories suck and he makes good actors look bad.
The DVD comes with deleted scenes (after watching the movie, there are not nearly enough of these) and an alternate ending (longer, I think, than the one used). There is a featurette called “Roland Emmerich: The Master of the Modern Epic” that is self-aggrandizing and a commentary, over the movie, by Emmerich and co-writer Harald Kloser. Emmerich sounds like Werner Herzog on valium and has such insights as “I always wanted to work with Woody Harrelson” and lamentations over having to cut back on the special effects. (Are you kidding me?) There is also a music video, “Time for Miracles,” by Adam Lambert (who should change his name to Lamebert for this one). Even though the extras are chock-a-block, they are still for a bad movie. I give “2012” a D+ and the DVD a C-.
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