It has become a tradition that every few years a knock-your-socks-off, effects-laden movie arrives in theaters and is a fun watch, but neither surprises audiences or satisfies with its story. Nonetheless, with the new Roland Emmerich film, “2012,” the disaster film genre has reached the peak of shockingly poor quality with a non-existent storyline that is thinly veiled with big budget special effects. Jumping at the opportunity to capitalize off the 2012 end of the earth theories, Emmerich and Co. have clearly not taken the time to construct a story which will solidify the awe-inspiring special effects, so in turn, the entire film fails to leave a lasting impression. If you expect anything more than spectacular special effects for unrealistic events, then “2012” is not worth the ticket price.
Like a cross between Emmerich’s “The Day After Tomorrow,” with its tidal waves and flooding, and the “War of the Worlds” with Tom Cruise- seemingly the only man able to flee the destruction of a city by deftly driving through the streets with his two children safely in the back seat, “2012” joins the ranks of shoddy-scripted films with a shallow hole at the center where some substance of a story should live.
The film begins with a hokey explanation of why the earth’s core is heating up due to solar flares, and how this will make the earth crumble in on it self. As the government plans in secrecy how to deal with the inevitable destruction of the earth, an unknown novel writer named Jackson Curtis, played by John Cusack, turns into hero dad of the year as he swoops up his kids and ex-wife and out runs California’s falling landscape in his 1980s-looking limousine (just Cusack, no one else in California has a faster car). Granted, this is fun to watch, but the majority of the impressive effects scenes were over-revealed in lengthy trailers that once viewed, spoil these scenes.
From that point on, the film centers around Curtis and his ex-wife, two children, and wife’s boyfriend, as they try and outrun the earthquakes and other assorted destruction- all the while performing great feats such as flying airplanes and dodging cracks in the earth- in a laughingly implausible way. Aware of a possible project by the government that would mean survival for a few, Cusack and his clan head in that direction. In the course of their journey, there is little to no development of any of the main characters in the film; we see a surface story of Cusack’s character’s shattered relationship with his wife, played by Amanda Peet and his two children (hmm, wonder if they will repair their relationship?), and the young scientist, Adrian Helmsley, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (“American Gangster”), who informs the government of what is happening every step of the way, does not have any background story or get any deeper than the fact that he is some sort of scientist. With the absolute lack of anything even remotely scientific in their explanations, the suspension of disbelief that this movie requires accelerates faster than Cusack in his limousine.
The two redeeming characters in the film are the conspiracy theorist/radio talk show host Charlie Frost, played by Woody Harrelson, and the stoic American president played by Danny Glover. Harrelson’s character offers the very sparse explanation of the 2012 end of the earth theory that scientists supposedly were aware of for a long time, and which ancient civilizations such as the Mayans had predicted. There is no elaboration on this explanation except that they knew the earth would end and that this involves something happening astronomically. Harrelson offers some humor with Frost, as he rambles on about the end of the world in his trailer in Yosemite, like a true conspiracy theorist. Glover brings dignity to the role of the American president and a little too much sincerity that it seems almost displaced in this chaotic nonsensical disaster flick. These few scenes with humor and some semblance of acting talent, save this film from being the true disaster it could be.
When a movie purports to be about the end of the world, one can only hope to see some amazing special effects and feel the gravity of the scenario of events that unfold, but with “2012” gratuitous destruction and lack of character development is all you get. The effects are fun to watch, and while the implausible and insane events which take place test the boundaries of movie magic, it’s dangerously obvious that Hollywood needs to start delivering more story and character development if they want the film to be on the level of a memorable, fun action movie.“2012” doesn’t just fall short of being memorable, it falls straight into the earth and gets swallowed by a huge tidal wave, never to be heard from again.