There is now a long, grand history of disaster films in Hollywood. The best of the lot have combined suspense with cutting-edge effects to keep your adrenaline pumping. The worst combine cheesy CGI with shallow characters whose deaths won't affect you much.
Here's 2012, summed up: Look, some recognizable landmark! Kablam! Look, a giant wave! Wooo! Do our intrepid Good Guys have enough time to outrun the imploding planet and foil a plot to save only the pretty, rich people? Probably! It's pretty clear what happened to bring us to this point. Roland Emmerich, who's made such cinematic classics as Independence Day, The Patriot, Godzilla, and The Day after Tomorrow, was asked if he wanted a quintillion billion bazillion dollars to make a movie about the end of the world, and he said sure. Then he took parts of each movie's script, filmed them mostly with CGI, and pocketed the rest. Viola! Greatest movie! (A quick break to sum up the plot. Apparently, the sun and the planets have all aligned with the center of the galaxy, which winds up causing the Earth's crust to break up, which then causes the tectonic plates to shift. Mass hysteria! Dogs and cats, living together! The End.) See, there are two ways Emmerich could have gone with this movie. He could have given us characters to follow whom we cared a little about, thus involving us in their plights, and mixed in some convincing special effects. Or he could have said, "The heck with the characters, give me blowy-uppy thingys." This sometimes works: See Independence Day, a movie that made me feel pretty good when I left the theater after seeing it but that ultimately, frankly, was pretty bad.
Emmerich chose the latter. Which would have been fine, but the effects themselves are wildly unrealistic and often take so long to set up that you completely notice how godawful they really are. For example and if you've seen the trailer, this is in there there's a scene in which the Sistine Chapel falls, crushing thousands of spectators. Because the toppling is so slow to complete, it becomes painfully obvious that it's just a film running on a screen behind people running away. Sad and unintentionally hilarious.
And you can forget about the plot, really, because most of it makes no sense anyway and would happen only in a Big Movie like this. Of COURSE John Cusack is divorced from his hot, bitchy wife (Amanda Peet) and of COURSE she's hooking up with a plastic surgeon who of COURSE winds up having had some flying lessons that of COURSE will save them all and of COURSE Cusack's young son will somehow save the day as well and of COURSE there is a Russian businessman who used to be a boxing legend and of COURSE he punches someone out. And of COURSE people say "My God!" a lot, because that's what people do in crappy disaster films. And of COURSE the president is black, because in Hollywood black people get to be president only if disaster is a-coming.
At least the acting isn't horrible. Because everyone just runs from place to place in an effort to escape the horror, there aren't any subtle, low-key scenes that would allow good actors to flourish. Cusack is good in general, but what the heck is he doing in here? He's usually so good at picking projects, and he chose this? Willingly? Oliver Platt plays the kind of role that Bruce McGill typically gets, the hamhanded, I'm-in-charge, Al-Haig-like politician. I can't even remember his title. Danny Glover gets to be president and does get the best dialog in the film, even if his role isn't a big one. Woody Harrelson, as a crazed DJ deep in Yellowstone is also a lot of fun, although he's not the kind of guy you'd want to sit next to on a transatlantic flight.
Final verdict: Yikes. Yikes, yikes, and yikes. If you dare watch this travesty, you might find yourself laughing hysterically at things and this is important that were not meant to be funny. If that's your thing, this is your movie. I managed to see this as a matinee, so I'm not out the $10-$15 that some people are right now, so at least I got that going for me. Best advice: Watch it for free at home on a big-screen TV to fully appreciate the magnitude of suck.
Action / Adventure
Action / Adventure
Dr. Adrian Helmsley, part of a worldwide geophysical team investigating the effect on the earth of radiation from unprecedented solar storms, learns that the earth's core is heating up. He warns U.S. President Thomas Wilson that the crust of the earth is becoming unstable and that without proper preparations for saving a fraction of the world's population, the entire race is doomed. Meanwhile, writer Jackson Curtis stumbles on the same information. While the world's leaders race to build "arks" to escape the impending cataclysm, Curtis struggles to find a way to save his family. Meanwhile, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes of unprecedented strength wreak havoc around the world.
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February 8, 2012 at 12:36 pm