Columbia Pictures | USA | 158 mins
2012, directed by Roland Emmerich, is a standard disaster film, a.k.a. plenty of gaps in logic and a predictable story-line paired with action set pieces galore! This exploitation of mindless action is filled with non-stop cliches, mediocre acting and instantly quotably cringe-worthy lines. The film gets by at times due to its sheer cheese factor, but it never reaches the peak of “it’s so-bad-its-good”, something which could have aided in enjoyment arena.
As the Mayans predicted, the world is ending in 2012. Right at the center of this atrocity is writer Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) and the always sympathetic scientist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwitel Ejiofor). Curtis is a writer who lives an estranged life from his kids and ex-wife (Amanda Peet). He’s, of course, divorced and his children prefer their always lovable step-father (Tom McCarthy). Meanwhile, Helmsley is a government scientist who has known about the forthcoming apocalypse for years. His colleague in India discovered it in 2009. Helmsley ends up informing the president (Danny Glover). With only three years to prepare, they take the next logical step: don’t warn anyone and build giant arcs in China for the rich. When the inevitable doomsday comes everyone fights for survival. Curtis does his best to save his family while Helmsley whines plenty about having to save everyone.
The story is paper thin and the extended running time mostly involves yelling “look out!”, outrunning explosions and the like. The two main focuses of the story is Curtis and Helmsley, but there is still plenty of screen time for useless side characters. From Curtis’s dad to the president’s daughter, they are unneeded. This is purely a survival story and that follows the same predictable formula. All the characters are thrown into peril and it’s always known that they’re going to be just fine. It’s quite repetitive and contrived; the ending also wraps everything up in the nicest and tidiest way possible, which is pitifully hilarious.
Emmerich aspires for very little and yet he still underwhelms. He is trying to create a fun action explosion fest, but he’s not particularly good at doing so. This isn’t on the level of God-awfulness that 10,000 B.C. sits on but rather on a similar scale with the lackluster quality of The Day After Tomorrow. Emmerich stages action well in the over-the-top sense at times, but it comes too scarce and isn’t particularly exciting. Like all of his previous films, they suffer from pre-conceptions. The action scenes aren’t highly involving since all the character’s fates are already foreseen. While some may say the CGI is “incredible” and jaw-dropping”, it’s actually hit and miss. At times it does earn pure moments of awe, but during other moments it’s like watching a video game.
Cusack usually delivers excellent performances and is generally able to create convincingly interesting characters no matter the shallowness of his character, but that is certainly not the case this time. It is easy to give him a pass and blame it purely on the script (which was written by Emmerich and his composer Harald Kloser) but he’s actually a boring lead. That may be because he’s thrown into a countless number of dangerous moments which mainly reduce him to yelling and looking scared. He’s a mediocre character without a genuine arc and a lack of Will Smith flair. The same goes for the rest of the cast. Everyone is stuck either screaming, delivering hammy exposition or just running from giant explosions. There’s a fantastic ensemble cast present here and yet they are all utterly wasted. The only true standout is Oliver Platt as the always hilarious government bad guy.
This is a bad movie that could have been pure popcorn entertainment. It certainly has it’s moments during the insane action sequences and it also contains plenty of unintentional comedy from the unrealistic characters and lines, but it’s not enough to even work on a fun dumb blockbuster level. Perhaps if 2012 wasn’t completely bloated, had characters to care for and included more action then it would have been worthwhile.