The Apocalypse Wow! Of “2012”
For most film fans there are three minimum standards necessary in order to make a disaster film like “2012” thoroughly enjoyable. The first would be great, wow-inducing special effects. The second would be a reasonably plausible storyline, and plot points that don’t insult the audience’s intelligence. Add in a mix of good characters (played by good actors) to care about and you have the makings of a hit movie.
“2012” succeeds in all three areas, though the action sequences are clearly the film’s strong suit. It’s easy to dismiss this type of film because there have been so many, and “2012” feels like a “greatest hits” collection of famous disaster films. Elements of “Armageddon,” The Day After Tomorrow,” “Deep Impact,” “The Poseidon Adventure,” “Titanic” and many others are all represented here-but that doesn’t mean “2012” hasn’t raised the bar on global cataclysm.
According to the film’s script, the Mayans correctly predicted the end of days for 2012, and with the earth’s core heating up at an increased rate, some of the world’s best scientists start making preparations for doomsday. A bold plan is put in place to save at least a portion of the human race, the details of which add a nice surprise to the film’s final third, though at two and a half hours it feels unnecessarily long. The relentless near-misses and coincidences strain credibility, but one storyline involving the sudden deaths of certain world figures makes perfect sense, as does a philosophic showdown that adds heightened tension to the proceedings.
Breathtaking scenes depicting the destruction of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, the Vatican and the Capitol imply (with little actual carnage shown) the death of billions of people. But as with most films of this genre, the focus is on the survival of the favored few whose lives hang in the balance.
Along for the thrills are some excellent actors who give this rollercoaster ride added stability. John Cusack as a failed writer trying to save his family, Oliver Platt as a commanding Chief of Staff, and the always excellent Chiwetel Ejiofor as an empathetic scientist who makes most of the (presumably hokey) science sound pretty believable. Woody Harrelson has what amounts to an extended cameo as a radio nut job and is very entertaining. Danny Glover, Amanda Peete, and Thandie Newton also star but their performances feel more standard issue-perhaps by design.
“2012” is the mother of all disaster movies and is a pinnacle for director Roland Emmerich, whose similar films have been good (“Independence Day,” “Stargate”), bad (“10,000 B.C”), and ugly “(Godzilla”). Though it liberally borrows from disaster films of the past, “2012’s” special effects, action, story and characters lift it to a level that in this genre will be hard to surpass.
Rated PG-13 for intense disaster sequences and some language.