I went into this movie knowing what to expect. Big explosions. Lots of cheesy dialogue. A black president. The point is, I wasn’t getting my hopes up. But the whole idea of global catastrophes and how mankind deals with them has always interested me, and hey, I like John Cusack, so dealing with two and a half hours of bright lights and loud noises didn’t seem like any big thing.
In Roland Emmerich’s latest, smash-em-up disaster epic, the nightmare begins when geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) discovers that neutrinos emitted from solar flares are somehow transforming themselves into new particles, which are passing through the Earth’s core, turning lava into super lava and melting the Earth’s crust. Well, the crust under the crust, leaving a sort of Jello pudding skin of land floating over Earth’s oceans. And that’s when things get weird.
Helmsley alerts the President’s Chief of Staff (Oliver Platt), and soon a multinational initiative is begun in a desperate bid to save some small piece of humanity. Of course, the clock is ticking. Stuck in the middle of all this is author Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), who is desperately trying to save his ex-wife (Amanda Peet) and kids (Liam James and Morgan Lily) from the global cataclysm.
We won’t kid ourselves. 2012 is a big, dumb, movie. The pseudo-scientific reasoning behind everything (which is worthy of any Michael Crichton novel) doesn’t overshadow the devastation, not to mention the devastatingly good special effects, which are some of the best I’ve ever seen. But then again, you go into this knowing what you signed up for.
In spite of that, 2012 isn’t a SyFy movie of the week. Something like Megaquake Manhattan! where Dolph Lundgren and Luke Perry save the Eastern Seaboard from sliding into the Atlantic. This movie has some big names attached to it. John Cusack plays the everyman as good as anyone can, and it’s hard not to like him here. His strained relationship with his kids feels genuine, and there are some good character beats between him and Amanda Peet, you know, when California isn’t blowing up.
Every now and then one of the characters will deliver some teeth-grindingly bad line (“Sir! The Earth’s crust is beginning to shift!”) to remind that audience that yes, this is an action movie. But everyone seemed to make their role work, even thought they come off just a tad stereotypical at times. Oliver Platt is cold-blooded. Chiwetel Ejiofor is nice and believes in humanity’s inherent good. My one big complaint is Danny Glover as the robotic, lisping President Thomas Wilson. His entire time on screen had me wondering whether or not he had had a stroke. Seriously. Didn’t this guy play Roger Murtaugh?
By the end of the movie, it looks like things are going to be just fine for everyone concerned, which is all good and well for the film, but in reality seems a little anticlimactic and unrealistic. This isn’t exactly a minor gripe for me, but suddenly the movie was over and I stopped thinking about it. And to be honest, I liked it. I hate it when people take bad movies and say they were fun, but 2012 was fun. Despite being two and a half hours long, it never felt plodding, and the entire thing created some real tension, which I wasn’t expecting. 2012 isn’t likely to win any Best Picture awards, but it’s a good time, and proves that Roland Emmerich remains the king of blowing crap up. B