Starring: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Directed by: Roland Emmerich (“The Day After Tomorrow”)
Written by: Roland Emmerich (“The Day After Tomorrow”) and Harald Kloser
While the new apocalyptic thriller by director/writer Roland Emmerich (“The Day After Tomorrow”) might look like a 10.5 on the Richter scale based solely from its highly-intense, CGI-heavy previews, the event itself is more comparable to the seismic energy of a lopsided shopping cart wobbling down a grocery store aisle.
It shouldn’t be too surprising, however, if you’re familiar with Emmerich’s work. Giving audiences things that are both enormous and awful isn’t a new idea for him. From 1998’s larger-than-life lizard remake “Godzilla” to last year’s unfortunate prehistoric epic “10,000 B.C.,” it’s fairly safe to say Emmerich isn’t the type of filmmaker anyone would consider a minimalist when it comes to the technical aspects of his movies.
While it wasn’t such a problem with the cheese-fest that was “Independence Day” in 1996 (who wasn’t cheering for Will Smith to annihilate some hostile aliens?), there is something about “2012” that can’t be fixed no matter how many tsunamis are unleashed or buildings obliterated.
Forget the fact that a comprehensible narrative is missing and that the dialogue is worthy of massive eye-rolling. You might even overlook some of the countless cornball scenes throughout the film’s 158-minute runtime. What mainstream moviegoer is walking into this for character development anyway? The main problem with “2012” is that none of it is startling anymore. Emmerich does little to take the disaster movie to the next level other than to shell out more cash for extra special effects that ultimately feel worn.
In the film, John Cusack (“1408”) plays Jackson Curtis, a limo driver and small-time author who inexplicably finds out the world is coming to an end. Jackson isn’t the only one that knows this secret. The government, with the help of geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), is aware of cataclysmic events that will happen. Judgment Day has been prophesized with the end of the Mayan calendar coming on Dec. 21, 2012. Now, with scientific evidence supporting this theory, administrations around the world have prepared for the worst by building “ships” to save as many people as possible before the earth begins to implode on itself.
As Adrian battles dishonesty within the White House, Jackson’s thoughts are with his family who – along with a majority of the popuation – have no idea what is about to happen. It’s at this point in the big-budget adventure where the destruction begins and never lets up. While the first rescue mission is actually quite fun (basically, it’s what you see in one of the movie trailers), Emmerich chucks in just about every disaster movie cliché in the book. It’s like getting punched repeatedly in the face. The first few blows are going to sting the most, but after 18 rounds, everything feels numb.
Emmerich tries to balance out the action by raising moral questions about the significance of saving certain people and things from being destroyed, but it all comes in a distance second to what most people are probably looking for – death and mayhem. It’s all there in “2012” for the less demanding moviegoers. For everyone else, the world doesn’t end soon enough.