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Overall Rating
2.59

Awesome: 3.45%
Worth A Look: 20.69%
Average31.03%
Pretty Bad: 20.69%
Total Crap: 24.14%

5 reviews, 28 user ratings


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2012
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by Peter Sobczynski

"When Time Ran On (And On And On. . .)"
1 stars

“2012,” the latest disaster movie from Roland Emmerich, the man behind the likes of “Independence Day,” “Godzilla” and “The Day After Tomorrow,” is quite possibly the loudest and most ridiculously over-the-top entry in a genre that has not exactly been known for its subtlety and reticence throughout the years. This statement, by the way, is not a criticism as much as it is an observation since it is clear right from the start that this is exactly what Emmerich is trying to accomplish. Now the fact that it fails to accomplish those not-so-lofty goals in a manner that could possibly be considered entertaining to anyone with even a smidgen of evidence is pure criticism and even that hardly begins to suggest just how lousy the film really is. In an effort to top the overblown carnage and destruction of his previous films and impress his fans, Emmerich goes so far overboard in trying to knock them out that it pretty much becomes the “Precious” of mega-budget event films--a graceless mess that will insult the intelligence of everyone who encounters it, even those who were actually looking forward to seeing it in the first place.

Inspired by a belief in certain quarters that the calendars created by the Mayans centuries ago predict that a cataclysmic even will destroy our planet on December 21, 2012, the film posits that an uptick of increasingly frequent and powerful solar flares will kick off a series of chain events that will quickly result in the end of the world as we know it. These events, in classic disaster movie tradition, are seen through the eyes of a cross-section of seemingly disparate people who are so consumed with resolving their own personal problems that they barely seem to notice the destruction going on around them at times. John Cusack is a failed writer who is reduced to working as a limo driver for a greedy Russian billionaire (Zlatko Buric)), his loathsome twin sons and his sexy mistress (Beatrice Rosen) while pining for his ex-wife (Amanda Peet), resenting her new boyfriend (Tom McCarthy--yes, the same one who directed “The Station Agent“ and “The Visitor“) and trying to bond with his kids--a sullen punk son (Liam James) and an adorable bed-wetter daughter (Morgan Lily)--during what proves to be a spectacularly ill-timed camping trip to Yellowstone. Chiwetel Ejiofor is the scientist-type guy who discovers that the planet is about to go belly-up. Danny Glover is the noble President trying to do the right thing without causing a panic. Oliver Platt is the self-centered politico whose naked self-ambition in a time of crisis makes Al Haig seem shy and retiring by comparison. Thandie Newton is the president’s daughter, who is beginning to suspect that something is going on when she learns that the rare works of art that she has been shipping out of museums for “safekeeping” aren’t where they are supposed to be. George Segal and Blu Mankuma are a musical duo playing on a cruise ship heading towards disaster. Finally, Woody Harrelson is the nutso loner broadcasting radio dispatches from his tricked-out camper that seem to predict the upcoming chaos with surprising accuracy.

I could bore you, as the movie does, with explaining the various ways in which these characters bounce in and out of each others lives as they attempt to avoid the apocalypse. However, I suspect that this is of no particular interest to you--it certainly isn’t to Emmerich or co-writer Harald Kloser (who previously collaborated on the deathless “10,000 B.C.”)--because you are presumably more interested in hearing about the scenes of jaw-dropping devastation on display. The carnage kicks off with the complete destruction of Los Angeles as Cusack and his family somehow manage to continually outrace the devastation without a single hiccup, even when they hurtle through a collapsing office building in a limo and take to the skies while trains hurtle through the air. Yellowstone transforms into a giant volcano spewing out giant fireballs and a deadly cloud of ash. The fake Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas gets clipped as the city crumbles to the ground around it. Hawaii is transformed into a giant lava flow. An enormous ship filled with possible survivors is slowly but surely heading for a collision with Mt. Everest. As for the President, I won’t reveal exactly what happens to him except to say that if Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh happen to show up at your screening, you should do everything in your power to avoid sitting directly in front of them.

All of these incidents, and many others left unmentioned, are presented in the most wildly overblown manner possible and while that is presumably the main selling point of “2012,” it is also the main reason why it fails to work even as a deliberately cheesy cinematic demolition derby. In the disaster movies of old, the stories were usually set in a location that was relatively isolated from the rest of the world and were populated by a finite number of characters/potential victims representing a cross-section of ordinary people (at least as “ordinary” as possible when the likes of Charo, John Davidson and Jimmie Walker could potentially turn up in the same cast) and as a result, it was possible to enjoy the ensuing chaos without feeling too guilty about watching a film devoted entirely to presenting people being burned, crushes, mutilated, blown up, drowned or stung by killer bees as a form of entertainment. However, by presenting a story in which the entire world is going down in flames, Emmerich pretty much shoots himself in the foot right from the get-go. By destroying everyone and everything, the suspension of disbelief that you could sort of muster when the hot spot in question was a capsized boat or a burning skyscraper completely flies out the window and instead of wondering which of our central characters will survivors, most people will find themselves wondering about the billions of people anonymously perishing around them.

Additionally, the whole idea of destroying to world is kind of a non-starter from a dramatic perspective as well--if the story sticks to its guns and really wipes out everything, it ends on an incredibly depressing note that denies viewers the climactic catharsis they have come to expect from the genre but if it figures out a way to ensure that maybe the end is not 100% nigh, then the entire thing seems like a bit of a con job from a filmmaker willing to sacrifice his singular premise so as not to inspire potentially poor word-of-mouth discussions. And while it would be silly to compare the foolish fantasies on display here with anything remotely resembling reality, it is hard to watch buildings crumbling to the ground or enormous tsunamis hitting land without queasily flashing back to familiar real-life images of similar events. In case you want to argue that this is mere coincidence and that Emmerich isn’t trying to exploit past tragedies by restaging them as pop entertainment, consider the fact that in one of the most awesomely tacky scenes in a film filled with such things, the head of the Louvre is killed in a suspicious car accident in the tunnels of Paris and a newscaster breathlessly informs us that yes, it was the exact same tunnel where Princess Diana died.

Beyond those excesses, “2012” suffers from the same flaws of most of the disaster films that have appeared over the years. The screenplay is an awful and indefensible concoction of painful expository dialogue, even-more-painful bits of ham-fisted character development (nothing like the end of the world to inspire a father to finally call his estranged son or a little girl to overcome her bed-wetting issues), crashingly obvious foreshadowing of upcoming events and screw-loose contrivances designed solely to bring the far-flung characters together and move the plot forward. Of course, “faster” is a relative term when it is used in service of a 158-minute-movie featuring a climax that is so needlessly protracted that everyone will be praying for the end of days to finally occur so that the damn thing will come to a merciful end. The performances are also pretty dreadful for the most part despite the fact that a bunch of decent actors have unaccountably been lured to sacrifice hefty chunks of their credibility and dignity in exchange for equally hefty paychecks. Sure, the old-time disaster movies had their fair share of slumming stars as well (including the likes of Gene Hackman, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Michael Caine, William Holden, Shelly Winters, Henry Fonda and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita) but even though some of them may have been embarrassed by what they signed on for (especially Newman), they at least made an effort to lend a smidgen of dramatic credibility to the proceedings. Here, nearly all the actors plod through their paces with the kind of stricken facial expressions that read “Yeah, I read the script and I cashed the check, but jeez. . .”--not even John Cusack can do much of anything with a part so thinly conceived that it makes his character from “Con Air” seem like Lloyd Dobler by comparison.

Then there are the moments that are just so damned stupid that you just want to slap the film stupider. Consider the way in which the Earth’s tectonic plates shift around in astonishing ways just so that some characters can get from point A to point B quicker. (That said, I was amused by the revelation that as a result of this, the South Pole was now located in Wisconsin.) Consider how, in an appropriately subtle bit of social commentary, the fate of millions comes down to a debate between a handsome and forward thinking young black man who doesn’t really accomplish much of anything other than delivering an inspiring and articulate speech at a key moment before the other leaders of the world and a reactionary old greedhead named Anheuser (because Busch would be too on-the-nose) who is more concerned about helping his rich pals than the common people. Consider the jaw-dropping moment in which a character actually gets to say “Our culture is our soul and it is not dying tonight” in the midst of a film that seems determined to repudiate that particular sentiment with each successive scene.

And yet, to be fair, I have to admit that there are a couple of aspects to “2012” that at least manage to elevate it, however minutely, over the likes of the otherwise equally abhorrent “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” Woody Harrelson earns a few much-needed laughs with a hilariously overscaled turn that sees him apparently trying to channel every single performance from Dennis Hopper’s flexography. Although the results are never particularly gripping or convincing, Emmerich demonstrates that he has the advantage over Michael Bay in that he can occasionally create an action set-piece that doesn’t require a camera edit every 1.5 seconds. Most importantly, the very nature of its premise--here is the film that should have been called “This is It”--suggests that no matter how many people flock to see it under the mistaken impression that they will be entertained by the experience, there almost certainly won’t be a sequel. Then again, people probably thought the same after sitting through “Airport” and “The Poseidon Adventure” and we all remember what happened in those cases. Then again, if there is anyone out there with a set of stones colossal enough to attempt a follow-up to something like this, it is Roland Emmerich and that is something to worry about, especially if he schedules it for release before December 12, 2012.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=18127&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/13/09 16:00:00
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User Comments

5/06/12 Charles Tatum A laugh riot! 2 stars
8/16/11 Machine Gun Tom Braindead piece of shit. Retarded! 1 stars
6/27/10 The Stick that Slaps It's not SUPPOSED to be Kieslowski's Trilogy - just lean back and enjoy the fine visuals... 4 stars
6/08/10 SCruz Guy Bad! Every scene is dark - can't see a thing. The story & acting is terrible. Avoid! 1 stars
5/17/10 mr.mike Why all the hate? It was good 4 stars
5/05/10 Davo Worse than crap 1 stars
4/26/10 Darkstar Just a stupid movie, irritating from start to finish. 1 stars
4/09/10 Roy Smith good FX, horrible dialogue/characters, made for kids maybe? 2 stars
3/29/10 Danny Retarded. Tries to be Poseidon, Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact all together. Didn't work. 1 stars
3/11/10 Ben Watchable enough, has its moments, wouldn't watch it twice though 3 stars
1/21/10 Stanley Thai The mother of all disaster movies. The VFX are amazing to say the least. 4 stars
12/29/09 joachimgrenoble visualy stunning and entertaining 5 stars
12/26/09 Croweater Crappy, boring, cliched, overly serious and not fun at all. Woody is the only highlight. 2 stars
12/09/09 Dr.Lao The smarmiest, most cliche ridden disaster flick ever (and that is saying something) 2 stars
12/09/09 Mishyana Never thought I'd see a movie that'd make me look back at Armageddon as being plausible... 2 stars
12/04/09 Toni total crap... not even fun 1 stars
11/29/09 MC Very Repetitive, this movie is nothing new 3 stars
11/28/09 Kim The debate on who to save was tedious; it's the end of the world, just buckle up and die! 3 stars
11/26/09 Ming The special in the beginning was fantastic..However the story is total crap..Noah arks endi 3 stars
11/24/09 John Nicol The worst movie I have ever seen. Stupid, unfunny, overlong, beyond ridiculous 1 stars
11/20/09 ronald Holst Alot Of action 4 stars
11/19/09 kaz totally unbelievable,, 2 stars
11/19/09 gc Not a film to be taken too seriously, a fun roller coaster ride though 4 stars
11/17/09 KingNeutron Woody Harrelson and Cusack were the best parts; forgettable 3 stars
11/16/09 M Good for what it is ... cheeeeesy dialogue! 4 stars
11/16/09 action movie fan spectacular in every way 5 stars
11/15/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Global elite lives to reseed new word with debt slaves 3 stars
11/14/09 PAUL SHORTT A PREPOSTEROUS, OVERLONG MESS THATS FILLED WITH CHEESY DIALOGUE & CLICHE-RIDDEN CHARACTERS 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  13-Nov-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 02-Mar-2010

UK
  N/A

Australia
  13-Nov-2009
  DVD: 02-Mar-2010



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