is a bad movie. It's difficult to even recognize it as a “film”, per se; it certainly has what one would recognize as movie parts, or movie ingredients, but when you're well into the third interminable hour, it's tempting to think of this less as a movie than perhaps as some kind of pasteurized processed film product. Movieloaf, perhaps.
Which is all the more odd because it seems like this should've been right up Roland Emmerich's alley: despite a habit of directing fairly bad films (Godzilla
, The Patriot
), he's usually risen to the occasion when given the opportunity to blow the world up real good. Independence Day
was, well, awesome (at least in the mind of my 17-year-old self ), and The Day After Tomorrow
was, if a bit somber, well-centered by the performances of Dennis Quaid
and Jake Gyllenhaal
. So it's a bit perplexing to see Emmerich take what sounds like something he does well--an homage to classic disaster movies of the 70's with a blockbuster budget of the 00's--and drive it directly into the nearest ground without a glance backward. Most directors, even talented ones, lapse into self-parody at some point in their careers, but it's rare to see someone crash and burn quite this badly, or this ineptly. 2012
starts off with a bunch of hooey about neutrinos from solar flares causing the Earth's tectonic plates to blah, blah, blah. No one really cares about why things happen in 2012
, including the screenwriters; suffice to say that the world's about to end, and we (the audience) are intended to sit back and enjoy the ride. You have to give the movie a little credit here; whereas most movies in this genre rotate around the heroic struggle to stop whatever disaster is about to befall the world, 2012
presupposed that there is nothing to be done, and focuses on the efforts of select world leaders to at least save a few thousand members of humanity, to hopefully repopulate the world after the flood waters recede.
Since the film exists mostly as a way to deliver special effects to your retinas, it's worth noting that even these fall short from time to time. Some of the set pieces, like the destruction of LA, are well done, with hundreds of people running about and buildings shattering all around, but most of the effects that didn't appear in the trailers have a bit less polish to them. There's a weird pixeley, granular look to some of the visuals that can be a bit off-putting. But for the most part, it's a pleasure to watch shit get blown up real good.
The film's problems are many, so it's hard to decide where to lay the blame for it's failure, but we can probably begin with the ensemble cast, which revolves around John Cusack
as a family man attempting to get his ex-wife and children to safety. Granted, none of the actors are given much to work with in terms of a relatable story or gripping dialogue, but even so, the collection of dispirited performances here would seem to be more appropriate for a SyFy Original Feature than a big budget wide release. Cusack locks into his standard “I'm a middle-aged man who's frustrated with his shortcomings” mode early on, Danny Glover
goes overboard with gravitas as the U.S. President attempting to save as many lives as possible, and even the normally excellent Chiwetel Ejiofor
plays down to the material on hand. The best performances, given by Blu Mankuma
and George Segal
as cruise ship musicians, are unfortunately part of a side plot that probably should've been cut from the film to shorten up its 157-minute running time.
(You heard that right, by the way: this movie is almost two hours and forty minutes
long. In a year when Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
felt interminable at two and a half hours, 2012 seems to have taken that as a personal challenge and topped that horrible film with an extra ten minutes of terribleness.)
While the artists behind the visual effects in the film clearly deserve some credit for the entertaining ways in which they kill billions of ones and zeroes, the fact remains that 2012 is a bad movie that is bad for a very long time. Films about the apocalypse probably shouldn't make one yearn for the sweet release of death, but that is one accomplishment that 2012 can at least lay claim to.