When you plop down hard-earned money for 2012, you're paying to see a disaster; and, boy, is that what you're going to get.
Overlong, overwrought and underthought, 2012's a plodding muddle of vacant stereotypes pointlessly clanging to a noisy, exhausting carnival ride of destruction.
German über-hack Roland Emmerich specializes in apocalypse porn, and apparently not satisfied leveling vast swaths of the planet in Independence Day, Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow, he now goes full-scale for the global cataclysm, shattering anything and everything into tiny, flickering pixels. The culprit isn't something scary like pollution or alien invaders or global warming; no, it's random solar flares radiating pesky neutrinos that magically work like microwaves that superheat the planet's core, leading to "earth's crust displacement." That's a bad thing.
The general game plan for this genre is to offer a cast full of yammering twits so shallow and moronic you start rooting for the earth to open up and swallow them whole. In the grand Irwin Allen tradition, there's a litany of B-listers bravely staring down the green-screen Armageddon all around them. The de facto lead is John Cusack, as a struggling novelist turned chauffeur, still carrying a torch for his ex-wife played by bad-movie poster girl Amanda Peet. Chiwetel Ejiofor is the earnest scientist nobody listens to, and Oliver Platt is the scheming politician with a secret plot to keep the world's elite safe in huge arks. Danny Glover, looking way too old for this shit, plays the shell-shocked president. (And why is it that black presidents get the short end of the catastrophe movie stick, as did Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact?) One bright spot is Woody Harrelson, appropriately cast as a wild-eyed, raving conspiracy theorist radio host who's oddly delighted to be proven right.
Simply navigating crosstown L.A. traffic is impossible enough, even tougher when you're trying to jump over cracking fault lines in a stretch limo. Of course, there isn't one nanosecond of plausible physics displayed here, as a greatest-hits package of calamities hit — from tidal waves to earthquakes to volcanoes. The ceaseless explosions become numbing, but at least they occasionally drown out the dialogue. The Day After Tomorrow was like a limousine-liberal's satire of right-wing climate-change deniers, but 2012 manages to be both nihilistic and preachy, a truly toxic combination. There's nothing amusing about a movie that asks us to basically laugh off the deaths of billions and then take solace in the warm feelings of survivors who practically link arms and roast marshmallows on the burning ruins of civilization.
A dumb and soulless exercise in CGI dick-waving, 2012 will likely rake in bushels of dough, and, as a result, thoughtful films will get just a little bit harder to make in America. Remember, it's always harder to create than destroy.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].