*** (out of 5)
November 13, 2009
John Cusack as JACKSON CURTIS
Amanda Peet as KATE CURTIS
Chiwetel Ejiofor as ADRIAN HELMSLEY
Thandie Newton as LAURA WILSON
Oliver Platt as CARL ANHEUSER
Tom McCarthy as GORDON SILBERMAN
Woody Harrelson as CHARLIE FROST
Danny Glover as PRESIDENT THOMAS WILSON
Liam James as NOAH CURTIS
Morgan Lily as LILLY CURTIS
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
There are a few directors in Hollywood whom I will defend to the bitter end. They make crap, but I love the crap they make. These directors include Renny Harlin, Paul W.S. Anderson, Brett Ratner and Roland Emmerich.
Sure, their movies look good, but they are nothing more than bloated, overproduced excuses for a special effects spectacular. And, with a surprisingly small number of exceptions (like Harlin’s “The Covenant” and Emmerich’s “10,000 B.C.”), I love them.
Roland Emmerich returns to making disaster movies with his latest epic “2012.” The film has a familiar Y2K feel about it, predicting the end of the world on December 21, 2012, which is also the end of the Mayan calendar. (Why modern-day apocalypse lovers put their ultimate faith in a society that couldn’t keep itself from vanishing will continue to amaze me, but let’s go with the flow here.)
In “2012,” disparate storylines see people desperately trying to escape world destruction as the Earth’s crust literally crumbles beneath their feel. I’m not going to waste any time talking about the characters in the film because they are ultimately expendable like they are in other Emmerich disaster pics. Let’s face it… no one is seeing this movie because they love John Cusack, Amanda Peet or Chiwetel Ejiofor as actors. (Of course, it is interesting to note that this movie has a rather respectable cast, even if they all seem to be slumming it in their roles.)
The only performance that really knocks it out of the park is Woody Harrelson as the fringe kook who actually predicts the end of the world. Like the scenes of destruction, Harrelson is just fun to watch in this movie.
The reason to see this movie in the theaters is for the much-hyped end of the world moments. They get repetitive (e.g., we are treated to not one, not two, but three scenes where a plane is taking off as the ground disintegrates beneath it), and we’ve seen many of the shots in other movies from “Deep Impact” to Emmerich’s own “Godzilla” and “The Day After Tomorrow.”
But that’s okay. The money shots are there in spades for “2012.” It’s utterly unbelievable but a blast to watch. And on a big screen, it’s pretty damn impressive.
Still, the film is steeped in weepy melodrama mixed in with crap-your-pants awesome action, and this leads to the biggest problem with “2012”: its mammoth running time, clocking in at 2 hours and 38 minutes. Sure, there are a lot of characters to juggle in this movie, and it seems that like being arrested, each one gets his or her phone call to a loved one to say good-bye. But there really isn’t enough story to justify this bloated plot.
I guess this is what we get as a moviegoing nation when we make a movie like “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” the number one box office success of the year. Like “Transformers,” “2012” has some phenomenal scenes of action and destruction, but there is a lot of fluff to sit through between them. Like so many movies that have been released over the past few years, “2012” could have done with a brutal edit before release.
Still, the moments detailing the end of the world look tremendous on the big screen. After stumbling on his face with the prehistoric snooze-fest “10,000 B.C.,” Roland Emmerich has taken his position once again as the greatest disaster film director of the modern age. At least this time he’s not blaming global warming on the end of days. This movie, which tries too hard too often to be optimistic in the face of impending doom, lets us know that maybe the end of the world is coming regardless of how much we recycle or if we own a hybrid car.
But then again, it’s only a movie… or is it? Drop me a line on December 22, 2012 and let me know for sure.