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2012 Has Environmental Transformers Syndrome

Directed by Roland Emmerich
Written by Harold Kloser and Emmerich
Sony, 2009

Right off the bat, I’m going to say this movie is more enjoyable than either of the Transformers movies.  But Roland Emmerich’s 2012 suffers a lot of the same issues that Transformers does in the department of story, being absolutely dishonest about its intentions from the start.

I’m not sure I totally fault Emmerich for his methods, considering it usually works for mass audiences (except, when he went 12,012 years away from this movie in 10,000 B.C., but you know, even that movie, universally hated, nearly made $100 million).  In Independence Day, a movie I still like, Emmerich got his formula down: show mass destruction and have a select group of families affected by the disaster who become our heroes.  He would go on to replicate this with The Day After Tomorrow.  With Godzilla, not so much, but there were plenty of things about that movie that sucked.

But 2012 is a classic case of “caring for the human race” but bringing an audience in to watch the wiping out of billions of people.  Somehow, this thing clocks in at 2 hours and 40 minutes, although Emmerich has never been known for brevity.  There are a number of things that can be done to speed this whole thing up, but no, this has to be an epic I guess.

John Cusack plays Jackson Curtis, a failed novelist who has been divorced from his wife Kate (Amanda Peet) and two kids Noah and Lilly (Liam James, Morgan Lily).  Kate is now shacking up with new boyfriend Gordon (Thomas McCarthy), a plastic surgeon.  That’s our family, echoing tons of other fractured units coming together in crisis we’ve seen in movies for awhile now…I couldn’t help but think of Liar, Liar during this whole thing, the same sort of “no way is Maura Tierney going to end up with Cary Elwes” kind of thought.

Our government geologist is Adrian Helmsley (the always good Chiwetel Ejiofor), who has gotten word that neutrinos, particles created by the sun, or radioactive decay, have started to grow in size in the Earth’s core and is beginning to become unstable, which is bad news for the Earth’s volcanoes, fault lines, plate tectonics, well…everything related to the ground and water.  California has begun to show immense fissures in its streets and will likely be one of the first to go, which would have pleased comedian Bill Hicks to no end with his hope for an “Arizona Bay,” which would later please rock band Tool.  But, not so fast, this is global, not just California.  Helmsley tells Secretary of State Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), and soon a series of events go into motion to “save the human race,” by allowing the very wealthy to pay for tickets on huge “arks” that will survive the apocalypse.

As is the case with these kinds of movies, Jackson figures out something is wrong with the world when he takes his kids on a vacation to Yellowstone and finds a river completely dried up, runs into Helmsley, who just happened to have read Jackson’s book and loved it, and then runs into hermit/pirate radio DJ Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson), who has seen this coming for years, and knows many people have been silenced in trying to tell the truth.  Oh, an hey, a shout-out to the Mayans and their calendar, which “predicts” the end of the world when all it does is predict the end of their calendar.

Yes, there is also a government conspiracy in here, which starts with a curator at the Louvre dying in the same tunnel Princess Di was killed.  Working for this curator is Laura Wilson (Thandie Newton), who is the daughter of the President, Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover).

We also have Helmsley’s dad (Blu Mankuma), a jazz musician playing on a cruise ship, and his friend Tony Delgatto (George Segal), who is estranged from his family…you know, it just keeps going on.

So, when things start to get real, we’re rooting for Jackson to find a way, some way, of avoiding the catastrophe that is about to occur, via planes, and he eventually teams up with Russian billionaire Yuri Karpov (Zlatko Buric), his twin sons Alec and Oleg (Alexandre and Philippe Haussmann), his girlfriend Tamara (Beatrice Rosen), and her “secret” lover Sasha (Johann Urb).

It really goes on and on with all the families, all an excuse to show massive destruction and death, which is why we came here anyway.  This movie could have been loads better without having to care or having the movie think we need to care about a hundred other units, and it would have cut probably an hour from the final running time.  The effects are indeed spectacular, but just like Transformers, we have to sit through a lot of nonsense just to get to it.  Enter at your own risk.

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