Released: November 2009
Director: Roland Emmerich
Run Time: 158 Minutes
Composer: Harald Kloser
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, Disaster
John Cusack: Jackson Curtis
Amanda Peet: Kate Curtis
Chiwetel Ejiofor: Adrian Helmsley
Thandie Newton: Laura Wilson
Oliver Platt: Carl Anheuser
Woody Harrelson: Charlie Frost
Danny Glover: President Thomas Wilson
Tom McCarthy: Gordon Silberman
As a kid growing up, I was fascinated with the world. More specifically, I was fascinated how the planet itself worked inside and out. I was very curious about the stuff going on beneath our feet as well as the stuff that was going in the sky. So, I got library books about all that stuff, but when I started learning about natural disasters, that’s what I started focusing on. What were volcanoes? How did they work? What about earthquakes and their connection to volcanoes? How do tornadoes form? All that stuff. So, when I was young, I started reading up on all that, and I learned a great deal about how our planet works as far as these natural phenomenon go. While movies about natural disasters weren’t new, we started seeing a surge of new natural disaster flicks during the 90’s starting with Twister. That movie blew my mind. The tornado effects were extremely convincing right down to the twisters picking up cows and obliterating houses and such. The following year, we got two different volcano movies: Volcano and Dante’s Peak. While I certainly enjoyed Volcano with Tommy Lee Jones, Dante’s Peak was far more compelling, because it felt a bit more realistic than the other movie. When it comes to disaster movies, few can do it the way German director Roland Emmerich can. The thing is, this guy doesn’t focus on just one particular city or town. No, he likes to destroy the world. After being inspired by the Mayan calendar and their debated prediction about the end of the world on December 21, 2012, Mr. Emmerich unleashes the film, 2012 on the world.
2012 begins as geologist Adrian Helmsley is visiting India to meet with a colleague about certain issues regarding the sun. He learns that certain kinds of nuclear particles have mutated and are starting to have a physical reaction within Earth’s core. So, he races to the White House to inform the President about the coming catastrophe. Meanwhile, failed author and estranged husband/father Jackson Curtis is taking his kids on a camping trip to Yellowstone when they run into Charlie Frost, a raving conspiracy theorist who is convinced that the government is keeping the upcoming apocalypse top-secret. After taking his kids home, a massive earthquake strikes California.
Like I said above, when it comes to destroying the world, few people can do it the way Roland Emmerich can. There’s a reason this guy is the Master of Disaster. He’s a good director too. But his disaster films are really something to behold. From Independence Day to The Day After Tomorrow, Emmerich knows how to destroy things and look good doing it. There are a lot of movies about the end of the world, but most of them generally avoid the major catastrophe by some kind of miracle. Not with 2012. Oh, no. Right from the get-go, we are informed that the world WILL end and there’s not a whole lot that anybody can do about it except try to survive it. In the years up to 2012, there were many people and scientists who feared that the world would actually face a global catastrophe on December 21, 2012. They cited the Mayan calendar which supposedly ended on that particular date. I’m writing this on May 26, 2016, so I’m pretty sure the world didn’t end in 2012. Either that, or I’m in some kind of simulation of some sort. People had taken that calendar so seriously that they were literally preparing for the world to end. Oh, I can imagine the faces on the people who were duped into thinking that. The world WILL end at some point as nothing lasts forever, but I doubt it’s going to happen in MY lifetime. I’m getting sidetracked. When it comes to movies about natural disasters, 2012 is undoubtedly the biggest. It’s an apocalyptic movie so it has to have disasters in it.
The disasters depicted in 2012 are nothing short of breathtaking. The first disaster is an earthquake that literally tears California to pieces. It’s nuts. John Cusack grabs his family and they try to outrun the quake in a limo with buildings and bridges falling all around them. Then they get to a plane where they try to take off with a massive crevasse opening up right behind them. It’s absolutely exciting and visually spectacular. They follow that up with the Yellowstone Caldera erupting. Yeah, Yellowstone erupts and it is bonkers. It’s extremely massive. The initial explosion is immense. It’s something that you would see come out of Revelations in the Bible. After the first two major disasters, the film kinda slows down a bit to focus on the characters, until the massive tsunamis show up and then it’s on like Donkey Kong. This is a spectacle film in which the visual effects are the star of the film, and let me tell you, they are top-notch. For the first earthquake, there are points where it looks real, even though it’s mostly CGI. That is how good CGI has gotten since the early 90’s.
So, the effects and the action are spectacular, but what about the rest of the movie? The acting is pretty solid around. We’ve got some real heavy-hitters headlining 2012. John Cusack plays the absent-minded father who tries his best to reconnect with his family. Danny Glover plays a noble and very impressive President. Chiwetel Ejiofor astounds as Dr. Adrian Helmsley. This is a character that is not only looking out for people and trying to do the right thing, but he’s also willing to question the decisions of his superiors. Oliver Platt plays Carl Anheuser, the adviser to President Wilson. You would think Anheuser is the villain of the film, but he’s not. He’s not evil, he’s trying to be practical when it comes to save what will be left of the human race. He makes some really good points on why it may be a bad idea to inform the public early on about the destruction of the world. There’s definitely some butting of heads here and there. The stand-out here is Woody Harrelson as Charlie Frost. I’ve always liked Woody Harrelson as an actor. He’s got incredible comic timing and he’s allowed to go over-the-top here as Charlie. The guy himself is an effect of sorts. The character is clearly nuts, but he’s not necessarily an idiot. He knows what’s going on. He just steals the show every time he’s on screen.
When it comes to the “science” behind the film, it’s best not to think about it. The idea that neutrinos can mutate and affect the Earth’s core physically is 100 percent bullshit. Neutrinos do exist, but they rarely interact with any normal matter, so the film’s premise is pretty much fantasy at this point. In fact, most of the science in the film is mostly bullshit. If you really want to get into why the stuff in 2012 will NEVER happen, I suggest you take a look at this blog post by Roy Kilgard: Conceptual Astronomy: Science Fact Vs. Science Fiction. It’s very informative and very amusing at the same time. This guy is a professional astronomer and teacher at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He’s not the only guy that shot 2012’s science full of holes. There are many others. Don’t watch 2012 for the science, it’ll probably piss you off.
Since 2012 is a disaster movie, it pretty much follows the standard disaster movie manual to the letter. You’ve got skeptics, the “evil” government guy, estranged father/husband, and the whole nearly dying in a massive disaster only to be saved at the last minute. It hits every single mark and doesn’t even change it up at the end. The coincidences are constant and baffling. The most egregious example is when the family arrives at the airport only to find the pilot dead. At this point, the wife says to Gordon, “You can fly!” To be fair, he admits he’s only had only a couple of lessons on a single-engine plane, but that just came out of nowhere. That’s the kind of writing that really irritates me, because it’s so damned convenient. It’s not the only situation that happens. It just so happens that a Russian billionaire needs to get a plane to fly to China. So, HIS pilot who is qualified needs a co-pilot(Gordon) and they just happen to find a giant plane that has a lot of cars in it. Anyone care to see where this goes next?
So, besides bad science and plot points that have more holes than Swiss cheese, is 2012 actually worth watching? In my honest opinion, yes. 2012 is a movie that’s big on spectacle and not much else. If that’s the kind of movie you’re looking for, than 2012 will deliver in spades. It is a visually spectacular film that doesn’t really feel too long, despite running at 158 minutes. Yeah, some of the acting is pretty corny, but at least you’ve got Woody Harrelson, who looks like he’s having a great time. It’s a genuinely thrilling film that actually some real heart when it comes to character development. Is 2012 the best movie? Not by a long shot, it’s a lot of dumb fun, though. If you’re a huge fan of disaster flicks like I am, check it out. My final scores are as follows:
Film: 8/10. It’s pretty fun, and visually spectacular.
Science: 2/10. I’m pretty sure they were making it up as they were going along.