Mar 4, 2010

2012 (2009): F

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The end of the world seems a comparably desirable affair in the wake of the disaster that is Roland Emmerich's 2012, a work that at once replicates virtually every film previously made by the ultra-hack director and takes his fetishistic obsession with mass destruction to hysterical new levels. From the hateful Independence Day to the trashy Godzilla to the sheer embarrassment that was 10,000 BC, he's never made a remotely good bit of entertainment and 2012 just might be his Plan 9 From Outer Space, sans the aching artistic aspirations that lovingly framed the ineptitude of Ed Wood's productions. Where to begin? Less an actual narrative film than a feature-length special effects reel with enough celebrity cameos to simulate the ghost of a plot (best is Woody Harrelson, the only person on board who seems to recognize the sheer stupidity of it all, hamming it up to 11, and beyond), 2012 might be the most exploitative disaster movie ever made, a work in which obligatory human drama - disingenuously meant to justify the proceedings beyond the anti-life rah-rah of its dispassionate eye for destruction - serves little legitimate purpose beyond stretching things out to heretofore unbearable lengths. Berlin Alexanderplatz feels like a Saturday afternoon matinee compared to this.

The Earth, lambasted by damaging particles from the sun, is undergoing some major changes, and California sinking into the Pacific is just the beginning. The work of Emmerich's special effects crew is nifty indeed, but for all the ridiculous details and needle-threading thrown in to this cynical end of days (damn near half the movie is dedicated to narrowing gaps and countdowns), nothing here comes even remotely close to the duel awe/terror conjured by Steven Spielberg's great, underappreciated War of the Worlds. Even the isolated few characters we're supposed to feel for (thanks to Harald Kloser and Thomas Wander's maudlin score) are treated dispassionately, framed less like people than like pawns ready to be tossed aside at a moment's notice, necessary only for the risible final hour in which the lucky few not incinerated, drowned, or otherwise consumed by the quakes of the Earth board a series of Arks constructed in the Himalayas for the very purpose of ensuring the survival of the human race through this long-foreseen disaster. In a film that manages to outstay its welcome even before getting around to the title card, it's an epically drawn-out sequence enough to make one envious of the masses to have already met their maker.


  1. I agree completely. Much like one of the movie’s crashing buildings, "2012" goes from standing proudly upright — yet slightly trembling — with plausibility, then begins to rumble and tilt over into incredibility (in the sense not of “cool and awesome” but as in "lacking in credibility"), before picking up speed and disintegrating into ludicrous. With casualties in the billions as the planet implodes, are we really expected to give a crap about two cute yet annoying children? Or that neutrinos (supposedly the source of this catastrophe) can’t actually cause these effects, so the plot suggests the particles "mutate" into something else that can microwave-cook the earth’s interior but has no apparent effect whatsoever on surface-dwellers? Or that whatever mode of transportation John Cusack is in (land, air or sea) somehow manages to just barely avoid the destruction all around him? Or that regardless of what remote location they may be in, and despite the planet’s shifting tectonic plates (which should theoretically disrupt electric power, mis-align satellite dishes and bring radio towers crashing down), the cell phones of the main characters always seem to work just fine? What carrier are these people using? I don’t get that kind of coverage from mine even on a good day.

    All this is bad enough, but once we reach the ark-ships in the Himalayas, the movie devolves into a tepid rehash of "The Poseidon Adventure". Then, in an obligatory feel-good finale to all the carnage, the earthquakes, tidal waves and mass destruction simply … stop … and the survivors sail peacefully into the sunset towards a habitable destination??? Please. I know any film of this nature requires the viewer to suspend disbelief, but for one that purports to derive its scariness from the proposition that these events are based on science and could actually happen, I found myself reaching for the fast-forward button all too often. Despite the mildly entertaining over-the-top special effects, this film left me with the distinct feeling that I had just wasted nearly three hours of my life.

  2. Anonymous6:20 AM

    Reading this reminded me of your review of "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." Maybe I'm an idiot and I completely missed the joke, but were you at all serious when you later posted that you consider Bay's film an "anti-masterpiece masterpiece?" You claimed you were going to do a review explaining why you now like a movie which you (and many others) outright hated upon first viewing. Were you kidding? Because it's been a long time and I was honestly curious about reading a well-constructed positive review of one of the most hated movies of 2009.

  3. @Anonymous: You're right to wonder about my Transformers stance, if only because it's been so long with no more word on the matter. But yes, I was, and am, completely serious on the matter (it almost made my honorable mentions list for my end of the year post). It's one of the projects I most regret not getting around to these last few months. I see a blu-ray rental of it in the not too distant future...

  4. @Anonymous (again): You also reminded me of a point I meant to address in the review itself; you may recall a parenthetical statement in my House Next Door review of Transformers, in which I commented on the distasteful displays of destruction in the preview for 2012 that played before Transformers 2. Suffice to say, I think that largely helped to set the tone of disgust I felt during that screening, and it's little surprise, all these months later, to find that 2012 is not only the worst movie of 2009, but one of the worst movies I've ever seen, period.

    Thank you much for the comment, for you've just started my mental gears on this matter. Bumblebee, here we come.

  5. Anonymous12:24 AM

    You forgot to mention the plane with cars inside??? They escape from the plane in one????? and the plane exploding when it had run out of fuel!!!!! What about air turbulence with the poles moving and tidal waves roaring around the planet ??? I agree 2012 is one of the worst movies that I have even seen.