2012 (2009 movie) Review…

2012 (2009 movie) Review after the break…

2012 (2009 movie) Review…

Catastrophe movies are not a new genre; If they were a person, they’d be waiting at their mailbox for the monthly social security check. Every decade seems to bring out at least a few catastrophe movies for the mainstream audiences to peruse: From “War of the Worlds” (the first one, not the recent ones) to “Godzilla” (again, the first one) to “The Towering Inferno” to “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow,” watching the world on fire has always been a consistent draw that relies not a lick on blood, violence, nudity or swearing. For filmmakers eager to draw a sure-fire crowd without also drawing the ire of conservative prudes (and a MPAA rating less then “R”), heaping loads of sweet, hot apocalypse pr0n into your movie is quite a temptation.

“2012” draws it’s name from the flawed logic that the ancient South American civilization, the Maya, used a calendar that ended in our year 2012. Quite simply, the Mayan calendar does not end in the year 2012. Yes, this means you still have to pay your bills. Facts, though, rarely make for compelling drama.

In the movie, the earth’s interior is turning into goo because of solar flares. As a result, the earth’s crust (what we stand on) will break apart and shift just like an earthquake but on a much grander scale. Add to this that a gooey center is also conducive towards the formation of volcanoes (super volcanoes, no less) and you have the recipe for a worldwide apocalypse the likes have not been seen since they were seen through the eyes of a dinosaur.

The movie has a huge number of story lines to compliment the huge amount of catastrophes that will potentially unfold. This is where the movie first stumbles.

Hero #1 is John Cusack, playing a hapless author now slumming it as a limo driver to a wealthy Russian and his two bratty kids. Amanda Peet plays the “I’m Over You But I’m Not” former wife, using a prickly plastic surgeon as her rebound love interest (we all know how that’s going to end, don’t we?).

Hero #2 is Chiwetel Ejiofor (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) as a scientist hastily promoted when he uncovers the earth-shattering reality that all bets are off as to whether Spain will be defending their World Cup title in 2014. Even before he’s firmly promoted in the film to hero status, he’s butting heads with career politician Oliver Platt who’s cold political decision making is as sure a sign that he’s a villain as seeing a pile of bird seed with a sign yelling “Free Food” in the middle of the road is a sure sign that Wile E. Coyote is somewhere nearby.

There are countless minor story line threads in this movie – From Woody Harrelson’s crackpot radio broadcaster to a wealthy Russian and his two bratty sons to a luxury cruise liner singer trying to reconnect with his son “before it’s too late” to the President who decides that a captain always goes down with his ship, even if he’s not the one responsible for it being obliterated. Of course, there’s also the sappy “Will they or won’t they get back together?” which always seems to be a rule in these types of stories (Do you really need to guess as to if they do or not?).

The advent of CGI has made these movies more into video games then into actual movies. I was half-expecting to see a HUD suddenly pop up on the screen halfway through the sequence where a limousine is dodging it’s way through an apocalyptic downtown section of Los Angeles, complete with scoreboard and power-ups.

None of the story lines are terribly compelling and are only fillers for the real star of the movie, the unrepentant destruction sequences that become so over the top as to skirt the line between parody and gratuitousness. In the movie “The Kentucky Fried Movie,” there is a mock movie trailer for the film “That’s Armageddon!” which, quite frankly, could have been the title for this movie without missing much of a beat.

A movie so heavily bent on the destruction of the planet may have been better served if it had pared down the multiple story lines and had one, simple storyline that could have been followed from start to finish. That way, instead of trying to keep track of which character is attempting to do what, our attention could have been focused better on the true star of the show, the destruction, and not on whether someone will be able to talk to their son or daughter in time.

Spectacular special effects aside, there is nothing else spectacular about “2012.” There simply wasn’t anything overly novel about it and, really, how many ways can filmmakers destroy the White House before emotional shock gives way to technical curiosity?

Catastrophe movies are nothing new and, sadly, there isn’t anything new here except new ways of destroying old buildings. If that’s the case, I’ll skip the movie and just play the video game.


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