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Monday, August 23, 2010

2012 May Be the End of Disaster Films, Because It's Grand In Cheesy Scale

2012: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars
[Entering the violently shaking house as his family crouches under a table]
Jackson Curtis: C'mon, we have to go now!
Kate Curtis: I think we're safer under here.
Jackson Curtis: GET IN THE FUCKING LIMO
 The be all end all of disaster movies. Where can director Roland Emmerich go next after taking on the whole world here? He has made a career out of disaster movies, and this film is truly disaster porn at its finest. There is a ridiculous amount of disasters per minute featured in this film and that all goes along with the ridiculous story that keeps all involved invested. And what's wrong with that? I got exactly what I wanted out of this flick. Its damn fun both in seeing the ways characters either perish or escape certain doom as well as hilarious due to the standard disaster movie dialog that I've come to love.

Following some setup up starting in 2009, once we hit 2012, it is known by the higher ups in government, etc. that the world is going to face cataclysmic events that will reshape and destroy much of the world. Key figures involved in the government side of things include Chiewtel Ejiofor as a scientific advisor, Oliver Platt as the Chief of Staff, and Danny Glover as the President of the US.

Among the many other subplots (that of course all find a way to connect at some point in this film, even the Tibetans), John Cusack is very much the main man here, as the best limo driver in the world, as well as a sci fi author, and divorced father. While camping with his kids in Yellowstone, he learns of some troubling news, judging by the government scientists hanging around the area and Woody Harrelson as a seemingly crazy radio personality, detailing the end of the world and the theories behind it.

Eventually, the shit gets real, as crazy, world reshaping events start to happen. Huge earthquakes, volcanoes, giant tsunamis, and anything else that can cause landmarks to get taken out run rampant all over the world, as Cusack and his family, among others, race to reach China, where billions have been spent on creating giant arks, which will hopefully shelter what is left of the human race during all this chaos.

This movie is fun. This is easily Emmerich's best film since Independence Day. Say what you will about the way his stories function in these movies, but he knows how to make this kind of film work. All the cheesiness and melodrama is certainly at play here. Humor is frequently pushed into the film amidst the hysteria going on and as manipulative as some of the drama may be, he gets good performances out of his actors, who are more than game to take a break from "serious films" to step out and have fun yelling at green screens. In a movie about the world ending and giant ships being built to preserve humanity, with a divorced couple and their children's cross world journey at the heart, it doesn't give me any pleasure to point out why the things that are ludicrous are ludicrous. You've seen the previews, you can either go along and have fun with it or just not bother.

The effects in this movie are good. Sure, you have some signature sequences and stand out moments, some that the trailers have thankfully not ruined; however, the effects are very inconsistent, with a lot of terrible green screen moments, fun with physics, and weird CG people. It certainly comes at the cost of the scale involved for this film, but dodgy moments aside, you can see all the money spent for this film on the screen.

I enjoyed this cast. It certainly helps that Cusack and Ejiofor are two of my favorite actors, but the people involved do exactly what’s needed for this kind of film. This includes Danny Glover being too old for this shit, Amanda Peet worrying and crying, and Thadie Newton just being generally attractive all the time. And then you have the mini Poseidon Adventure with George Segal.

At 2 hours and 38 minutes, this epic disaster film certainly needs to hold its momentum, and even if it still is long no matter how you slice it, I was engaged throughout. Unlike an equally very long Transformers 2, with Bay firing at full throttle on the ADD Edit button, Emmerich has a much better sense of showing you what is on screen without crazy quick cuts all over the place. And as lame as the characters may be, Emmerich knows how to keep you with the journey they are on. This all is accompanied by so many ridiculous and unintentionally hilarious moments throughout, that I just cannot help but be involved with what is going on on screen. There are certainly subplots that can be taken out to tighten up this movie (I believe there was a conspiracy murder plot somewhere in there), but its preposterous factor outweighs these things for me.

I enjoyed this movie. It was fun and gave me the exact kind of excitement that I wanted. Its not about having the story that will stand the test of time or seeing actors give career defining performances. Its an effects orgy, designed to fill the screen with destructive action and fulfill the excitement quality that you want in a disaster film.
Adrian Helmsley: I thought we'd have more time. I was wrong.

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