Massive destruction fills the screen in 2012, Roland Emmerich’s spectacular film version of how the world as we know it ends. Famous landmarks bite the dust, skyscrapers tumble, tsunamis wash away coastal areas, and giant cracks in the earth swallow millions of people while others struggle to survive these cataclysmic events. Although I’m not an avid disaster flick fan, 2012 held me spellbound during its entire 158-minute running time. Emmerich definitely knows how to push my buttons with this genre. He wowed me with The Day After Tomorrow -- and his new offering gave me the same feeling all over again. Unfortunately, now I have to start worrying about the Earth’s melting core as well as a new Ice Age enveloping our planet.
Amazing special effects assume the starring role here, of course. But cast members also deserve recognition for adding a humanistic touch to this over-the-top disaster movie. John Cusack (Martian Child) excels as a not-very-successful author trying to maintain a relationship with his children (played by two darling youngsters, Liam James and Morgan Lily) who live with their mom (Amanda Peet) and stepfather (Tom McCarthy). Cusack projects a believable sadness when his character sees how much his son and daughter like their stepfather. Not surprisingly, he’s also outstanding in action scenes showing the father’s frenetic attempts to save his family. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things) also earns our empathy as a concerned scientist, one of the first to become aware that time is running out for us. In a less sympathetic role, Oliver Platt (The Ice Harvest) does a fine job as an ambitious government official with more than survival as his goal. And Woody Harrelson (Zombieland) is a hoot as a bizarre radio host excited about all the chaos around him.
Probably because of my extreme fear of flying, the suspenseful highlight of 2012 for me came during a sequence involving a small airplane dodging exploding debris from highways, bridges and buildings. While watching the terrified family inside the aircraft as it careened through gigantic falling objects, my reactions gave new meaning to “edge-of-your-seat” viewing. I felt like I was right in that plane with its frightened passengers! A glimpse of this part of the film is shown in the trailer on TV, but you simply must see it on the big screen for full effect.
Does 2012 borrow from other doomsday film scenarios? For sure. Fortunately, they’re presented in a highly entertaining way here.
Co-written by Emmerich and Harold Kloser -- who also worked with Emmerich on The Day After Tomorrow screenplay -- 2012 will probably pique more interest concerning those ancient Mayan predictions about the end of the world on December 21, 2012. But Emmerich’s movie also leaves us with a sobering question: will humanity be worth saving?
(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated “PG-13” for intense disaster sequences and some language.)
For more information about 2012, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.
Listen to “2012 – Fact or Fiction?” by clicking this BlogTalkRadio link on or after Tuesday, November 17, 2009.