After flirting with doomsday scenarios in his biggest hits Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, Roland Emmerich goes the full distance in 2012, showcasing nearly 160 minutes of non-stop destruction. The special effects dazzle but as is often the case, the writing is broad enough to fit in every conceivable demographic and appeal to all nationalities.
In the pole position is John Cusack, who after Robert Downey Jr’s recent career resurgence must have been after his agent to find him a blockbuster too, cast here as a published science fiction author working odd jobs to make ends meet. His estranged wife and children live in the suburbs with their well-to-do stepfather, a big-time plastic surgeon. Cusack’s character is a likable creation that is played well by the talented actor, often in Emmerich pictures the affability of his leads is an annoying distraction and Cusack manages to avoid the trap.
As the movie begins, scientists in India have discovered the extreme heating of the Earth’s core, which signals an oncoming cataclysmic event. From there an immediate conference with the President ensues and before long plans are in place to construct big Ark like boats to survive the event.
Nearly a dozen characters are brought on-stage only to find themselves the unfortunate victim of gruesome deaths in later scenes. The story is surprisingly light-on-its-feet, particularly for a gargantuan disaster film that runs over two and a half hours. Emmerich’s genre filmmaking is an acquired taste. I find his 1990’s style, comforting and easy to watch. But in reviewing some of his earlier work it is apparent that his inability to maintain narrative momentum has been a hinderance. 2012 is not without similar faults, this is popcorn cinema to be sure, but it is effective blockbuster craftsmanship also.
Director: Roland Emmerich
Stars: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet