The Night Out: 2012 (2009), or Epic Fail

15 11 2009

Roland Emmerich likes the idea that the world is coming to an end. He’s certainly made enough movies about the idea. The weird thing is that he’s never really followed the cynical mainstream notion about what will undo humanity; global war. He always likes to think somewhat better of us, and places us in a situation that has grown entirely out of our ability to handle it rather than a situation that is entirely controlled by us. Because we can’t stop a hostile race of aliens from wanting to invade or the unforeseen effects of global warming, but we can stop war anytime we wanted to. It’s an unexpectedly optimistic take on humanity that he’s chosen. It’s not that there aren’t horrible people that populate his films, it’s just that their power only reaches so far and they can only do so much harm before the heroes overtake them. Today’s film is another where Emmerich takes the fate of mankind out of his own hands and sets him up with a series of such large natural disasters that humanity probably will not survive. It’s a slightly new spin on well-worn territory that’s trying to cash in on the most recent end-of-the-world movement, and it just confirms my long-standing belief that if you’ve seen one Roland Emmerich disaster film, you’ve seen them all.

So the world is ending, according to the data retrieved by the advanced scientists over at Chichen Itza Astronomical Research Facility about 1100 years ago. They accumulated with their highly accurate scientific machinery a wealth of important and terrifying discoveries, the most disturbing of which was that the best toilet paper available to them a millennium ago was a corn cob. But a close second place goes to the fact that an important astronomical event was to occur on December 21, 2012, something so important that they decided to stop their long count calender ON THAT DATE. Flash forward to 2009, where a group of real modern scientists discover that there will indeed be a huge even going down on 2012, but it’s probably the worst thing imaginable; a massive solar flare will bear down on the planet, causing the tectonic plates to shift dramatically and consequently starting enormous tsunamis all across the globe. It’s estimated the shift will be so dramatic that nobody is expected to survive. So the scientist, named Adrian Helmsley, has about 3 years to try and work with the world’s governments to try and save some semblance of humanity and monitor the earth’s seismic activity.

By the time 2012 actually arrives, only a few people in the world’s political administrations have been notified, and Helmsley feels like it’s time to get the word out. But the quakes are occurring more frequently than expected, and before Helmsley can really do anything, the disasters start happening all over the globe. It’s global chaos, with millions dead and more expected to die along the way as the plates shift dramatically and the earth falls out under everyone’s feet. He as well as the top scientists and officials in the American government are being shipped out of danger via Air Force One. A plan has been hatched to safeguard about 400,00 of the best, brightest, but mostly richest people, as well as Earth’s most precious flora, fauna, art, and cultural artifacts, in a secluded Chinese mountain range. Can they make it there in time? Will Helmsley’s heartless politician boss make the right decisions for humanity? Or will he have to take charge of his own destiny, and the destiny of perhaps the last shattered remnants of the world?

Oh, and there’s a really stupid and useless story that’s tacked on here about a limo driver/ former author who is trying to get his family, including his two kids, his ex-wife, and her boyfriend, to safety and somehow makes it from LA all the way to the secluded mountain hideaway in China, narrowly dodging natural disasters along the way. And that’s supposed to be the MAIN STORY LINE! Boring. No thank you.

This is a two and a half hour long movie. Two and a half hours of worn-down material that I saw in 1996 and in 2004. 2012 is the third in a series of disaster movies that Emmerich has helmed, the first being Independence Day and the second being The Day After Tomorrow. Did you feel like the setup to those two were similar? Well, it’s deja vu all over again, because this is more of the same! You have the effects of the disasters shown in painful, excruciating detail, you see the human cost from the highest station in the land all the way to some old Jazz singers on a boat, and, best of all, you get the inane social commentary/humor moments from the sassier characters! Are you pumped yet?

The main draw is supposed to be the effects, I suppose. 2012 is the 2nd most expensive movie of all time before adjusting for inflation. And PARTS OF IT show that off with some amazing CG. I’ll say that 50% of the time, I’m impressed by the effects. There are a lot of neat things they do with lava and volcanoes as the plates shift that really immersed me in the landscape. The exquisite detail in the tsunamis are also hard to ignore, and the awesome force of nature is unleashed in their terrible scenes of destruction. But other scenes, like near the beginning with the cracks in the roads and the initial destruction of LA, are actually pretty weak. I did not believe it for a second. They seemingly put more time and effort into certain scenes, and while those certain scenes look awesome, it makes for a very uneven experience, and I would have liked a more complete and smooth CG experience.

The “star” of this movie is John Cusack, but the hero of this movie is Chitwetel Ejiofor, who plays Dr. Helmsley. Much like his other two disaster movies, Emmerich breaks the story down into a story we care about, and a story we could have done without. I REALLY did not care about John Cusack’s implausible around-the-world journey to get his family and his family’s new dad (!) out of the way of the destruction. I mean, Cusack isn’t even going out of his range on this one, and somehow he gets more screen time than the guy who’s trying to save the human race just because his name is easier to say! Hell, I can’t even remember his character’s name, and they say it probably a thousand times! Not that it matters, since he’s basically John Cusack playing John Cusack in a John Cusack film. What a crock of shit! Ejiofor is seriously good, though, and one of the only reasons to watch this. Other big names pop in for this easy payday, and let me just do a quick run-down for each of them:

Danny Glover plays the President here. Neither here nor there, a pretty tepid disaster President. He had one touching scene after the disaster hit, though, while Bill Pullman in Independence Day had zero, so kudos!

Amanda Peet is John Cusack’s ex wife. She looks pretty good here, which I assume was her reason for being cast, and her character is pretty cookie-cutter, so nothing really to say, except that she needed to be a little more independent; I would have liked to see HER fly a plane.

Thandie Newton is similarly banal as the President’s daughter. Her performance has about the same Ph level as water; there’s no flavor, not even a bitter bite. I think she’s immensely talented, and I did not relish watching her in this movie. But it’s better than Norbit

And Woody Harrelson shines in a cameo bit as Charlie, an oddball right-wing conspiracy theorist who is actually right on the money. His crazy is kind of infectious, and he’s definitely playing to type in the best sort of way. I can imagine Woody being like this off the set.

There’s really nothing new with 2012. If you like the idea of the world coming to an end, you like cool and innovative special effects, or find natural disasters fascinating (like Bren does), this might not be a total waste of your time. But it will definitely be at least a partial waste of time because the movie is two and a half hours long! Just don’t come in expecting anything new, because apparently the Roland Emmerich Idea Bucket (the patented R.E.I.B.) has officially been emptied, so now he’s cribbing from his own films and making bizarre and possibly self-plagiarizing hybrids of them. I’m not a fan, but I guess you didn’t expect me to be, considering I called Independence Day “a charcoal briquette that you painstakingly watch as it slowly burns its own appeal away into the atmosphere”. I honestly should have just copied and pasted that review, but hindsight is 20-20, and this is only 2012 (HA!!!). Anyway, I give 2012 4 John Cusacks as John Cusack out of 10.

Keep an eye out for my second review of the day! Until then!

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5 responses

15 11 2009
Jenni David

I SWEAR I was thinking as I read it “I HATE Thandie Newton simply for being in Norbit!” ahahahaha so did your lovely lady like this film? I am sure I will see this but when I found out how long it was I decided renting it would be a better situation!

15 11 2009
Bren

Ok. Seriously? Pootie Tang gets a higher review than this? This is why we break up, you know…

18 11 2009
goregirl

This piece of tripe was filmed here (Vancouver), and my husband is actually in it (just a background performer). The name Roland Emmerich causes me to break out in hives. Two and a half hours long? Bloody Hell! I can’t get through the trailer without moaning.

5 10 2011
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