2012 (2009)

(In theatres, November 2009) It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that Roland Emmerich’s 2012 tries to ape and one-up much of the disaster-movie genre.  Where else can you find a 10.5 earthquake, a super-volcano and a mega-tsunami in the same movie?  As such, it demands to be considered according to the particular standards of the disaster movie genre, and that’s indeed where it finds most of its qualities.  The L.A. earthquake sequence is a piece of deliriously over-the-top action movie-making (I never loved 2012 more than when the protagonists’ plane had to dodge a falling subway train), the Yellowstone volcano sequence holds its own and those who haven’t seen an aircraft carrier smash the White House now have something more to live for.  The problem, unfortunately, is that those sequences are front-loaded in the first two-third of the film, leaving much smaller set-pieces for the end.  This, in turn places far more emphasis on the characters, dialogue and plot points, none of whom are a known strength of either the genre or 2012 itself. Sure, the cast of characters is either pretty (Thandie Newton!  Amanda Peet!), competent (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover) or entertaining (John Cusack, Oliver Platt).  Of course, we want to see them live through it all.  But as a too-late consideration of ethical issues bumps against less-impressive sequences and significant lulls (including a 15-minutes-long prologue), it becomes easier to see that this 158 minutes film is at least 45 minutes too long and suffering from a limp third act.  The defective nature of the roller-coaster also makes it less easy to tolerate the hideous conclusions, screaming contrivances and somewhat distasteful ethics of the screenplay.  While the clean and sweeping cinematography (interestingly replaced by a hand-held video-quality interlude during one of the film’s turning points) shows that 2012’s production budget is entirely visible on-screen and will eventually make this a worthwhile Blu-Ray demo disk, there isn’t much here to respect or even like.  At least special-effects fans will be able to play some destruction sequences over and over again.

3 thoughts on “2012 (2009)

  1. brian

    why do so many reviewers feel the need to trash 2012? Is not due to bad acting (none in film), or lousy dialogue (id challenge anyone to find some).

    ‘Sure, the cast of characters is either pretty (Thandie Newton! Amanda Peet!), competent (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover) or entertaining (John Cusack, Oliver Platt).

    Ejiofor is a great actor, and his character was very well acted. same with Platts Anheuser…You missed the comic gem in Harrelsons Charlie Frost.

    The third act is not limp…or did you miss the Antonov crash! the political comments, the cliffhanger in the ships underbelly etc..

    SO why so many limp reviews? Are people embarrassed to find they enjoy the film?

    Reply
    1. Christian Sauvé Post author

      Hello Brian,

      2012 is the definition of a guilty pleasure: It’s a disaster film that begs to be considered as escapist pop-entertainment. As such, don’t be surprised if it leaves demanding reviewers unsatisfied. Still, I think that reviewers will be willing to acknowledge the film’s strengths, from fantastic disaster sequences to the actors doing what they can with the material they’re given.

      Still, even when seen as a disaster film, 2012 does make a few mistakes. It front-loads its strongest sequences at the beginning, which makes latter suspense scenes such as the Antonov crash feel weaker in comparison. It also becomes far too talky at a time when it should be accelerating toward a conclusion, which also weakens a third act that should become stronger and stronger. Meanwhile, the political commentary is nothing we haven’t seen in similar films such as When Worlds Collide or Deep Impact.

      Still, I’m not embarrassed to say that I will buy the DVD as soon as I see it for sale under $10 –as long as there’s a detailed documentary on the special effects.

      Reply
  2. brian

    ‘It also becomes far too talky at a time when it should be accelerating toward a conclusion, which also weakens a third act that should become stronger and stronger. ‘

    i must disagree…one criticism of such movies is all action, little and lame dialogue. The middle portion is more thoughtful, on the two planes. As it should be…The wave and cliff hanger in the ships bowels were acceptable climaxes.

    My favorite is the ‘The president of the lourve is an enemy of humanity sequence’…

    Notice too how Helmsely keeps losing his tete-a-tetes with Anheuser…till the climax of the film…

    Politics:
    ‘When Worlds Collide’ or Deep Impact doesnt end up with the first world nations(G8!) seeking a third world refugee!

    Reply

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