DIR: Roland Emmerich • WRI: Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser • PRO: Roland Emmerich, Volker Engel, Larry J. Franco, Harald Kloser, Marc Weigert • DOP: Dean Semler • ED: David Brenner, Peter S. Elliot • DES: Barry Chusid • CAST: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover, Oliver Platt

2012 is a film in keeping with such formulaic disaster films as Independence Day, Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow. As with these films, the emphasis of 2012 is on spectacle over other less important elements of cinema. Dialogue, realism and character development take a backseat to the computer-generated cataclysm that dominates this vehicle.

2012 is connected to the aforementioned big, dumb actioners by more than just their shared destruction of iconic buildings. All four of these big, dumb films are connected by their big, dumb director: Roland Emmerich. In this instance, my repetition of the words ‘big’ and ‘dumb’ is justified – if it’s okay for Emmerich to repeatedly direct the same film, then it must be okay to carry on describing them as big and dumb. The only apparent difference being that the global scale of this particular big, dumb disaster film makes it bigger and dumber than the previous manifestations.

The irrelevant plot of the film is based on the Mayan prophecy that the world will end in the year 2012. This prediction means that global warming is entirely overlooked and that blame for the end of the world is shifted away from the excesses of humankind and out into the cosmos instead. Blame safely and neatly averted, Emmerich can focus instead on his primary objective – the big and dumb destruction of the (computer-generated) world. Mercifully, New York sits this one out as Emmerich strives for a more global degree of annihilation (The White House, however, is not so lucky). In support of the globalisation of the world’s end in this instance, subtitles are employed on several occasions to add to the faux-realism.

2012 is film-by-numbers at its most predictable. Anyone familiar with the excellent South Park episode, ‘Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow’ will know exactly what to expect. The cast is composed of the usual suspects – including such genre staples as the broken family, complete with quirky daughter and absent but loving father (John Cusack); the humanitarian scientist (Chiwetel Ejiofor); and the Machiavellian government official (Oliver Platt). Also of note is the casting of Danny Glover as the President of the USA, a pitiful and vertically challenged incarnation of his real-life counterpart.

There is nothing original or noteworthy within this film. While its excessive running-time is predominantly filled with the destruction of the Earth, the cartoonlike special effects deny the film the substance afforded by reality. As with too many recent films, when the action promises the most it fails to excite because of its over-reliance on a rubbery videogame appearance. Directors should take note of the effect on audiences of Christopher Nolan flipping a truck for real in The Dark Knight. In a film which has nothing to recommend it other than the potential for spectacle, 2012 is a big, dumb failure.

Peter White
(See biog here)

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
is released on 13 Nov 2009

2012 – Official Website