Hollywood’s master of disaster movies director Roland Emmerich is back this week with his newest tale of wholesale destruction, 2012. Emmerich’s previous efforts have included such destructive fare as The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla and of course, Independence Day. All of these were just practice for his latest work, however. After warming up by destroying things piecemeal with weather, giant monster lizards and aliens, he’s moved on to wrecking the entire Earth at once.
2012 features the universal everyman John Cusack as down on his luck writer Jackson Curtis. Through a series of coincidences, Curtis is one of the only people outside of the government who knows about the approaching doom of the world. He must use this knowledge to save his ex-wife, Amanda Peet, and kids from the worldwide disaster by getting them to the one safe place on Earth. There’s a vague story behind the whys of the destruction of the planet. It involves something about increased neutrino mass and activity raising the internal temperature of the Earth causing the entire crust to become unstable. This scenario is handily explained to the characters and the audience in a cartoon, which only serves to emphasize its ridiculous nature.
But the main draw of these movies isn’t the hard science-fiction aspect. We go to watch things get destroyed in spectacular fashion. In this aspect, the film succeeds brilliantly. Progressing from his earlier works which focused on a single type of destruction, 2012 runs the gamut of natural disasters. Pretty much everything Mother Nature can throw at us is featured in detail. You want to see earthquakes shake California into the ocean? Done! You want to see a mega-volcano destroy Yellowstone? Done! You want to see massive tsunamis sweep across Asia? Done! Buildings fall, runways collapse, giant fissures open in the ground all to glorious effect. It really is a buffet of disaster porn.
This makes it somewhat difficult to grade. As a whole and complete movie, with its one-dimensional story and paper-thin characterization, it fails thoroughly. But as a spectacle of destruction it fires on all cylinders. If you’re looking for two hours of rampant destruction and mushroom clouds, this is the movie for you.
Rated: PG-13 for for intense disaster sequences and some language
Starring: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson