Film review: 2012 (2009), directed by Roland Emmerich
If you’re Roland Emmerich, you tend to do one type of film: BIG BUDGET BLOCKBUSTERS WHERE THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT IS ABOUT TO END WITH LOTS OF SPECTACULAR SPECIAL EFFECTS. Sorry for the caps, I’m afraid they were necessary. Hey, the guy has done films like Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012 definitely lives up to that. It’s big, it’s explosive and has lots of disaster, death, special effects, scientists no one listens to, crackpots, and so on.
I was interested in watching this movie when I first heard about it, and when I saw the trailer I was a tad bit disappointed. It looked good but it did just seem to be Another Disaster Movie. Which it is, realistically. More action, less mysticism about the Mayan Calendar. Because back in the day, the Mayans had a calendar, and according to that, the world as we know it will cease to be around Yule 2012, just before Christmas. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Personally, I think the Mayans just couldn’t be bothered to count any longer.
“There, I’ve finally finished making the calendar, high priest!”
“Excellent. How far does it go?”
“All the way up to 22 December 2012.”
“Well done. And how come you stopped there?”
“Hey, it’s well over a thousand years in the future. If we made one now it would just get lost somewhere.”
“Fair point, I suppose. I’ll leave you to it. Oh, actually, just one more thing. While you’re at it, why don’t you have it finish on the 20th instead?”
“Yeah, that’d be sweet. 22/12/2012 is just a tiny bit off.”
“No. Go away.”
Anyway. (UPDATE 2021: Well, of course the world didn’t end! And also, the Mayan Calendar is cyclical, so it wasn’t so much as the calendar ended on that date, it just reset back to zero.)
The story follows a Divorced Writer Dad (John Cusack) who takes his Neglected Children (Liam James and Morgan Lily) out camping. They go to Yellowstone National Park, where Dad once upon a time met Mum (Amanda Peet) by a lake, but in order to get there they have to trespass. The lake in question has vanished, and they get taken away by the military to some sort of camp, where they meet the Nice Geologist (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who says hello, I’m one of the two people in the whole world who has read your book, nice to meet you, now you need to leave. Back at the camp, Dad (he has a name, don’t remember it, can’t be bothered to look it up) comes across the gherkin-munchin’ Hippie Crackpot Conspiracy Theorist (how’s that typecastin’ workin’ out for ya these days, Woody Harrelson?), who mentions big ships for the Select (Rich) Few so they can bugger off when stuff hits the fan. Which it will be soon, because the Mayans said so.
Then stuff does start to hit the fan, the Camping-Hating (formerly Neglected) Children want to go home to their mum and their Awesome Doctor Stepdad. They reach home and the ground starts to crumble, because now lots of stuff hits the fan – aww, and to think it’s just before Christmas and all. They flee, in true War of the Worlds fashion, and so on.
The movie is extremely formulaic, if you hadn’t guessed already. Other cast inclue: the Heroic President (Danny Glover), who has a Clever Daughter (Thandie Newton) on the staff; the Obligatory “My Rules Now!” Baddie (Oliver Platt), and there’s even a Rich Russian (Zlatko Buric) with a Trophy Wife (complete with Tiny Dog) and Bratty Offspring.
When the movie came out at the cinema (and it’s the sort of movie that lends itself very well to the silver screen, it has to be said – a TV isn’t quite the same), there were reviews saying the movie wasn’t really all that great, so when we finally saw this, I wasn’t expecting miracles. It’s a decent film. It’s entertaining, the computer generated effects are spectacular, and it’s generally epic. It’s not the most intellectually challenging of films, perhaps, but it has heart and humanity (not to mention inhumanity) and it’s entertaining in that “oh God, oh God, we’re all gonna die” type way.
I really enjoyed the actors as well. Mr Typecast I can’t help but love in all his quirky ways – especially since he has his own little radio station and all. Amanda Peet will always be Jack for me (of Jack & Jill – that was a great show).
So overall – decent film. Not disappointed, but also not blown away.
“A black president? In a Hollywood blockbuster? NO WAY!”
“Dude… the world really must be ending!”*
*Which means we’ll probably see a female president on screen just in time to see pigs being genetically modified to fly? Hollywood’s not the quickest on the uptake. Shame on them.