Starring: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson, Oliver Platt
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer(s): Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser
Cinematography: Dean Semler
Original Score: Harald Kloser, Thomas Wander
Running Time: 158 Mins.
Is it enough to say a film is what it is? The exact thing I was left wondering to myself as I walked from director Roland Emmerich’s latest apocalyptic filmic experience, 2012. Yes, he who presented us with the end of the world not once not twice, but thrice before (if you include the risible Godzilla…or even four with last years horrendous 10, 000 BC) comes at us again with his biggest story of mass destruction yet. So where Independence Day had aliens invade and The Day After Tomorrow melted the polar ice-caps flooding us all, this one sees something called solar flares heating up the Earth’s crust, causing the plates to move….
Basically, to cut a long story short, here we have the occurance of everything from every disaster film you can possibly imagine, the capsizing boat from Poseiden, the giant volcano from, well, Volcano, collapsing building’s from any number of films and giant earthquakes just for good measure. Knowing the director and subject matter you can also likely guess the setup, and you would be right, a band of survivors assemble, overcoming their differences, some are related, some have relatives left behind, some perish along the way, some reconnect with their children, you name the cliche, chances are it’s in there.
So a multitude of freak disasters and a motley crew of survivors, so far so same-y and I’m afraid to say that is really all there is, and therein lies the problem. 2012 has never pretended to be anything more than that, and I have a feeling all went into it expecting to make nothing more, but we deserve something more, some surprises along the way and relying on effects alone nowadays is simply not enough. Audiences have seen this kind of CG mayhem all too often before and with better acting and better direction (War of the Worlds for one). All of which means that as good as the effects look, there is no substitute for something, well, real, even if that real aspect is the human emotion.
I won’t hammer on about the acting too much as to be honest 2012 was never about the acting, though that said when your film is bloated to over 2 and a half hours we deserve much more than the estranged father/son drivel and the leaving daddy behind rubbish 2012 presents us with. Thank heavens for Chiwetel Ejiofor and Oliver Platt, one injecting some humanity in an interesting character and the other providing the kind of pantomime villainy that helped make the water-treading time span flow much more quickly. Offset against the absolute dullness of John Cusack and Amanda Peet they are pure joy. And why Woody Harrelson decided to turn up for a near-cameo as a conspiracy theory nut is anyones guess!
At the very least casting a charismatic lead would have helped and though Ejiofor is onscreen as much as Cusack it is Cusack’s estranged father we are meant to relate to, the thing is at no point does he look interested, clearly there for the paycheck alone he is an actor desperately in need of a role to regain his street-cred!
Padded out around the core survivors are a range of bit part-ers, far too much time is spent on building up minor side characters that add little to nothing making the pace drag furthermore, and worst of all they are built up to be obliterated in seconds and never mentioned again, this is the fate the director is surely hoping befalls his audience for the word of mouth on this is not going to go far…
So, 2012 is what it is and that is no good thing, tired, bloated and one big cliché, piqued only by a couple of fun performances that save this from total ignominy, Emmerich needs to learn that CG destruction alone is no longer exciting, especially stretched over what feels like a lifetime!