Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

"If you’re expecting two hours of things being destroyed, you’re wrong. It’s actually two and a half. And it feels like three."

Though Transformers helmer Michael Bay is known as the king of loud and dumb explosion-filled blockbusters, director Roland Emmerich is a close second. Plot, character and dialogue all tend to take a backseat (if, indeed, they are even on board) in Emmerich’s flicks as CGI-enhanced building-tumbling takes priority. Sadly, just like previous efforts Independence Day, Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow, 2012 is much of the same: sweeping tidal waves, cities collapsing and the destruction of famous landmarks. Only this time, if you can believe it, bigger. With, you know, the end of the world as we know it.

Its 2009 and geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) discovers that the world is on the verge of destroying itself in the coming years. Come 2012, while Helmsley is still working with The President (Danny Glover) and one of his top Politicians (Oliver Platt), the disaster begins. Elsewhere, having gotten wind of events to come, fiction writer Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) does his best to get his family to safety.

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As usual, the German director deals with all the catastrophe-porn with quick, nobody-will-notice explanations and some truly laughable science (let's not even mention how mobile phones keep working throughout). In between the numerous earthquakes and tsunamis, there’s the customary laugh-out-loud-in-a-bad-way broad gags and cheesy moments (just check out the cute dog making a run for it). Then there’s the near-endless stream of genre clichés that includes a few shots where a plane veers down to crash before ‘surprisingly’ pulling back up at the last minute.

Still, though you can feel Emmerich grow bored as he’s forced to let the characters talk, the movie comes alive when the destruction begins. The special effects are impressive and they sort of pummel you into submission. The problem is that while a vehicle outrunning cracks in the ground is slightly cool at first, it becomes repetitive very quickly and goes on far too long. If you’re expecting two hours of things being destroyed, you’re wrong. It’s actually two and a half. And it feels like three.

As normal, while you imagine thousands of man hours were spent digitally collapsing all these land masses, the script looks like it was bashed out overnight. This is a shame given the array of too-good-for-this-sort-of-movie talent assembled to fill in the stereotypical roles. Cusack as the divorced father-come-hero, Ejiofor as the saw-it-coming scientist, Woody Harrelson as the paranoid conspiracy-theorist, Glover as the speech-giving President… shame none of them are stretched in the slightest.

A typical Emmerich movie where everything is torn down, swept away or demolished. Strictly for those that enjoyed The Day After Tomorrow.

Reviewed on: 24 Nov 2009
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2012 packshot
Solar activity brings about the end of the world as we know it, but a handful of people are determined to survive.
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Read more 2012 reviews:

Jennie Kermode **1/2

Director: Roland Emmerich

Writer: Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser

Starring: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Thomas McCarthy, Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover

Year: 2009

Runtime: 158 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US, Canada


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If you like this, try:

The Day After Tomorrow