Film review – 2012 (2009)

Lilly Curtis (Morgan Lily), Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) and Kate Curtis (Amanda Peet)

If you want to make a film about the end of the world then Roland Emmerich really is the director that you want in charge. Emmerich has created scenes of mass destruction previously in films such as Independence Day, which took its inspiration and politics from 1950s Red Menace alien invasion films, and The Day After Tomorrow, which took its cues from the at-the-time growing awareness about climate change. For 2012 Emmerich has taken the theory that the world will face a global cataclysmic disaster towards the end of 2012. The theory is based on a generally discredited interpretation of the Mayan calendar but it is nevertheless a great excuse to provide audiences with a visual orgy of utter destruction. There’s a scientific explanation provided in 2012 about what is happening but all you really need to know is that a whole bunch of earthquakes, volcanos and tsunamis are coming to seriously ruin Christmas. To Emmerich’s credit he provides an engaging spectacle of mass carnage and even builds a credible narrative to facilitate it. For the type of film that it is, 2012 is quite good.

Laura Wilson (Thandie Newton), Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt)

Like many of Emmerich’s films, 2012 contains a lengthy build-up to the action where we are introduced to a host of characters from around the world who are either experts who are aware of what is to come or everyday people caught up in the carnage. Included in the mostly strong cast are John Cusack playing the Everyman character Jackson Curtis, a failed novelist who is separated from his wife, and Chiwetel Ejiofor playing the Righteous Scientist character Adrian Helmsley who stands up to the government lackeys who want to keep what is happening a secret. Emmerich also impressively includes a subplot about an Indian family and a Chinese family, reminding us that the End of Days affects people other than just Americans. Naturally an absurd degree of coincidence will ultimately link these characters together but getting to know them is important so that their plight through the film engages our attention. This way we don’t focus too long on the fact that billions and billions of people are being obliterated. There is also a dog for us to worry about too because when the world is coming to an end, we will still care about the fate of one single little dog.

2012The big special effect sequences depicting a lot of stuff getting destroyed mainly consist of elaborate CGIs but they are mostly exhilarating and emotionally engaging. Curtis and his family’s escape first from an earthquake in Los Angeles, and then a volcano in Yellowstone are incredibly impressive sequences that seriously get the adrenalin pumping. While the CGIs work when being used to replicate recognisable objects they are less successful in creating the unfamiliar objects that feature heavily in the final act of the film and overall 2012 does lose its momentum about half way through. Nevertheless, the resolution is serviceable and for the most part 2012 delivers in terms of spectacle and character engagement.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

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  1. “The theory is based on a generally discredited interpretation of the Mayan calendar”
    Don’t be so sure my friend. The s*** is really coming down. My cellar is stocked with food and you ain’t coming in.
    See also The Road.

  2. fantastic film! even thow all this may happen in real and cyprus may sink..great film!

  3. Hi folks

    Please feel free to leave comments about the film, my review and even the whole Mayan calendar issue but if you just come here to paste links then your comments will be deleted (and possibly labeled as spam).

    On another note, I’m fairly confident that the events depicted in 2012 will not happen in three years time but if they do then you all will have certainly earned the right to come back here and gloat. I may not pay much attention though as I’ll probably have other things on my mind.


  4. Just like the end times predicted in 1997, whoops, 2000, whoops, 2001, whoops, maybe 2012 will be the one? If not the Chinese predicted the end in 2018 so they MIGHT be right, right!?

  5. Ha ha! Isn’t there a Seinfeld gag about how predicting the end of the world is a lose/lose situation? The punch-line goes that either you look stupid when nothing happens or you, well, end up dead!

  6. Too long! Would have made a great 90 minute disaster movie. As it was, it became tiring. Woody Harrelson was simply right-on as a Conspiracy Theorist. I wish they had concentrated on his part a little more. In the end the Conspiracy Theorist’s only hope for the future is to be able to say, “I told you so.” My question is, with the current state of the world, will we last till 12/21/2012?

  7. this movie was so bad I walked out of the theater and wished I had stayed home and watched A&E. I expected to feel like I needed to kiss my family goodbye and instead it made me realize that even and easy shot at scaring the public can be jacked up. So I guess the End will be boring, long and fake. I rate this movie F-

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