Film review – 2012 (2009)

8 November 2009
2012

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.

2012

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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Film review – W. (2008)

25 February 2009
George W. Bush (Josh Brolin)

George W. Bush (Josh Brolin)

W. is the third film that director Oliver Stone has based around the USA presidency (JFK and Nixon are his previous efforts). It is also a curiously restrained film considering Stone’s past tendency to make controversial films containing an excessive use of film style, Natural Born Killers and Platoon being two notable examples. Despite the occasional use of heavily ironic music, W. is not the all out ridiculing attack on Bush that many people may assume it to be. Looking at the range and depth of source material that the film was based upon, it appears to be an incredibly well researched film. It examines Bush as a rebellious young man who despite his highly privileged background couldn’t hold down a job until the age of 40 when he turned his life around to eventually become the president of the free world. While W. does heavily focus on the era between October 2001 and March 2003 when America went to war with Iraq, Stone’s primary interest lies in the complex relationship that Bush had with his father.

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Film review – Run Fatboy Run (2007)

25 March 2008

A comedy co-written and starring Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) and co-starring Dylan Moran (television’s Black Books) and Hank Azaria (various voices on The Simpsons) really should be a lot funnier than the disappointing Run Fat Boy Run. Pegg plays Dennis, an underachieving loser who ran off on his pregnant fiancée (Thandie Newton from The Pursuit of Happyness and Crash) on their wedding day. 5 years later he decides she is the love of his life and tries to win her back from her new fiancée (Azaria) by running the London marathon to prove his ability to commit to something.

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