2012 review (Blu-ray)

For 2012, serial planet-fucker Roland Emmerich opened his big book of eco-molesting sex positions and turned to the section marked Massive Biblical Apocalypse, though not before dipping into the Quasi-mystical Mayan Foreplay chapter first.

Hotshot geologist Adrian Helmsley (Ejifor, displaying a mean level of competence and dignity) uncovers a dangerous shift in the sun’s activity and starts using words like neutrinos and talking about the Earth’s core being unstable, the upshot being that something big and bad is going down, end-of-the-planet big and bad. Knowing this is big and bad, he mentions this to White House Chief of Staff Carl Anheuser. Some more people talk politics on the back of it, agreeing that this is indeed big and bad, and decide to make a contingency plan to ensure humanity’s survival.

Later in 2012, failed writer and estranged dad Jackson Curtis (Cusack, looking not a bit like 50 Cent) sets off to Yellowstone Park with his kids, stumbling on the first signs of the impending disaster. He also encounters DJ and conspiracy theorist Charlie Frost (the credits say Woody Harrelson, I say it’s an anamatronic Dennis Hopper), who claims that Mayans had long predicted it’d all go shit-shaped in 2012 and that he knows the whereabouts of arks that have been built to save a selected few. After shaking the disaster-narrative champagne bottle for long enough, self-titled Master of the Modern Epic Emmerich pops the cork in grand fashion and then sets off a heavyweight CGI clusterbomb of earthquakes, tsunamis and the like, as Jackson tries to lead his family to the arks before the tectonic plates shift, causing the final cataclysmic disaster.

Despite making a lot of noise, 2012 gets little across. Bad dialogue creates an unnaturalistic tone that causes you to disconnect, not helped by casting that indicates the budget went on the CGI, plus an absurd addiction with juxtaposing Book of Revelation catastrophes with the bland everyday problems of the characters.  Not forgetting Emmerich’s shaky relationship with common sense. While there’s an initial rush from watching America get torn apart, you soon end up with catastrophe fatigue, as there’s no empathy for the loss of human life, it’s just Busby Berkely with a bigger death count. It also treats its very fundaments with disregard. Why reference the Mayan prophecies, then make Harrelson’s character, who introduces the lofty idea, such a joke? But it isn’t all bad – make a beeline for the alternate ending in the extras. It’s hilariously preposterous, even outstripping the sheer insanity of entire film – though it does hint that Emmerich is probably taking the piss. I’m tempted to give it an extra star just for that.

EXTRAS *** Director commentary, featurette, alternate ending, deleted scenes

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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