Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures.
“2012” Starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Woody Harrelson and Danny Glover. Directed by Roland Emmerich. 158 minutes. Rated PG-13.
The film “2012,” now on DVD and Blu-ray disc, is a man-made disaster about a natural catastrophe.
“My gosh,” I said to myself about halfway through the longer than 2 1/2 hour movie, “can’t the world come to an end quicker?”
In “2012,” landmasses shift cataclysmically because mutant neutrinos from a solar flare superheat the Earth’s core. The Himalayas become the ocean’s flood plain. California becomes a part of the seafloor.
The upheaval results in hundreds of millions of deaths, unless you’re an Arab royal or Russian mobster who can afford to drop $1 billion euros per person for luxurious passage on secretly built “arks,” or happen to be a member of the Curtis family et al.
Ineptly, yet decisively, led by Jackson Curtis, as portrayed by John Cusack, the family ceaselessly eludes death by blunt trauma or scorching again and again and again and again.
The earth uplifts beneath their car, they escape.
Bridges collapse, they dodge.
The ground tears open at their feet, they scurry.
California explodes, they find an airplane to maneuver around toppling skyscrapers like a mosquito flying between raindrops.
A pyroclastic flow – ash spewing, acid sizzling, boulders flaming – comes gushing their way, but they outrun it.
Finally, don’t ask how, the Curtises reach the Himalayas, trudging through snow in search of the arks.
Just as they’re about to give up hope for the tenth time of surviving, along comes a Buddhist monk driving a pickup truck along a winding trail. He gives the Curtises a lift to a back entrance of the cavernous mountaintop shipyard where the monk’s brother, who helped build the arks, smuggles the whole lot aboard Ark 4, which belongs to America. What luck, eh?
The Curtises live and “2012” ends with three arks steaming for Africa, which apparently survived the churning core. Get it? Humans got their evolutionary start in Africa and now they’re returning to Africa for another beginning. “2012” teems with such philosophic wonderment and profound irony.
That the ships were called Arks, by the way, was the final straw for me.
I’m tired of sectarian references, in this case, ark as in Noah’s Ark, constantly appearing in catastrophe movies.
Why did “2012” director Roland Emmerich have to label the vessels that saved a small portion of corrupt, self-serving mankind, arks, as though the endeavor was noble?
It would have been more accurate to label the arks “survival ships for the filthy rich and slimy politicians.”
Or, the arks could have been called, “keep-the-privileged-alive semi-submersibles,” mimicking the DEA description of vessels drug traffickers use to move product along the coastlines of Central and South America.
Rent, do not buy, “2012” only if you have a potent surround sound system. The movie’s sound effects are its only merit.
Director Roland Emmerich blew up the White House in “Independence Day.” He knocked over the Statue of Liberty in “The Day After Tomorrow.” In “2012” he inundates, melts down and otherwise reduces to soggy molecules the entire world in an orgy of destruction that will leave you wondering what you did for entertainment before CGI made it possible to watch a tidal wave overwash the Himalayas.
If there is such a thing as “disaster porn,” “2012” is triple-X.
The storyline is simple: A freak burst of neutrinos from the sun is causing the earth’s core to heat up, resulting in an extinction-level event (to borrow a term from “Deep Impact”). Volcanoes the size of Wyoming will destroy vast swaths of countryside while earthquakes and tsunamis finish off what the volcanoes fail to vaporize.
The lead viewpoint character is John Cusack, a could-have-been writer who operates a limo service to pay the rent. He lives in a dump, oversleeps appointments and consistently lets down his ex-wife, Amanda Peet, and his two children. Peet has moved on to a new husband, a man with a solid job who provides her and the kids with a great house and lots of fun gadgets – not to mention contempt for Cusack’s fumbling inadequacies as a father and a man.
See where this is going?
Meanwhile strange events are unfolding around the world. Earthquakes open cracks along fault lines in California. Lakes boil away in Yellowstone Park. The church channel lady with the pink cotton candy hair shaves her head and gets a nose bob … OK, maybe that’s a little too weird but you get the picture.
What follows is a hair-raising series of improbable cliffhangers resulting in … well, let’s just say if you’re familiar with the Roland Emmerich formula you’ll not be disappointed.
“2012” is silly and stupid, but it’s also a lot of fun.
The science is non-existent. Take those pesky neutrinos. Neutrinos have no mass, which means they pass right through you and me, the buildings we inhabit, and the earth itself. How can something that has no mass heat the earth’s core?
In the movie we see a huge Russian transport airplane, an Antonov 225, perform a 60-degree power climb. Ain’t happening folks, not even with a crazy Russian hotdog of a pilot.
And “2012” seems to forget all about the nuclear winter hypothesis, which predicts that if you inject enough soot and dust into the atmosphere, the sun isn’t going to shine for months if not years.
I’m curious. Why do these disaster movies never take into account the hundreds of wrecked nuclear reactors around the world? All that plutonium has got to go somewhere.
And why does every disaster movie center around a divorced dad trying to win back the love of his children, if not his ex-wife? John Cusack’s role seems lifted directly from Steven Spielberg’s “The War of the Worlds” Tom Cruise character. Or “Independence Day.” Or even “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”
I guess we’re supposed to ignore those logic flaws as we watch an aircraft carrier of a surfboard take out the White House, or the San Andreas fault submerge the entire West Coast into the Pacific.
I can do that for two hours.
When “2012” debuted on DVD it blew away the competition. I had to ask the folks at the local Blockbuster if they had a copy behind the counter because the shelves were empty. As I waited, two more customers asked for it. (Speaking of which, don’t you hate the demise of the local DVD rental store? Netflix, Red Box and streaming are lousy substitutes for wandering the aisles as you check out the dust jackets on a DVD case.)
I give “2012” 3½ out of five stars, subtracting points for bad science and hackneyed storytelling, but awarding points for special effects and entertainment value.
Your $5 rental fee won’t have been wasted.
Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical editor. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.