2012 (2009)

It’s the end of the world as we know it…

When the Earth’s crust begins to rotate around its molten core causing worldwide devastation, Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) bundles up his fractured family and attempts to follow the privileged and powerful to safety.

We’ve been here before. It’s been five years since Roland Emmerich last rustled up a world-impacting event movie in The Day After Tomorrow, but we all know what to expect here: spectacular effects with a coating of cheese on top. Except 2012, while not exactly breaking the mould, takes things closer to the style of Seventies disaster movies and manages to deliver some legitimately tragic moments as the world falls prey to extra-powerful earthquakes, volcanoes and massive tsunamis.

Let’s tackle the effects first. As we’ve come to expect, there’s some absolutely stunning, applause-worthy stuff here, though it’s interesting to note that the sequences which work best, such as Curtis driving pell-mell through California as it falls into the abyss behind him, are those where the characters are in direct danger. Later in the movie, while the moments of devastation continue to impress, there’s less sense of impending doom and it removes some of the emotional connection built up early on. While some of the targets of Emmerich’s destructive energies remain the same (the White House, the Washington Monument), it’s good to see a focus beyond America with the Sistine Chapel taking a beating and Rio’s Christ the Redeemer toppling, among others.

An interestingly chosen cast includes the ever-reliable Cusack, Danny Glover as the US President, Amanda Peet as Curtis’s ex-wife and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Helmsley, the scientist who’s seen disaster on the horizon but whose calculations of the end are disastrously off-target. Picking so many character actors instead of massive stars works well for the film, neatly parcelling out the emotional and action beats between them as family members fall prey to the devastation. While some deaths pack more of a punch than others (one’s quick slip into doom seems rather abrupt and undeserved), you might feel a bit of a sniffle welling up over the course of the movie’s 158 minutes.

Yes, 158 minutes. Thankfully, despite this extensive running time, the film doesn’t drag, containing enough incident to keep things moving towards its conclusion. It teeters dangerously close to being really depressing two thirds of the way through and it’s ridiculously gung-ho at times, with some moments of high drama so far over the top that they slip into comedy. But overall 2012 is a satisfying film to watch with some truly exceptional CG work that, as usual with Emmerich’s work, is worth the price of admission alone.

4 stars

Paul Spragg

Read Interview with Roland Emmerich, John Cusack and Amanda Peet

Watch 2012 Trailer

Stars John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwter Ekiofor, Danny Glover
Director Roland Emmerich
Screenplay Roland Emmerich & Harald Kloser
Certificate 12A
Distributor Sony Pictures
Running Time 2hrs 38mins
Opens November 13