2012 Review: A Mindlessly Undeveloped Cinematic Catastrophe, Both Literally and Figuratively

A friend of mine came up with an accurate quip about director Roland Emmerich. Judging by all of his films, from Independence Day to Stargate, Emmerich must have the filmmaking mental ingenuity of a six-year old child. This is, of course, a backhanded compliment because for the most part six-year olds are quite creative in their own right but they lack the deep and relevant aspects of character structure, plot coherency, and our world’s physical and moral accuracies. So a six year old boy spends his time imagining portals to Egyptian dimensions with aliens or a lost civilization with a Mastodon army, which is creative but the plot goes haywire and the relevance of what we are seeing stems from pure simplistic satisfaction rather than societal relevance. Emmerich’s new cinematic apocalyptic catastrophe, both literally and figuratively, 2012 displays what is sensational about special effects and why modern films have exploited this technological advancement making it into CGI pornography. The word pornography shouldn’t be thrown around but that is essentially what special effects and fast paced imagery have done to our movie culture a fully diagnosed ADD populace that can’t appreciate mere human connection without copious amounts of mind numbing and brainless spectacles. Everything is far from believable in the film and plot seems to be rather simplistic for the natural disaster genre of film, but despite all that the real weakness is in actually making the representation of humanity actually worth saving. The special effects bombard us with intense sequences that distract us from the main characters connection with the audience, a tactic that was desirable for this script due to the insufficient amount of quality characters.

As we are introduced to our protagonist, writer and limo driver on the side Jackson Curtis who is played in stereotypical befuddled fashion by John Cusack, the audience is aware of the impending doom that is going to occur via high sunspot activity eventually melting the core of the Earth, despite the Earth’s core exists already in a melted state. The government’s of the developed world knowing of the cataclysmic event are working on a secret mission to save a good portion of humanity and the few who know are sworn to secrecy and have a punishment of death if the secret is revealed. Choosing the lottery for who will survive the apocalypse dabbles in simplistic utilitarianism while adding in social Darwinism supported eugenics a matter of huge immoral implications though Emmerich doesn’t seem to bother explaining or justifying his philosophical immaturity. But Jackson Curtis is constantly one step ahead of the impending doom trying his hardest to save his family, including his ex-wife’s boyfriend. Dodging fireballs raining from the sky or even collapsing skyscrapers in Los Angeles, the unbelievable fantasy world of our prophesized apocalypse can’t stop this man’s determination to save his children. This is admirable and most people can relate to the impulse to do anything to survive but the fact remains that Emmerich barely allows any time to explore the faults, the strengths, or the difficult emotions this man must have throughout the entire film. Instead Jackson Curtis, our representation of humanity, seems as though he is a programmed being going through the ropes dictated by a predictable and thoughtless script rather than a human being desperate for his survival. All in all the scenarios seemed forced mostly because they were constructed for the sole purpose to show off state of the art effects rather than have that technology accentuate a well developed story of human survival.

But in the same vein as all of Emmerich’s films there is just a vast array of characters that are seemingly unimportant, sidetrack the tale, or are just meant for typical emotional responses of the “I love you Dad, even though you weren’t around too often” category. Some of these scenes would pull at your heartstrings if they weren’t so callously calculated or horribly written. The dialogue is by far the worst part of this entire movie due to no one having anything of importance to say. If these were the examples of the best humanity had to offer maybe it is worth contemplating their demise. In all of its special effects grandeur 2012 has lost the soul and the essential heart of why we watch movies to begin with making a farce of entertainment. The special effects are amazing and the hat is off to the modern CGI operators who can create such stunning visual feats. However, this cannot ever be the only purpose of a films creation. Even Transformers 2 had good reason for its insanely convoluted effects because it was about robots that can transform. 2012 was created for the sole purpose of seeing things explode and watching vicariously as the world collapsed on itself without having to fret the experience ourselves. This film works better as a rollercoaster ride, an exhilarating experience without any substance or relevance to why we are experiencing it except for the reasoning “just because.”

Looking back on the film there are no admirable qualities that stand out besides the visual effects. The acting is typical and fortunately doesn’t add to the atrocious list of grievances while the script’s calculated natural disaster plot is just made worse with poor dialogue that includes an overwhelming amount of clichés. But the most torturous aspect of the film is that it drags on for over 2 ½ hours, pounding your senses with unbelievable scenarios including the most unrealistic scenario of all: traveling from Manhattan Beach to Santa Monica Airport in 5 minutes. That is just not possible even in the fantasy world of exploding volcanoes igniting fireballs or typhoons gaining momentum in the middle of the ocean. 2012 is a wonder of modern day cinema in how a director such as Roland Emmerich can continue to produce such beyond mediocre drivel even after such atrocities as 10,000 B.C. and the remake of Godzilla. 2012 is just another one of the special effects infested schlock that is produced every year in a category I would like to refer to as CGI pornography. These movies are made for those who can’t be bothered to invest their entertainment into protagonists worth following and enjoy pure brainless entertainment of explosions and artificial destruction.

It doesn’t seem as though the modern day continuation of special effects driven cinema will ever end. There was a time when films that explored visual effects to accentuate their stories direction. Now it seems as though the effects themselves dictate where a project will go filling in the blanks of story after the fact. Roland Emmerich, while not nearly as bad as Stephen Summers, still baffles even this writer to how ridiculous and over produced his films end up becoming. 2012 has magnificent effects but a horrid story, lack of character foresight, and disgusting dialogue and character interactions. As the film plummets along in all of its catastrophic elements it just becomes more and more ridiculous without having a solid basis to care for the humanity that Emmerich has given us in the beginning. Is humanity worth saving? Why is it essential that the human population survive? While the film doesn’t even come close to breaching these questions there is still a question that needs to be asked every time Roland Emmerich makes a new film: Why does Roland Emmerich keep getting to make movies? Unfortunately it’s the money and unfortunately there is a population that enjoys this kind of drivel.

Grade: D

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One Response to “2012 Review: A Mindlessly Undeveloped Cinematic Catastrophe, Both Literally and Figuratively”
  1. Juan C says:

    I sneaked in to see this one for 15 minutes. The amount of CGI in those minutes was ridiculous, they should have just made the whole thing in CGI. I am surprised that you never give any film you review an F. For all that bad talk about this film and Mr. Emmerich I thought you finally would have. Maybe you are a bit too lenient.

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