Film Review: 2012

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Sam Bathe on 11 Nov 2009

Plastered everywhere from the sides of buses, to building-sized advertising hoardings and imaginatively integrated underground walkways, there’s no escaping the release of Roland Emmerich’s next epic, 2012.

A man so apparently obsessed with post-apocolyptic Earth, on 2012 Emmerich has cut out the middle man and jumps straight to the point. There’s no rampaging monster, no alien invasion, just a world that come a date mysterious predicted by the Mayan calendar will no longer be the same again, ravaged by its own forces.

In amongst the madness, of course, Emmerich draws your attention to one family, and a disjointed one at that. Two separated parents, the mother’s boyfriend, and two kids catch wind of rumours about a possible rescue mission so try to make the epic journey across the planet in an attempt to find the one possible means of salvation.

If this were Emmerich of 20 years ago perhaps he would have injected a passion into 2012 that would have really brought it alive, but as it is, so say his latest film is formulaic would be a gross understatement . After making his name with such great films as Godzilla and Independence Day, Emmerich has been drifting steadily downhill ever since, but with 2012 he’s hit a real low point.

The film feels like a spoof on several occasions and possesses everything you’d expected from a Wayans disaster movie. The story is grossly clichéd, the sheer number of car jumps over gaping ravines is ridiculous and on several occasions you’ll be thrown into laughter at the sheer stupidity of the narrative and attempts to convey tension and emotion. 2012 has the classic moments of heroism, a speech of how we need to remember what it means to be human, a scientist who predicts it all before it happens, a government, that even after knowing what is coming, fail to plan a scheme for anyone beyond a handful of leading figures to have a chance at survival and a man outrunning molten fireballs. Played out in a serious manner, Emmerich far from pulls it off.

You could argue 2012 was always going to possess such qualities but for a man with a such a reputation, even on a big studio release, he has the power to drive the project in a new direction. On this occasion, Emmerich he didn’t bother. 2012 is devout of any imagination or flair; for Emmerich especially, it feels like a paycheck, which when there’s a $200m+ budget on the table, is a gigantic kick in the teeth for the legions of talented young film makers who would give their right arm for the chance to helm a project like this.

For a film so reliant on CGI, 2012 needed nothing less than game-changing special effects, but the final result is sloppy. The great masses of land sliding into the sea look nice enough on the poster but in full motion don’t have the depth of realism to protect an already suffering film by the fairly early time they come into play, never mind the multiple aeroplane rides that feel like an aging video game.

Sometimes films can be awful but still a great deal of fun along the way; this isn’t one of them. 90 minutes would have been long enough to endure but 2012 weighs in at 158, over two and a half hours of mind-numbingly boring action ‘adventure’. The plot rambles and could have been easily cut down to a digestible size. The film takes turns that don’t make sense, then doubles back on itself only to trip up and cause unnecessary holes it fails to patch up.

Despite the great length of the film, and the endless opportunities such throws up, 2012 offers nothing in terms of a message, or real meaning to the epic trail the family struggle through. 2012 feels devoid of passion, without a soul, and without a purpose.

Despite the horror show around them, on a whole, the acting talent do a fairly decent job. It’s great to see Chiwetel Ejiofor get a role in a big studio release, and about time the talented actor got the opportunities in Hollywood to match his reputation on the indie scene.

The big names in the cast can in no way save the film from falling into the ridiculous, and their characters offer absolutely nothing in terms of depth or conviction, but Woody Harrelson’s wacky underground radio reporter is a pleasure to watch when he gets a few moments on screen and John Cusack is fairly inoffensive with his performance. As US Preseident, however, Danny Glover is atrocious, as bad a showing as you’ll find in the last decade.

Certainly I haven’t seen all of the terrible films that have every been produced in film’s history, so I can’t claim with real conviction that this is pushing the full all time list, but in my fairly extensive film watching life, it’s certainly in my top 5 worst ever, and no doubt will be a massive hit at the Razzies next year.

The MPAA might be declaring record profits for the industry but the forthcoming closures of a lot of the major studio’s boutique labels is proof that Hollywood is on its knees. While films like Transformers 2 make extraordinary amounts at the box office, the percentage that makes it back to the studios is relatively slim, and on the whole goes to paying off the huge loans taken out to fund such bloated blockbusters.

With a budget of $200m+, 2012 is colossal wastes of time, money and film fans’ time. Piracy might be having an impact on the current state of the market, sure, and studios certainly need to get their head around how to make the most of the digital market, but they need to first look at their own stable and put money behind projects that deserve their commitment, projects that boast artistic endeavour and projects that will bring their reputation back to the glory days of the past, not that of the cash grabbing, soulless execs. that are running the show from their tall offices in Hollywood. Fight the temptation, don’t bother with 2012 and perhaps they’ll learn what film fans really want to pay their money to see.

★★★★

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