158 Minutes // USA // Columbia Pictures
dir. Roland Emmerich
Friday, November 13th, 2009 – Silvercity Brampton
starring: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor & Oliver Platt
Every year audiences across the world are subject to a variety of cataclysms brought on by government or God or a combination of the two. Whether the films are good or not, people flock to these features in multitudes either to escape from the drudgery of day to day life or to just enjoy a few hours out of their day, regardless of daily routine. With Roland Emmerich you’re almost always bound to get what you’re looking for – although last years 10 000 BC was a huge step backward for fans of his as it is easily the worst blockbuster of the decade – be it with his jumping on the horror that could fabricate with global warming, aliens coming to destroy our planet or a popping take on the American Revolution, he’s generally one to convey a bad time for those looking for good ones. And it works – he’s built a career on blowing shit up and making profit off of destruction. In his latest, 2012 he does a lot more of what he’s known for but on a much larger scale. Instead of watching America be engulfed through a variety of dooming ways (snow, Godzilla, what have you) the entire world is being faced with an apocalyptic prediction in that it will all end.
Rather than focusing on America for the entirety, Emmerich takes a few breaks from the US government and civilians struggle for survival by jumping across the sea to India and China for a few portions to show their exertion, though they aren’t nearly as aware of what’s about to come.
To put the film in perspective, it opens in the year 2009 so you don’t need to worry about some Joe coming across a vast coincidence that cause other to believe he’s delirious and ‘jokes on them’ (see: Knowing). Rather, a scientist in India falls into information at his lab where the waters below the surface are rising because the core of the Earth is reaching unprecedented extremities in heat. The man learning about the information is Adrien Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his half of the film is far more engaging than the soapy sentimentalist vs. catastrophic storyline involving the Curtis family. Be it because Ejiofor knows how to helm a film with a few flagrant stares and an overly sincere composure for such a film or because frantic politics are always going to trump cliche dramas.
With Helmsley scavenging for important people to inform with this dire information in one story, you have novelist Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) haphazardly attempting to rekindle his former life as apart of his family, as this cannot be a flawless blockbuster (is that an oxymoron?). In Jackson’s storyline, there’s a lot of irony and coincidence that will either draw viewers more attentive or cause hefty scoffing. You see, he’s a writer who somewhat predicted the end of the world and evoked a message of widespread piece; that humanity would crumble but there would be one man to hold it all together. The subtext here is as subtle as being slapped with a fish, but it works as many people overlook any intelligence from a film like this. It works parallel with Adrien’s storyline – in yet another coincidental scene, Adrien laces Jackson with plentiful appraisal as he loves the novel that only 500 people have purchased when Jackson and his children cross into US Army occupied territory at Yellowstone National Park. Simultaneously, Jackson’s novel also works as a bit of irony into his mindset. When he hears from a seemingly delusional man outside Yellowstone who lives in a van and broadcasts forewarnings about the end of the world to anyone willing to listen to his lunatic dribble that the world is, of course, about to end, Jackson internally derides him and is adamant that he is, in fact, a psychotic. You’d expect a man proclaiming the end of the world in his only novel to be more accepting to such notions, but seems the one most parallel to the thought. Quirks like these work wonderfully in correlation with the scenarios at hand and give further script meat to chew on than you’d expect from Emmerich.
Family values are also a key player in the thematic department – especially father/child relationships. Whether it be Adrian retelling how his father ‘raised’ him with novels or the rich Russian man that Jackson drives for in Alec (Zlatko Buric) with his annoyance of sons – subtext assumes that Alec doesn’t pay attention to his sons and they’re the way they are because of this – or President Wilson (Danny Glover) and his relationship with his daughter Laura (Thandie Newton) – the film explores the family dynamic with more depth and intellect better than previous attempts in The Day After Tomorrow, for example.
All in all, you get a more supplementary feature with the bombastic feature as opposed to what one would assume. Of course the near-death experiences for the main character become both outlandish and a task to count and misplaced humor circumcises otherwise genuinely terrifying scenes (thanks to wonderful CGI work), but these are aspects to expect from such features. If not for them, this would be one of the most impressive blockbusters of the decade, but with them the film is still a very good one and not something anyone should be ashamed of.
With a top notch cast, vicissitudes of good editing and moments of impressive depth, 2012 surpasses the ideology that big budget blockbusters need to be one-track minded to appease critics and audiences alike. Of course tradition does play a factor in the film – good luck counting the amount of times Jackson has a near death experience – and it is built around a tried and test formula, but for a film that rolls for a near 160 minutes it remains consistently entertaining. This is certainly Emmerich’s most respectable film to date; far from a calamity. [7/10]