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Continuing with Hollywoodís recent ongoing homage to the classic and not-so-classic science fiction films of the 1950ís, we find an unexpected addition in director Roland Emmerichís 2012.  The cutting-edge CGI special-effects technology combined with the stuff of the worst B-movies of the past makes for an unlikely comedy of disaster-epic proportions.

Extremely quick rundown: The earth has decided to dole out some instant karma on humanity for all its bad treatment of her. The planetís core has revved up its heating systems and decided to microwave us all.  In the few days (!) left before the End of Days, a handful of specially chosen and wealthy VIPís and some lucky, well-informed nobodies try to survive long enough to escape the apocalypse in internationally financed, latter-day Noahís Arks.

Letís get the good stuff out of the way because thereís so little of it: The special effects in 2012 are breathtaking.  As someone whoís grown bored of watching New York City be destroyed pixel by pixel a zillion times, 2012ís amazing block-by-block destruction of Los Angeles was truly a spectacle.  The cracks in the roads we first see winding along Manhattan Beach expand and multiply to earthquake-wide chasms, finally swallowing cars, homes, freeways, subways, entire Century City skyscrapers and everything else in their path until the entire metropolis collapses into the sea.  Yellowstone Parkís transformation into a roaring volcano is magnificent.  There are more crashes, fires and explosions than in the entire Irwin Allen DVD collection, which is an appropriate comparison as Iíll get to in a minute.  The collection of actors is top notch: John Cusack does nicely transitioning his dry wit into action-hero dad mode.  Woody Harrelson is having a great year playing crazy people.  Here Harrelson is the literal lone voice crying out in the wilderness; a wild man radio host predicting the coming apocalypse and subsequent government tomfoolery with an accuracy no one believes until Cusackís character learns to take him seriously the hard way.  Oliver Platt chews the scenery brilliantly as the sleazy politico who cares more about getting to higher ground than any moral high ground.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is earnest and determined as the scientist who brings the impending disaster to light, then demurs at being made a pawn of the governmentís questionable ethical choices as to who gets to live or die. 

What a pity, then for the wonderful Ejiofor, that heís stuck delivering some of the most ridiculous, cheesy, cringe-worthy dialogue seen this side of an Ed Wood movie.  Cliches, untimely hero speeches and awkwardly placed moral haranguing abound mostly around our beleaguered scientist who must watch as only societyís haves are allowed to buy their way onto the safety of the ships while the have-notís must fend for themselves with nary a hint as to the coming disaster.  Rarely was such awful dialogue spoken with such admirable conviction.  In a lazy rip-off of his own Independence Day {1996}, Emmerichís need to make an unbelievably coincidental meeting and connection between Cusackís and Ejioforís characters is forced, pointless and laughable.  Overlong at over two and a half hours, Emmerich is predictable in launching each set of great-looking calamities; first the quakes, then the fires, and finally, release the floods.  Itís a veritable orgy of catastrophe that disaster movie master, director Irwin Allen {Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno} would have given his first AD to helm and done a far more capable job at it.

There is no emotional stake at all in 2012.  Danny Glover plays the heroic and oh-so-noble US President with the survival skills of a cockroach.  He makes it through so many harrowing episodes that would have killed lesser men (i.e. anyone not born on the Planet Krypton) that it becomes howlingly ridiculous.  The ham-fisted and tired angle of Cusack as a divorced father of two young children, trying to keep a toe-hold in his kidsí lives, never means anything and as a result there is no resonance to the familyís struggle for survival as anything more than characters in a well-made video game. The only characters worth rooting for in any of this were Tamara {Beatrice Rosen}, the Russian gold digger with a heart of gold, betrayed by her sugar daddy and her plucky little dog Caesar.  Then again, there is that amazing character actor whose name escapes my knowledge, but who, along with the amazing stuntwork of Caesar the Wonder Dog, practically steals the picture with his thespian skills.  This man appears in nearly every turgid scene on the survival shipís bridge in a white button-down shirt and thick, black-framed glasses is the indicator for the deepest fears of all the remaining survivors.  Indeed, the unfettered, raw emotion captured so dramastically on his face in every one of his scenes was so moving that Roland Emmerich even uses this anonymous gent in tight, full screen close-ups as a cue for whatever the entire audience is meant to feel. Hilarious.  At this point, my question as to whether or not 2012 was actually a comedy in disguise was answered.

A marginal retread of Emmerichís greatest success, Independence Day, 2012 is higher-tech and lower-brow and even its stunning visual effects canít save it from being one of the most unintentionally funny films of the year.

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

November 13th, 2009

 

 

 

 

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Photos

(Courtesy of  Sony Pictures)

 

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