Thursday, 26 November 2009

2012 IS better than The Day After Tomorrow (just)

But that isn't saying an awful lot.

Without giving too much away, my early concerns about 2012 blowing its disaster load too early like The Day After Tomorrow have been heeded. This is full-on, unrelenting disaster porn. After 30-odd minutes or so of the most unconvincing of set-ups and the standard bad science things start to go wrong. Then they get worse. And worse. And worse. For two whole hours.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with this. It's what people want to see in disaster movies and one-trick-pony accusations aside, Roland Emmerich has a pretty good idea of what people want to see in disaster movies. They want stuff getting broken in spectacular ways, (preferably recognisable Western monuments), a tsunami (because every disaster movie has to have one), people just barely escaping certain death and characters with just about enough depth for you to want them to survive.

So how does Emmerich do on these fronts?

Well stuff gets broken. A lot. In fact, this is the stuff-getting-brokenest of any film I have ever seen. Family homes fall into huge chasms, skyscrapers collapse, and, oh yes, you better believe some famous monuments get destroyed. Look out for a scene in Vatican City that may as well have METAPHOR flashing in huge red letters on the screen. You can't fault 2012 for the destruction it unleashes, and as you may have guessed from the trailer, there are tsunamis taller than mountains too. It's all rather fun actually, for a while. The effects are probably the best the genre has seen but after a while the spectacle of endless destruction begins to become surprisingly dull.

As for the narrow escapes, well it's pretty fair to say Emmerich went overboard. John Cusack's character is one of the luckiest I have ever seen and possibly the most heroic novelist since Stephen King slagged off Twilight. Think of a vehicle, any vehicle, and John Cusack probably came close to certain death in it in this film. Whilst watching the film, I wouldn't have been surprised to see him heroically outrunning a pyroclastic flow on a lawnmower as long as he was doing it to protect his children.

I really liked the look of the cast for this film so it was so disappointing that it was the characters that let this film down. Emmerich fails to give us a team of survivors who we really want to see alive at the end of the film. He makes a rather ham-fisted attempt at political commentary, complete with ruthless and bureaucratic governments and bad impersonators of real world leaders so it's not surprising that we're meant to not particularly like a couple of members of the American government. However, the whole of the main cast is so two-dimensional and self-involved that you begin to think about all those being killed in the carnage on-screen and wonder what makes these guys so worthy of survival. I honestly can't feel for people who decide that, in the midst of an event taking billions of lives, that they should have a heart to heart on why their marriage failed.

But I guess what I should have learned from Emmerich's films before is that it's not about plot or character development or plausibility or anything unimportant like that. It's about carnage. If stuff is getting broken and there are tsunamis left right and center who cares? As a form of escapism I must admit it is fun, but be warned, the moment you start to think about what you're watching you'll regret it. So abandon all logical thought and take in the effects and you might just enjoy this film.

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