Thursday, 19 November 2009

Movie Review - 2012

After the silly but fun Independence Day and bloated climate warning epic wannabe The Day After Tomorrow, Robert Emerich is back trying to destroy the planet again. In 2012 he chooses, rather than spaced out aliens or freaky weather conditions, the effect of a gigantic solar flare on the earth's core. Via some iffy-sounding science and lots of repetitions of the word "neutrino", we come to a stage where global collapse is imminent - tying in with an ancient Mayan prophecy, though that is merely a side-note of the movie's plot.

The movie starts in 2009 with an American Geologist visiting his Indian friend who has some unsettling news, and quickly moves through a few scenes in the next couple of years and settles on events in the ground zero year, 2012. Events quickly move forward and the story focuses mainly on two characters - Adrian, the young geologist mentioned above (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and unsuccessful (though published) author Jackson (John Cusack). Adrian has various issues with the way his boss (played by Oliver Platt) goes about things, and Jackson is trying to rebuild bridges with his two children and ex-wife (Amanda Peet), who has a new man in her life.

There are various other characters that flit in and out of the story, most memorably Danny Glover as the American President, George Segal as a former Soviet boxing champion and now manager (or promoter, not quite sure), and Woody Harrelson as a spaced-out hippy who just might have more idea of what's going on than almost anyone else on the planet.

The main problem with disaster movies (and why I generally don't like them) is that the narrative structure is far too predictable - you have the discovery of the problem, people in power not believing it, then being forced to, then the battle to survive with a very redemption stories along the way. 2012 tries to break with these conventions a little but still basically doesn't manage to do anything particularly new. I'll admit to being a harsher critic of special effects than most, and a lot of the time I wasn't really impressed by the SFX in 2012 - much of the action looked too cartoonish to maintain credibility, and some of the scenes with vehicles in them really didn't look very convincing at all.

The characters were developed a little, but only a handful had any meaningful depth - all the female characters were useless, not doing anything other than look worried, look impressed or scream. Hopeless lot. Chiwetel Ejiofor is a fine actor who showed his pedigree in Serenity and is good here too, and John Cusack is a reliable performer; however their stories a little too cliché and the lack of overall plausibility of the myriad unlikely deliverances from certain death prevent viewers from forming much of a connection with them. Danny Glover gives a moving performance though Thandie Newton as his daughter was mediocre (but then she's never done much for me). As mentioned before though, the writing hardly gives any of the female characters to make much of an impression.

On the plus side there are quite a few moments of unexpected humour, which to me worked really well - the world's ending but hey, that's no reason to be miserable all the time. The ending left me a little cold, though it has a similar taste of delicious irony to the mass of American refugees pouring into Mexico at the end of The Day After Tomorrow. Specifically the fact that the inconvenient male character in a love triangle was conveniently killed off (and, by all accounts, instantly forgotten by those who claimed to have loved him), and the fact that according to the science portrayed in the earlier part of the film this ending was actually impossible*, kind of ruined it. There was a good plot twist at the end, which made sense when you thought about it, but that wasn't enough to save the ending from being a bit of a mess.

There were definitely some enjoyable or exciting moments in the film, but it just overplayed the action to the point that it became ridiculous, and underplayed the characters to the point that we weren't all that interested in them. I did like it more than The Day After Tomorrow, but that's not a massive endorsement - 2012 is just about worth seeing, but that's it. Maybe you'll like it more if you're a fan of disaster movies; I have a general antipathy towards them.

Also directed by Robert Emerich:

The Day After Tomorrow

* Potential spoiler, but I have to back up my statement earlier about the ending.

Don't read on if you feel it might spoil the movie for you.

Seriously, this is your last chance.

Okay, here goes:

The scientists have been postulating that the movement of the earth's crust, earthquakes, surface magma etc at the results of neutrinos from the solar flare mutating and causing the earth's core to heat up. Since nothing in the film ever suggests that this process has stopped - let alone reversed - is it reasonable to assume that the world's oceans wouldn't be evaporated? Even taking into account the cooling effect of the ice caps melting, if the earth's core continued to heat up, surely evaporation of even the immense oceans would be inevitable?

Also, on a side note, when the north and south pole are supposed to have moved, just how does this not affect the instrumentation in the airplane they're flying across the world in?

Maybe I'm just too picky... or maybe the scriptwriters should have thought a bit harder about it.

CaptainD - Movie Reviews Blog


Marcella Brown said...

NASA received a number of letters from scared easy-to-manipulate with adolescents, asking if 2012 is really the day of Apocalypse.

CaptainD said...

NASA or not, I guess we won't know until we get there! :-D

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