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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

2012 (review)

End of the World: The E-Ticket


(for the multiorgasmic destructo porn)

(for the cheesy melodrama)

(unless you need a good laugh)

You know that bit in Independence Day, where Air Force One barely gets off the ground and away from Washington DC just as the fireball of the alien’s city-destroying megablast overtakes the plane? Roland Emmerich loves that bit with the last-second escape of the plane so much he uses it three times in 2012.

It’s kind of awesome, the film’s self-involvement. This isn’t really a movie: it’s more director/FX-mad wannabe supervillain Roland Emmerich calling out every other disaster film that has ever come before… including his own. Aliens blowing up the Empire State Building? What piker came up with that? Big-ass cruise ship hitting an iceberg and sinking in the North Atlantic? Bah! Try topping this: The whole damn planet has struck the metaphoric iceberg and is going down by the head. And there is no Jack Dawson to save you.

Well, there is John Cusack, and he’s so cute he must be able to make everything all right. Right?
Disaster is the new black in 2012: everyone’s doing it! It’s all got something to do with solar flares and neutrinos: those little subatomic bastards usually leave us alone, but now they’ve mutated and they’re microwaving the Earth’s core. It’s the new global warming for 2012. Everybody’s into it! You won’t be able to escape it!

Emmerich wasn’t content to merely make the biggest disaster movie ever: he had to make every disaster movie ever. 2012 is like a late-night infomercial: “Sure, everyone loves a good plane crash! Everyone loves yer basic earthquake flick! But order now, and you’ll also get Destruction by Supervolcano, Tsunami Catastrophe, and California Sliding into the Pacific Just Like They Told Us Would Happen Someday!”

It’s called global crustal displacement, and it will ruin your whole afternoon.

I gotta tell it: It’s exhausting, this multiorgasmic destructo porn, but it is high-larious. I didn’t think the end of the world would be this funny. Billions are dead, civilization is over… call it Tectonic. But — and here’s where the funny comes in — preposterous coincidence will go on. Ridiculous dialogue will go on. Schmaltz will go on. Hyperbole will go on. And John Cusack will go on. Won’t he? *sniff*

Cuz look: the Earth’s crust may be disintegrating, but Cusack’s (Igor, War, Inc.) family is disintegrating, too, okay? His Amanda Peet (The X-Files: I Want to Believe, Martian Child) ex-wife is still ragging on him as Hawaii boils away beneath them! His moppet kids prefer Mom’s new boyfriend even as Las Vegas is getting snuffed out by a cloud of volcanic dust the size of Yellowstone Park. But it’ll all be worth it in the end if his seven-year-old daughter feels confident enough after the end of the world to stop wetting the bed.

For all this we can thank Emmerich, who didn’t just direct but cowrote the script with composer Harald Kloser — yes, a composer of music; they also cowrote Emmerich’s breathtakingly dumb 10,000 B.C.. And they have invented a story that is sort of beautiful in its absurdity: it’s like something Ed Wood would have made if he had a budget. (In fact, SF writer Greg Bear should sue Emmerich and Sony. For this is basically his brilliant and chilling 1987 novel The Forge of God [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon U.K.] , with layers of cheese added and a too-funny nonsense explanation for the end of the world replacing his coolly terrifying, actually-science-fictional one.) They can take a wonderful actor such as Chiwetel Ejiofor (Redbelt, American Gangster) and force him, as a White House science advisor and the film’s nominal conscience, to say things like, “The director of the Louvre is not an enemy of humanity!” and “Our culture is our soul and that’s not dying tonight” with a straight face. (Which, to his credit, he does manage.) They can take a break for a moment of Buddhist wisdom, cuz that’s what an exploding Earth needs: fortune cookies. Adorable little girls with bunny slippers are dying — dying! I tell you — and the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy is crashing into the White House, but as long as John Cusack gets some resolution on his relationship with his ex, it’s all good.

If Emmerich was, perhaps, trying to convince us that humanity is not worth saving, he’s making a pretty good job of it.

If he thinks his movie is getting rescued on the big space ark when we flee the dying planet, though, and transport human civilization to Mars or wherever, he’s got another thing coming.


Watch 2012 online using LOVEFiLM’s streaming service.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense disaster sequences and some language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • MaSch

    If your talk about mutated neutrinos is not simply metaphoric, I *must* see that movie. The thought of sub-sub-atomic DNA which got changed by something sub-sub-SUB-atomic just puts a smile upon my face :-)

  • MaSch

    Ooooh, our multiplex really knows how to present such a movie: It’s showing at twelve minutes after 8 pm … (Is this anywhere/everywhere else the case, too?)

  • JT

    Do you mean “if you need a good laugh”?

  • CB

    It’s a continuation of the preceding line. Think of it like this: “Skip it… for the cheesy melodrama. Unless you need a good laugh (at cheesy melodrama), in which case… See it.”

    It lacks parallel structure, but emphasizes that it’s talking about the melodrama cheese.

  • Jason

    I just can’t watch this. I get angry just thinking about it. Why can’t my disaster porn be scientifically accurate?

  • *chuckle* This does seem like the disaster movie to end all disaster movies. I mean, really — what are they going to do next time to top this? (Besides maybe a movie with character and plot…)

  • MaSch

    How Terra-centric is was *that* comment, bzero?

    Next disaster movie, our solar system will bite the stardust.

    Then, our galaxy.

    And, then the whole universe will crumble and be sucked into one giant big black hole …

    And probably come out in another parallel universe, as will be shown in the first minutes of the movie where the multiversum and all parallel universes and all other dimensions will explode. With a huge *bang* sound.

  • MaryAnn

    If your talk about mutated neutrinos is not simply metaphoric

    Heh. No, it’s not metaphoric.

    And what CB said about if/unless…

  • CB

    BTW I have to ask: Was the Large Hadron Collider mentioned/implicated?

  • Ken

    *spoiler* (as if it matters)

    Big-ass cruise ship hitting an iceberg and sinking in the North Atlantic? Bah! Try topping this: The whole damn planet has struck the metaphoric iceberg and is going down by the head. And there is no Jack Dawson to save you.

    Of course, they don’t bother to leave it as subtle as a metaphor, and send their big-ass ship towards something bigger than an iceberg.

  • ceti_alpha

    How Terra-centric is was *that* comment, bzero?

    Next disaster movie, our solar system will bite the stardust.

    Ack, don’t give Roland any ideas! I have a feeling this will be the case, with a Alpha Centaurian everyman and his annoying family in two to escape the multiverse.

    But, I do feel like watching this now…

  • MaryAnn

    BTW I have to ask: Was the Large Hadron Collider mentioned/implicated?

    Nope, just some bad luck with solar flares, we’re told.

  • Drave

    I’m disappointed to learn that this movie has things like character and plot. For a little while, it was looking like Roland had finally gone for what he has been building to for his whole career, and just made a movie that is nothing but things being smashed for 150 minutes. Someday, he will make that movie. After that, he will be completely spent, and the rest of his career will be quiet, introspective, character-driven pieces with a cast of three and one shooting location.

  • Bluejay

    Funny you should say that, Drave. Maybe “the rest of his career” starts now. Here’s what he said to the Times:

    “This is my last, quote-unquote, action-disaster movie,” Mr. Emmerich, the 53-year-old German director behind spectacles like “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow,” said in a telephone interview from his home in London. “I know I can’t destroy the world again. That would be kind of a joke.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/08/movies/08gray.html

    As opposed to this movie not being a joke, I suppose…

  • Bluejay
  • MaryAnn

    I’m disappointed to learn that this movie has things like character and plot.

    Well, but not *good* plot or character. Don’t fret that it will ruin your enjoyment of the beautiful awfulness of this movie.

  • zids

    Saw it. And I got what I expected.The movie isn’t world-changing ;)- after all, we can’t go to Emmerich disaster movies without expecting A LOT of cheese, can we? -, but I can’t say it wasn’t entertaining.

    I have a problem with the phrase “multiorgasmic destructo porn” – though I thought I did have a few climaxes.

    MaryAnn,

    “If he thinks his movie is getting rescued on the big space ark when we flee the dying planet, though, and transport human civilization to Mars or wherever, he’s got another thing coming.”

    Sorry to be picky, but shouldn’t the last words should be “another THINK coming”?

  • D

    MaSch : “Next disaster movie, our solar system will bite the stardust.

    Then, our galaxy.

    And, then the whole universe will crumble and be sucked into one giant big black hole …

    And probably come out in another parallel universe, as will be shown in the first minutes of the movie where the multiversum and all parallel universes and all other dimensions will explode. With a huge *bang* sound.”

    Russel T. Davies, is that you?

  • Paul

    I’d consider ending a lot of the world for “resolution” with Amanda Peet. I wouldn’t, but I’d consider it. (ducks)

  • I’ll go see this movie if all the NY and LA elitists, intellectuals, and poets die.

  • MaryAnn

    That’s gettin’ real close to the kind of trolling that gets deleted, Lawschool. Try less hard to live up to the second part of your handle.

  • Brian

    @Lawschool: If all the elitists, intellectuals, and poets really did die, this would be the only kind of movie anyone will be able to watch.

  • Relax peeps, I am an elitist too! It was a joke!

    2012 is trash. Don’t waste your money on it.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    Six Flags over Ed Wood.

    I _am_ going to have to see this movie now.

  • tinman
  • Wow! Deja vu. I’ve never seen that video before, tinman. ;-)

    Wow! Deja vu. I’ve never seen that video before, tinman. ;-)

    Wow! Deja vu. I’ve never seen that video before, tinman. ;-)

    Wow! Deja vu. I’ve never seen that video before, tinman. ;-)

    Wow! Deja vu. I’ve never seen that video before, tinman. ;-)

    Wow! Deja vu. I’ve never seen that video before, tinman…

    You obviously don’t spend much time on this site, right?

  • Falconer

    You can actually enjoy this grossly overdone spectacle (“destructo porn”–I love that)if you look at it simply as unintentional satire of disaster movies. I mean, come on, Emmerich throws in all the possibles for future global cataclysms (as well as godawfully BAD astrophysics–just how the HELL does a subatomic particle “mutate” Does he even know the meaning of that word?) for our entertainment. Not to mention idiotic coincidences, boring cliches, predictable demises, and inane moralizing. Oh, and let’s not forget plot holes you could fly the Death Star through. How did they manage to fly non-stop from Vegas to Tibet when they found out they couldn’t refuel in Hawaii after all? And wasn’t it great how the builders of the arks KNEW tsunamis would reach that high in the Himalayas in order to float off their arks? I think I will go re-read The Forge of God and its sequel now to help wash the crud out of my mind this stupid, STUPID movie left behind.

  • CB

    Bad astrophysics? Try just bad physics! Like skyscrapers rolling down the street on their sides… Cus you know they’re totally built with that kind of sheer stress in mind, and wouldn’t just crumble to dust under their own weight immediately. No no. Next time you build a skyscraper, don’t be surprised at the $50 million line item for roll bars.

    But I knew as soon as I saw this movie was by the same guy as Day After Tomorrow that there was no chance of it making any sort of physical sense. I think that movie is best summed up by the scene which features a reversal of the classic “run from the fireball!”, and instead has the heroes running from the freeze.

  • Christine

    Just to answer zids’ tangential question above, no, it is not “another think coming.” Haven’t you ever listened to Judas Priest?

  • zids

    “Sorry to be picky, but shouldn’t the last words should be “another THINK coming”?”

    So says the person who used “should” twice in a sentence. Grammarian, heal thyself, he says to himself.

    Christine: No, I haven’t heard of anything by them.

    On a more related note, I’m actually going to see this again. Looking forward to multiple orgasms..

  • Bluejay

    @zids: Actually (and to my surprise), it IS “another think coming.” At least that’s the earlier expression, if you Google around; “thing” seems to be a variant.

    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=120

    Yay grammar tangents!

  • zids

    Damn Judas Priest! Damn Roland Emmerich for making me WANT to waste my money!

  • Robert P

    When the ex-wife was informed that her boyfriend who saved all their lives back at the mountain with his piloting had just been sausage-ized, she seemed to have a pretty null reaction. Oh that’s right, she only loved him “enough”.

    Try just bad physics! Like skyscrapers rolling down the street on their sides

    Along with engineering dumbness – such as having the arks docked right next to each other – I guess no one anticipated one or more of them could break loose and crash into the others. Then again this IS the same gov. that gave us the flying deathtrap known as the Space Shuttle.

    And what a coincidence that the only debris the waves picked up and hurled at the arks was Air Force One.

    With as much death as occurs, I don’t think I saw hardly a drop of blood. Even when the Chinese guy’s leg got mangled it was like it was instantly cauterized.

    I guess there’s some legalistic reason that when we have a mixed-race President in real life, they cast a black guy who looks nothing like him and whose character has a different name as the real Pres. even though it’s set in the same time frame we’re in now.

  • Robert P

    Oh! And what’s this – an apocalyptic, mankind-in-jeopardy movie without Will Smith?

  • MaryAnn

    I guess there’s some legalistic reason that when we have a mixed-race President in real life, they cast a black guy who looks nothing like him and whose character has a different name as the real Pres. even though it’s set in the same time frame we’re in now.

    Apart from the fact that the film would have been cast before Obama even won the Democratic primary, there’s the matter of how the president in a fictional movie is only very rarely meant to be the actual president.

    Oh! And what’s this – an apocalyptic, mankind-in-jeopardy movie without Will Smith?

    Hello? There’s only room for one black man at the end of the world. Everybody knows that.

    Perhaps if Will Smith had been cast as the president, Robert P. would have been happier. :->

  • Paul

    If Will Smith was cast as the President and this was a sequel to Independance Day with most of the same cast and writers back, I might actually watch it. DVD and microwaved popcorn night!

  • Robert P

    Apart from the fact that the film would have been cast before Obama even won the Democratic primary, there’s the matter of how the president in a fictional movie is only very rarely meant to be the actual president.

    Hmm, certainly an interesting coincidence that they happened to cast a black actor in the part at the same time we happen to have our first 50% non-caucasian Pres. – who seems to have emerged out of left field as a candidate, not unlike the way he seems to have emerged out of left field as a Nobel winner. I guess it would sound cynical to ponder if the Hollywood insiders knew the fix was in.

    Perhaps if Will Smith had been cast as the president, Robert P. would have been happier.

    Had Gisele Bündchen been cast as Pres, that would have made me happier.

    Actually, what would have made me happier would be if either the print or the projector at the theater I was in hadn’t caused this odd flickering shadow around the perimeter of the screen that the theater manager was apparently oblivious to. The one thing this film had going for it was visuals, but they were diminished by this optical oddity. I had quit going to this theater once before, after this big renovation they did, it still has problems. I have to give them credit though, in lieu of improving the image, they got rid of free refills on drinks (the probably 1000% profit they were making before apparently wasn’t adequate) and cut the size of the nachos seemingly by about half. Less cheese on the nachos but plenty on the screen in this case.

  • Robert P

    …or ponder *whether* the Hollywood insiders knew the fix was in.

  • Hmm, certainly an interesting coincidence that they happened to cast a black actor in the part at the same time we happen to have our first 50% non-caucasian Pres. – who seems to have emerged out of left field as a candidate, not unlike the way he seems to have emerged out of left field as a Nobel winner. I guess it would sound cynical to ponder if the Hollywood insiders knew the fix was in.

    Hollywood has been casting black actors as the President long before the 2008 campaign. Just look at Deep Impact and the first season of 24.

    What would have surprised me if they had cast Tina Fey as a Palin-like President. And showed her in an heroic light.

    Not that there was ever a chance in Hell of either of those happening but still…

  • Come to think of it, the Reba McEntire character in Tremors probably would have made a great president for this type of movie…

  • Robert P

    Hollywood has been casting black actors as the President long before the 2008 campaign. Just look at Deep Impact and the first season of 24.

    In other words with about the same frequency as black performers appearing on the country music charts.

    Not quite convinced that this was mere coincidence.

    If one wanted to stretch a little, they might even see a parallel with the Obama administration – President Wilson presiding over a catastrophe he inherited.

    Oh, and I just noticed this

    why can’t my disaster porn be scientifically accurate?

    It’s probably about as accurate and realistic as X-rated porn is about its subject matter….or so I’ve heard.

  • MaryAnn

    Robert P, take a look at lots of pop culture over the last 20 years, and you will see many black actors cast in ostensible roles of power and authority only to see those characters reduced to tiny supporting roles. See, for instance, S. Epatha Merkerson on *Law and Order,* who has been the boss of lower-ranking cops — mostly white and male — for years and years, but rarely actually gets to participate in the story beyond telling her underlings to check phone records or do other shit they should already know to do.

    even school are taking all their students to go and watch this movie

    Bwahahahahaha! That must be a spam comment, but it’s too hilarious to delete.

  • MaryAnn

    Oh, for the uninitiated, S. Epatha Merkerson is black and female.

  • Boingo

    I dunno about Cusack being cute. The scene in that other movie (?) with radioactive welts on his face I can’t erase from my memory.

    2012 reviews were in the neggy overall, so I went not expecting much except the efx. The large screen and superb sound of the earth
    “eating it,” was f-u-n. It was like a long
    roller coater ride as the sucky plot provided the downtime to catch your breath.
    Pure mindless entertainment (but fun).
    I liked Woody Harrelson’s scene the best.

  • BagOTricks

    even school are taking all their students to go and watch this movie

    I’d guess religious fundamentalists before spam. There is a certain section of the Christian population that salivates for the kind of widespread destruction seen here as the kick-off to the end-times they’ve been waiting for so long.

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