Friday, November 13, 2009

'2012': the end is nigh - again!

It's the end of the world as we know it in "2012."
Two and a half stars

By Thomas Tracy

Director Roland Emmerich must have been one of those kids who built sand castles just so he could pretend to be Godzilla and destroy them.

But somehow, Hollywood’s master of disaster has managed to take his anthill-burning compulsions and turn them into box office gold, with “Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” and, to a lesser extent, the failed remake of “Godzilla” in 1998.

His latest incarnation, “2012,” is not different: It’s high on annihilation but low on horror, because no one ever dies horribly — an amazing rarity in what’s supposed to be an end of the world tale.

This time around, Emmerich and co-script writer Harald Kloser use the ancient Mayan doomsday clock as the catalyst to the end of days. Apparently the Mayans long ago figured out that everything would go kablooie on December 21, 2012, when all the planets would be aligned with the sun (we were a bit surprised to learn they had figured out the alignment would somehow cause the Earth to be bombarded with neutrinos that would cause something called “tectonic displacement” that would send the whole planet rockin’ and a rollin’.)

But in the end the date is about as important as climate change was in “The Day After Tomorrow” — it’s just a dramatic foil for Emmerich to bombard us with images of rippling roads, crumbling landmarks (this time the White House is washed away by a tsunami) and highways that seem to fall straight to hell — something he excels at thanks to the latest CGI tricks.

But it’s all hat and no cattle, or should we say, people.Emmerich blatantly thumbs his nose at the fact that in the scenario he’s concocted, billions upon billions would be killed. Cars fall into sinkholes, streets tear apart, skyscrapers slam into each other as southern California slips into the ocean, but they might as well all be empty since no one takes a moment to dwell on the enormity of the situation. It truly is the end of the world as we know it, but we feel fine.

But death is far too heavy for such light-minded, eye-popping fare. Instead of showing us how horrible everything would be, Emmerich instead forces us to focus on Jackson Curtis (John Cusak), a fiction writer turned limo driver who races in to save his estranged wife and two kids before all of California disappears into the ocean.

With the help of his wife’s new boyfriend, a plastic surgeon turned pilot, the small motley crew embark on a race against time to China, where a top-secret, inter-governmental program may have a solution for a few select thousand people (and, as in all of Emmerich’s films, one plucky dog) to defy all the odds and escape the end of the world.

“2012.” Starring John Cusak, Amanda Peet and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Running time 158 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense disaster sequences and some language.


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