So Roland Emmerich got tired of destroying Manhattan and decided to do the same to the rest of the world. I can safely say he does a much better job when he thinks in larger proportions. 2012 is the Godfather of disaster movies; earthquakes destroy Los Angeles and half of California with it; a volcano erupts and consumes most of the Midwest; tsunamis consume the Himalayas, and the Earth takes an 180˚+ turn turning Michigan into the South Pole! (I'm not joking this actually happens). Of course Emmerich does not expect us to believe this could actually happen, which is good since last time he spent too much time on the "sciency/I want to make this plausible" bullshit it kind of ruined The Day After Tomorrow. 2012 does have "scientific" briefings, which is a bit of a shame but I will get to that later. But first thing's first.
2012 is the most satisfying summer blockbuster that did not come out this summer. Unlike the movies over the summer, and other Roland Emmerich films, 2012 actually makes us care for the characters or at least enough that we care about their survival. Admit it; none of us cared what happened to Megan Fox in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, or to the main Joe in G.I. Joe. Here we actually want Jackson Curtis (John Cusack with the most bizarre character name since Ace Ventura) and his dysfunctional family. Also, unlike most blockbusters this summer, 2012 actually has actors playing the lead roles and not CGI characters with real people’s faces. Yes, there is a lot of CGI and the cast probably spent most of their time in front of a green screen but the point is that by having the real actors play their parts the film feels somewhat - I wouldn't say real - personal. However like any movie of its kind 2012 sacrifices a good amount of plot for thrills and special effects. The former is your average end-of-the-world movie scenario involving a dysfunctional family, a scientist no one believes in, selfish world leaders, compassionate world leaders, a greedy Russian, a hot blonde, and a black President (note: Deep Impact had one first). Some of them make it, some of them don't. As for the thrills and special effects, these are top notch. You get thrills that can challenge any rollercoaster ride; it would not surprise me of some of the sequences are adapted into rides themselves. And the special effects... well that's the most realistic tsunami over the Himalayas I have ever seen; it is likely that I will never see one again unless I re-watch this film.
Are there things that disappointed me about the film? Yes, there are a few. For one I am a bit tired of the pseudo-scientific briefings in all disaster movies; there is no plausible way that what happens in this film could happen. So why even bother wasting screen time on neutrinos, magnetic fields, tectonic plates, etc? If we are going to be lectured on anything, I'd rather be lectured on the implications of such an event; "Dude, the world is ending! What the hell are you going to do in your last day on Earth?" or "Why God; what did we do to deserve this?" Stuff like that seems more important. Also by skipping the explanations you save the movie from logic loopholes such as: “If the neutrinos are deadly enough to melt the Earth’s core, how come they don’t fry the surface first? They should at least affect cell-phone signals?” The answer is – because cell phones are needed for the plot to advance. Another flaw, also shared by most disaster films, is the death of characters whose death we did not need and the survival of some whose death would have been much more interesting. But if these were reversed then the film would challenge our preconceived notions of the disaster genre and the average movie going audience wouldn’t get it (this is one of the reasons why Knowing flopped earlier this year).
I could probably list a few more flaws. But why ruin the fun? When it comes down to it 2012 is a solid disaster movie, and a five star action packed ride. That is what it promised to be, and that is what it is.
More like a 4.5. But only because I hope that other films push the genre further to drop 2012 from the top spot. Now that would be a challenge.