This Week at the Movies: 2012

Will Hazzard


The end of the world captures the imagination of many. When asked the question, we ponder what exactly were to happen if everything were to end so abruptly. That is exactly what 2012, written and directed by Roland Emmerich, does. Based off the historical and not the pop culture phenomenon of apocalyptic prediction made by the ancient Mayan calendar, the film depicts humanity’s last ditch efforts to preserve itself in the face of impending doom through immense feats of special effects and multiple story lines. However, one shouldn’t look too much into the hype. While 2012 is an entertaining film, viewers may become bored with it after a while and will often notices the striking similarities to other disaster movies. Not to mention that once 2012 comes and goes, this film will hold little cinematic value.

Set three years in the future, the plot follows the actions of two men, Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the geologist who first uncovers the Earth’s undoing, and Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), a writer who gets wrapped in man’s salvation by coincidence. Helmsley acts as the expert to the governments of the world. As the story follows him, he provides details to when exactly the world is going to end and ultimately speaks to man’s commitment to each other in times of crisis. Curtis is more the “everyday-man” of the film. When the story focuses on him, the viewer watches Curtis go through every means necessary in order to save his family from an untimely death with the rest of the world.

While the movie constantly switches between the two characters, it retains a nice flow and the viewer never feels jarred or inconvenienced by the changes. However, many of the thematic elements of the story seem rather tacked on. Scenes created to stir the emotions of the viewer feel contrite and often times completely unnecessary. The same goes for the majority of the minor characters. They are simply there to move the viewer but ultimately fail in their goal.

The film is a modern marvel of computer generated imagery. Scenes where the viewer actually witnesses the Earth tear itself apart can only be described as epic. From the skyscrapers of Los Angeles crashing down into gargantuan fissures, to the massive eruption of Yellowstone National Park, the visuals are awe-inspiring. That goes for the sound design, as well. The crashes and booms really put the viewer into the moment. That however, cannot be said about the acting. Performances across the board felt forced and made it hard to believe that these people were truly amidst the apocalypse. While it is difficult to convey true fear in front of a green screen, the actors either go too far or not far enough when it comes to their screams of terror.

If you’re looking for a fun time at the movies and are easily entertained by the illusion of destruction, then 2012 should be at the top of your list for movies to see. But be warned. The film’s 158-minute run time can make it drag, and one can only take so many explosions before they become repetitive. The film also is really a lot of the same. It doesn’t do much in terms of innovating the genre or even really differentiating itself among other films of the same nature. If you have three hours to kill and want to be mildly entertained, go see this movie. If not, it’s time better spent elsewhere.


Some bad movies are “so bad they’re good.” 2012 is a bad movie that does not fall into this category; it’s just, well, bad. Even so, there is an enormous difference between a bad movie and a movie not worth seeing. If anything can save a bad movie from treading into the latter, the disaster genre surely can.

Let’s take a look back at some bad disaster movies that were all decided to be worth seeing by audiences. 1996’s Independence Day is by no means a good movie, but it made over $800 million in theaters worldwide on a budget of only $75 million. 1998’s laughable Armageddon made over $550 million worldwide on a budget of $140 million. 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow is a bad movie with an even worse title, yet it made around $540 million worldwide on a budget of $125 million.

Are you noticing a pattern here? Do you know what I’m saying? The disaster genre is often worth seeing despite how “good” its films are considered to be. For better or worse, it’s that little guilty pleasure that makes Hollywood what it is and Americans who they are.

Therefore, with an enormous price tag of $200+ million, 2012 is, like many other bad disaster movies, still worth seeing. You’re simply getting more bang for your buck. Directed by the master of disaster himself, Roland Emmerich (director of Independence Day, Godzilla (1998) and The Day After Tomorrow), and starring about a thousand different big names like John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Woody Harrelson, 2012 is a quintessentially American celebration of excess.

Shockingly for a disaster movie, the film focuses on the end of the world. This time, a scientific discovery of an eruption from the sun causes the Earth to experience a number of horrific effects, including the switching of its poles. Cusack and Peet play a divorced couple determined to save their children by fleeing to China, where the governments of each country have decided to meet in an attempt to save the human race from total extinction. There, several massive arks have been constructed to protect about 400,000 people from death, including Danny Glover and Thandie Newton, who play the President of the United States and his daughter.

 But what exactly makes this film worth seeing? How are you getting more bang for your buck? Based on that brief plotline I just gave you, it should come as no surprise that the writing and acting aren’t exactly drawing viewers in. Rather, thanks to the film’s astounding special effects (keep in mind that this cost $200+ million to produce), 2012 should not be missed. Expect to see car chases upon collapsing highways and plane maneuvers around falling buildings. You know, the usual.

However, the film’s celebration of excess has both positive and negative connotation; at 158 minutes, 2012 is painfully long. I would advise taking a brief nap in between minutes 60 – 90 to give your eyes a rest from being completely fried. Nevertheless, 2012 is worth a look as a relevant example of American pop culture at its best/worst.