Wed, Nov 11, 2009 (4:56 p.m.)
The alleged Mayan prophecy about the world ending on December 21, 2012 only gets brief mention in 2012, Roland Emmerich’s latest world-destroying epic, which isn’t about the predictive powers of ancient civilizations at all. No, it’s more or less a retread of Emmerich’s 2004 global-warming disasterpiece The Day After Tomorrow, with some wonky, semi-reality-based natural phenomenon (in this case it involves massive radiation from the sun) suddenly causing environmental catastrophes all over the world, wiping out major cities and killing large portions of the population. Amidst it all, a broken family must reunite.
Here that broken family is led by limo driver and failed novelist Jackson Curtis (Cusack), who manages to outrun the destruction of the Earth’s crust in his limousine, all to save his two cute kids, his estranged wife (Peet) and his wife’s actually quite nice new boyfriend. While everyman Jackson endures hell to keep his family safe, the requisite told-you-so scientist (Ejiofor, dull as can be) warns the government that the end is nigh, and politicians concern themselves more with bureaucracy than with saving the human race.
A lot of other people do a lot of other things in this extremely overstuffed, overlong (158 minutes) film, and while Emmerich is an old pro at staging massive destruction, 2012 is never more than the filmmaker repeating himself at length. The initial devastation makes for some impressive set pieces (the destruction of Los Angeles as Jackson and his family barely outrun it is the film’s high point, with nearly two hours left to go; Vegas also gets its moment to crumble), and while the dialogue and characters are serviceable at best, there are a few campy touches that provide fitful amusement (Woody Harrelson entertains as a conspiracy-theorist radio host who’s proved right by the end of the world).
But the movie just goes on and on and on, roping in Tibetan monks, cruise-ship jazz musicians and shady Russian billionaires along the way, and turning into a high-tech version of The Poseidon Adventure in the last half-hour. It’s an exhausting, clumsy mess, and its moments of excitement are eventually toppled by the unstoppable tsunami of cheese.