Apocalypse specialist Roland Emmerich is at it again. While in his earlier films the planet was besieged by aliens (Independence Day), radioactive lizards (Godzilla) and bad weather (The Day After Tomorrow) in 2012 he decides to throw every kind of disaster into the mix with the hope that something would work.
So you have all sorts of elemental mayhem from shattering earthquakes and bubbling volcanoes to tsunamis. The special effects are, in one word, breathtaking. Money shots are there for the asking from the crazy car ride swerving to avoid bubbling volcanoes to a crazier plane ride, and the big, fat jet taking off even as the runway crumbles beneath it.
But, ah there is always a but! The movie is too long at 150 minutes and is also rather lazily written peppered with clunky dialogue. It is almost as if the makers decided not to waste time or money on the script and just wait for the effects to kick in and dazzle the viewer. While it is true that one does not go to a disaster movie expecting Oscar-winning dialogue, a bit more effort would not have hurt.
The movie starts in India — an Indian scientist, Dr. Satnam Tsurutani (cool name, huh?) played with worried intensity by Jimi Mistry discovers the earth has come with an expiry date of 2012. Of course, the Mayans knew it like forever. Satnam tells his American scientist friend, Adrian who tells the top brass at the White House.
All governments get together to secretly build an ark in China. Apart from plants, animals and important persons, there are tickets for a berth on the ark at one billion Euro. Idealistic Adrian is horrified at this rampant evilness and makes many gut-wrenching speeches in-between scenes of unbridled destruction.
To give a further emotional core to goings-on is the dysfunctional Curtis family comprising papa Curtis, a cutely-dishevelled failed writer, his cute daughter and rebellious but still cute son and pretty ex-wife Kate, who is now married to plastic surgeon and part-time flyer Gordon.
There is humour - intentional and unintentional. The one about Governor Schwarzenegger being an actor and merely reading a script was quite cool.
The all-star cast that includes John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover and Woody Harrelson don’t have much to do apart from run helter-skelter in front of the green screen and collect their big, fat pay checks.
It is interesting to note how the role of the president has changed from gung-ho, hands-on, leader of men in Independence Day (a reflection of the Clinton years perhaps?) to the noble leader who chooses to stay and sink with his people uttering grave, comforting words.
As mentioned earlier, there are enough bangs for several bucks, but I just wish there was the dishy Jeff Goldblum giving science lessons or even just saying “oops!”
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: John Cusack, Chjwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson
Storyline: The world has an expiry date and everyone is in a tearing rush to make it to safety
Bottomline: Mind-blowing special effects and little else