We all have our hobbies.
You and I might paint or work with wood, or play golf. Writer/director/producer Roland Emmerich destroys the world.
In studios packed with realistic miniatures of cities, buildings, streets and scenic wonders of nature, Emmerich and his computer-whiz effects teams have made the creative craft of civilization killing an art form.
Cecil B. DeMille would be green with envy.
With 2012, Emmerich has now all but killed off the planet three and a half times. In 1996, Independence Day did it with aliens in massive space ships. In 2004, Emmerich immersed himself in the global warming craze and The Day After Tomorrow wiped us out via an instant ice age. I’m counting 1998’s Godzilla as a half.
No. 3 is 2012.
Not one to defy the disaster movie tradition, each of Emmerich’s flicks has an ensemble cast. This time, the key characters are John Cusack and Amanda Peet saving themselves and their children in an impossible battle against time and nature as well as Chiwetel Ejiofor, the scientist who discovers Doomsday. Packed into intertwining stories are characters played by Oliver Platt, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, George Segal and others.
Danny Glover gets duty as an honorable, self-sacrificing President of the United States. Shortchanged, Glover doesn’t have much to do. There’s no rah-rah-go-get-em speech as he leads humanity to victory like Bill Pullman did in Independence Day. He doesn’t have charismatic co-stars such as Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Robert Loggia or Judd Hirsch to help him pull it out. Glover is stuck with a boring character that comforts the masses but looks depressed and hopeless. He seems to have no fun at all in this movie.
But this movie isn’t very much fun. It is — however — every bit as funny as Independence Day, but the humor is unintentional. Emmerich is a master of effects, and his destruction sequences are phenomenal. But the guy is a lousy writer. You learn more about the premise in the trailers and TV ads. Blink, turn your head or grab that unimportant text message and you’ll miss critical info about the ancient Mayan civilization long-count calendar prediction of the world “starting over” in 2012. It zips by in a couple of sentences.
As it turns out, the prediction isn’t all that important anyway. In 2009, a huge solar flare sends out particles that will melt the Earth’s crust by 2012. Brief scenes deal with preparation by those in the know, and there is a smidge of a debate over what the public needs to know. Other than that, 2012 is straight ahead smash things to smithereens while a cadre of characters placed in laughable soap opera situations deliver unintentionally laughable lines.
Emmerich and his co-writer Harald Kloser — whose real profession is a movie composer — miss a chance to dazzle you with more than their CGI prowess. Spend some time on a couple of Internet links and the whole Mayan thing is a mind-blow. So is an interesting discussion of government’s responsibility to the governed. It, too, is all but abandoned. Instead you are — dare we say — “treated” to one contrived and convoluted crisis after another.
And 2012 is needlessly long. You enter the theater in 2009. After squirming for an uncomfortable two-and-a-half hours, it really will feel like it’s 2012 before the credits roll.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, intense violence. It opens Friday, Nov. 13 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.