Awfully Good: 2012
Well, there's only a few weeks left before the end of the world, so we might as well…
Roland Emmerich destroys the world once and for all.
2012 is the ultimate disaster movie in more ways than one. First of all, it's so epic and adamant in its destruction of the Planet Earth that every subsequent film in the genre will more than likely pale in comparison. ("You only destroyed three major cities? Psssssh… we leveled continents back in my day.") Secondly, and more important for the purposes of this column, 2012 is also so laughably awful that it's ironically a disaster in and of itself.
Is the movie over yet?
It truly is as if Roland Emmerich, director of such subtle destructive tales as INDEPENDENCE DAY, GODZILLA and THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, wanted to make the disaster movie to end all disaster movies. Using the Mayan doomsday prophecy and scientific gobbledygook as an excuse, he crams in pretty much every natural devastating force imaginable: massive earthquakes, "mega" tidal waves, country-sized volcanoes, asteroid-like fireballs and more. (Naturally, this means about 70% of the movie is comprised of CGI, most of which is subpar.) People fight against wind, snow, rain and other weather. Hell, it even takes on TITANIC with a random cruise ship sinking. By the end, after you've lost count of the major cities and landmarks destroyed, 2012 almost becomes a parody of disaster movies—or even worse, a parody of the 2008 Seltzer Friedberg tragedy DISASTER MOVIE.
…said the luckiest guy ever.
The story realistically chronicles what would happen when pissed off subatomic particles called neutrinos microwave the Earth and destabilize its crust. (Don't worry; it's all explained in a cartoon ala JURASSIC PARK!) The concept is about as stupid as the script by Emmerich and composer-turned-writer Harold Kloser. Can't come up with real dialogue? Just have the character say, "Oh…my…god" repeatedly. Writing of this caliber sets a fairly talented cast on autopilot for the duration of the film. Oliver Platt plays every character Oliver Platt ever plays. President Danny Glover is less Obama and more Morgan Freeman from DEEP IMPACT. Woody Harrelson brings his own wardrobe as a hippie conspiracy theorist. And Thandie Newton and Amanda Peet star as Female Castmember #1 and #2, respectively.
Woody Harrelson hears that Colorado has legalized marijuana.
By far the worst, however, is our main hero John Cusack, who constantly wanders in to the film's main storyline and important characters completely by chance, over and over again. He takes his kids camping in the exact spot where the government is secretly researching the apocalypse. He literally bumps in to Harrelson, the only person who knows what's really going on. He meets Chiwetel Ejiofor, the President's #1 science guy, who just happens to be reading Cusack's D-list sci-fi novel. And worst of all, he drives a limo for a Russian billionaire, who later invites him to tag along as one of the chosen few on the humanity-saving ark. There's so much coincidence in this movie that it would be titled SERENDIPITY if there wasn't already a John Cusack movie called that.
Yep, guess it's douchebag o'clock.
None of that is really important though because 2012 isn't made up of a plot as much as it is a series of John Cusack's family running, driving, flying and floating away from destruction. I'm not kidding. Here's the entire film: Cusack drives a limousine through Los Angeles as the city breaks apart during an earthquake, plowing through houses and falling skyscrapers like they're tissue paper. They get to an airport where the guy who's had one flying lesson is able to pilot them through more collapsing buildings, highway overpasses and the city itself as it falls in to the ocean. Now it's time to hop in a slow moving RV and drive away from the super volcano that's raining hot fiery death. (To vary it up, Cusack gets out of the vehicle and runs from the lava asteroids on foot for a while.) Then everyone re-boards the plane so they can fly away from an avalanche of fire and smoke. Next—and I'm still not making this up—they stopover in Vegas so they can change flights, just in time to yet again take off as the entire Strip explodes behind them. Eventually, due to the laws of probability, Emmerich runs out of natural occurring things for Cusack and Co. to narrowly escape from, so he has them drive away from the flying plane itself before it crashes. (Oh yeah, the aircraft has a car in it.) At this point they manage to get on the ship that's supposed to survive the end of the world, but—oh no!—the engines don't work so they have to attempt to get away from both Mt. Everest and a mega-tsunami that's made of smaller tsunamis. This is the work of either an insane person or… no, just an insane person.
The little girl was about to quickly learn that John Cusack is a very hands-on actor.
All in all, it makes 2012 one of the stupidest movies on record. And at 2 hours and 40 minutes it's ungodly long, but that's understandable. I mean, of course we need to learn all about the characters' parents and the characters' parent's cruise ship friends. We definitely benefited from the subplot about Cusack's daughter overcoming her bedwetting. (Don't believe me? The final line of the movie is "No more Pull-Ups!") Plus, you have to make time for animals! Like showing individual giraffes and elephants getting helicoptered on to the ark or taking a break from the human drama to watch a small dog heroically tightrope walk to safety. And don't think I'm not aware of the irony that a film which stops its third act to preach about the importance of humanity and kindness is itself exceedingly cruel—reveling in torturing its characters, dangling hope and then killing them in horrible violent ways. Though I guess, at the very least, death is preferable to sitting through this again.
Yay, it's over!
[Best Tommy Wiseau impression] "You're pulling us apart, Earthquake!"
A few of the many, many ridiculous sequences where characters drive, fly and run away from natural disasters.
Sadly, Amanda Peet does not go the whole nine yards.
Take a shot or drink every time:
- There's a coincidence involving characters or plot
- Someone says "Oh my God" or something equally dramatic
- Someone talks about having more time or needing more time
- Woody Harrelson makes a funny face or bares his buttocks
- John Cusack's daughter puts on a hat
- Someone calls to say goodbye to someone else
- A recognizable building or landmark is destroyed