by Alec Berry
It can easily be stated that this film relies on nothing else but computer-induced effects and a big premise. Emmerich, the Apocalypse and Danny Glover as the president are three good reasons why this movie contains all the right ingredients for a bad disaster movie. But, those are not the key reasons why this movie fails. No, instead it is the potential it seemed to have, yet ignored.
Believe it or not, 2012 did have hints at larger issues, but most of those hints were left with lackluster observation. Ideas like “humanity uniting” and “the will to survive” are great notices to explore in an apocalyptic piece. Those are ideas that can take a film from simple action to a layered story. 2012 does not take that opportunity though. As mentioned, there are certainly hints, but those hints never flourish into a well produced scene. It is more: “Oh, we must unit to save our species.” “Yes, we must because we are humans.” “Yay, life!” and then move on. These moments of missed opportunity are what drive me nuts about this movie and others like it. Too many movies worry about the big SLAM, BANG and not enough about humanities’ reaction. Yes, tidal waves are cool to watch, but a single persons’ perspective and emotional beat in an “end of the world” situation seems so much more interesting. I understand that most audiences probably do not care about any deeper sense in a movie titled 2012, but at the same rate could a director not balance a film out with both the action and thought? Jurassic Park did it, why not 2012? I see it with many of the “blockbusters” in today’s market, but the thought of “we have to dumb this down” still drives me mad.
This lost potential is certainly a flaw of the script but also the actors’ performances. Every single character in this movie is left at two dimensions and offers nothing that makes them unique. Cusack plays the bad father who by the end becomes the good father. Chiwetel Ejjofor is the one lone government man who cares. Oliver Platt, the rich bastard who only wants to save himself. If a viewer takes a step back and looks at one of Emmerich’s previous films,The Day After Tomorrow, I am pretty confident they will find these same characters just with different actors in the roles. Again, areas where these characters and their reactions to the situations could have been very compelling fall seriously short because not one actor brings any performance that stands out. All of them play the cardboard cutout and do not allow for anything more with their characters. The only interesting performance in this movie comes from a brief stint of Woody Harrelson playing an off-kilter conspiracy theorist. His appearance is good for a few chuckles, but after that I really wanted a leading character I could care about.
These two factors placed together really allow 2012 to fall short for me. It certainly has some great visual effects and intense action, but that does not complete a story. If anything, watch it for some cool destruction and the funny thought of John Cusack on a boat at the end. Spoilers!