Saturday, November 14, 2009


Film Title: 2012
Director: Roland Emmerich
Running Time: 158 minutes

The world is YET AGAIN coming to an end, on the silver screen, that is. Yes, after "Independence Day" (1996), "Armageddon" (1998), "Deep Impact" (1998) and "The Day After Tomorrow" (2004), filmmaker Roland Emmerich (who directed the first and last of the four aforementioned films) has found reason once more to revisit the premise of D-Day in his latest directorial project "2012".

Inspired by recent speculations that the end of the world may be coming in the year 2012, as forecast by the Mayan Long Count calendar, the film barely delves into that theory and chooses instead to focus on the devastating destruction of the world and how it uncovers the ugliness of human nature and the social class system in the face of calamity.

The film starts off in 2009 where an American scientist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) discovers, from his friend Satnam (Jimi Mistry) in India, that a huge solar flare erupts on the sun has resulted in a massive surge in the Earth's core temperature, which they'd realize would soon set into motion catastrophic natural disasters globally spelling the end of the world!

With no time to waste, Adrian doubles back to the United States to break the shattering news to Chief of Staff, Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), who immediately notifies Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover), the 45th President of the United States! (Isn't it interesting how after President Barack Obama being just newly elected as the 44th and very first African American President of the United States, Hollywood has so quickly mirrored that reality onscreen by having the next fictitious President following in his footsteps to be one of African American descent as well)

Fast forward to three years later, in 2012, and President Wilson, together with the aid of Adrian, has rallied together the assistance from various heads of countries in setting up contingency plans to guard against the impending doom the world was set to face. Unfortunately, they were soon dismayed to find out that changes beneath the Earth's crust had so drastically progressed that it has thrown their disaster timeline projection completely off and now, it was possible that the Earth could be set for annilation in just a matter of days!

Unbeknownst to Adrian, during this period of time, Chief of Staff Anheuser had already set into motion his plan to selectively include only individuals belonging to society's upper crust in the global rescue operation (heads of state, hand-picked individuals chosen to repopulate the earth and the rich elite) - selling tickets for the salvation vessels to them at a billion euros per head - and creating a information blackout for the rest of the population, leaving them clueless and helpless to their immiment tragedy!

Like its predecessor films, "2012" charts the course of global destruction through the eyes of the everyday man and his family. In this case, that average joe would be Jackson Curtis (John Cusack). Since his marriage crumbled as a result of his workaholic nature, having used to shut his family out while he slaved over his writing, the now-divorced father of two ekes out a living by shuffling between two jobs of being a limousine driver and his fledging career as a novelist. His ex-wife, Kate Curtis (Amanda Peet), in the meantime, has taken their two kids, Noah (Liam James) and Lily (Morgan Lily), and moved in with her new plastic surgeon boyfriend Gordon Silberman (Thomas McCarthy).

The Curtis family saga portion of the film begins with Jackson, unknowing of the chaos that was about to ensue, setting off on an camping excursion trip to Yellowstone National Park with his two kids. Much to his disappointment, through this trip, he learns that his son Noah has begun losing respect for him as a parent, and was already looking towards Gordon as his replacement father figure instead! He also began growing suspicious of the increasing number of signs that something was seriously amiss (e.g. the huge lake in Yellowstone almost completely evaporated, the entire park being cordoned off by and swarming with the U.S. Army forces, serious tremors and gigantic cracks occuring in the San Francisco Bay area and the San Andreas Fault in California respectively, and his chance meeting with slightly off-centered radio deejay Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson) who has parked himself right in the middle of Yellowstone, doing an exposè radio show that addresses the Mayans' prediction of the apocalypse and divulges the government's secret evacuation plan!)

And of course, Jackson's worst fears were soon realized when the world around him begins to literally fall apart! Racing against time, Jackson dashes to rescue his family, as well as Gordon, and figure out a way to get them all onto the secret government rescue vessels that Charlie Frost had shared with him about. Along the way, they are joined by Russian billionaire Yuri Karpov (Zlatko Buric), his two spoilt brat sons, Yuri's girlfriend Tamara (Beatrice Rosen), her pet dog, airplane pilot Sasha (Johann Urb) who is Tamara's secret lover, and a Tibetan family, which includes Singapore's very own Chin Han (Remember him from our now-defunct-joke-of-a-local-soap-opera "Masters of The Seas"? ), who plays a monk Tenzin that is the group's only chance at locating the safety arks that would save their lives!

Would they be able to make it to the arcs? If not, whose lives would be sacrificed along the way? Would Adrian be able to convince Anheuser to forgo social classes and save the masses? Would Kate choose to stay with Gordon or return to Jackson in the end? And most importantly, would our world be saved? Well, you'd just have to watch this film to find out!

Personally, I think that we human beings have somewhat of an innate sadism to a certain extent. I mean, just look at how we find it fascinating as kids to build our lego tiles up to soaring heights and then happily knock them down! Plus, just take a look at how many of us out there are fans of disaster movies - in fact, most cinemas' biggest box-office sales tend to be generated by films of this nature! In comparing "2012" with its earlier counterparts by the likes of "Airport", "Earthquake", "The Poseidon Adventure", "Twister", "Volcano", "Independence Day", "Armageddon", "Deep Impact" and "The Day After Tomorrow", the film doesn't disappoint in its deliverance of high quality CGI effects depicting the colossal damage inflicted on our world and the destruction of several famed landmarks or monuments (the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, Rio de Janeiro's statue of Christ the Redeemer, the Eiffel Tower and yes, the White House again)!

Generally speaking, "2012" still does pretty all right for a disaster blockbuster flick - mindblowing special effects, good pace of action, not too bad a storyline, and adequate eye candy within the cast. The only aspect I felt that the film had fallen short with was in terms of its emotional element - it just didn't have enough heart. Despite being the superb actor that he is, John Cusack just doesn't seem to have the charisma to carry off being the disaster feature film leading star role as Will Smith, Dennis Quaid, and Bruce Willis did in their respective films.

And as much as director Roland Emmerich overloaded the audiences with potential hanky-worthy moments of father-child bonding and/or reconciliation time and time again throughout the film (one actually wonders if the openly gay director might be trying to create his idealized concept of a father figure through his films for his own personal reasons - perhaps to live out through his characters what he may have lacked in fatherly love?), it comes across as seemingly trying too hard to score heartwrenching points from the audiences, as compared to when a subtler approach was used in "The Day After Tomorrow" between Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal which worked out to much better results.

In addition, the romances depicted within this film just weren't poignant enough. The screen chemistry between John Cusack and Amanda Peet was seriously lacking, and the so-called blooming romance involving the characters of Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton, who played First Daughter Laura Wilson, was so chaste it felt sterile!

In the end, it seemed that the most memorable and moving performances of the film for me ended up being delivered not by the main cast, but instead by some of the ostensibly inconsequential minor characters of the film (e.g. Satnam played by Jimi Mistry)!
To conclude, "2012" is an adequate disaster film. Not as fantastic or as memorable as "Armegeddon", "Independence Day" or "The Day After Tomorrow", but still a pretty good popcorn movie to sit through enjoyably. Oh, and I loved the tongue-in-cheek subtle humorous political jibes that the director/writer Roland Emmerich peppered throughout the film! Yup, the salvation arks that saves the world's population are built by China, yes China, not the U.S.! And watch out for the end of the film, where they reveal the resulting landscape of the world following the disaster aftermath - yup, you gotta see it to believe it! (I'll bet quite a few people in the States probably did a double take after they saw this fictitious outcome, ha ha ha...)
My rating?
Could do with a bit more heart, but still a pretty good watch!

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