Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hopefully By 2012 We'll Get A Better Disaster Movie

Never before has a date in history been so significant to so many cultures, so many religions, scientists, and governments. 2012 is an epic adventure about a global cataclysm that brings an end to the world and tells of the heroic struggle of the survivors.

Roland Emmerich has a new movie out, which means it’s time to start rebuilding our infrastructure, finding new places to live, dusting off memories of what it means to successfully duck-and-cover, and slapping bandages on the world’s landmarks. Or at least what’s left of them. His latest epic,  2012, once again finds the director wandering around the world, casually smashing it to bits with joyous ease, and all while delivering the destruction with some of the worst, most risible and predictable writing of the year. Any year. Pick a year. Doesn’t matter the year. The film, which Emmerich co-wrote with Harold Kloser, makes one wonder what Emmerich would be handed for a sentence if he were making movies during the McCarthy era. Would he be considered an American-hating communist for taking out the White House in not one but two movies (this film and “Independence Day”)? For felling the Washington Monument? For crushing our cities flat? Oh, likely, he would. And yes, he’d be on that list--the black one. And not just so he could look thinner. About the movie. Well, it’s just a work of art, and to some degree, I’m serious. Special effects have come a long way, baby, and this movie is a showcase for the cheesy best of the best. There is no denying the sheer pleasure that goes into watching disaster movies when the disasters are played up with the sort of sheen presented here. This movie is a spit-and-shine miracle of special effects, so much so that occasionally, you do slip out of the clutch of cliches Emmerich hurls at you and marvel at how talented computers have become. If only it were so easy for some writers. Talk about devastation--they can take out the world (and ruin a good time) with the swipe of a pen. That’s sometimes the case here, with the film’s slim shred of a plot going down like this: The year is 2012. John Cusack is Jackson Curtis, a divorced dad of two who is trying to be civil to his ex-wife, Kate (Amanda Peet), when the Earth’s crust starts to shift. Though the scientist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) predicted this day would come and has warned the President of the United States (Danny Glover) as well as his staff, few others knew, with the exception of Charlie (Woody Harrelson), a pot-smoking hippie living high up in Yellowstone, where he has a radio show that long has declared the end of the world.

When the end comes, it hits hard (that’s the fun part), but who wants to bet that Jackson and Kate will be thrown together, in spite of the fact that Kate is re-married to another man (Tom McCarthy)? Will they all suck up their differences in an effort to survive? Will they squeak out creaky old dialogue that could crumble Rio? And what about their daughter, who is 7 and must wear pull-ups because, for sheer character development alone, we learn that she has bladder issues? Will those be solved by the end of the movie? Will the world live on? What do you think? What’s so frustrating about 2012, which nods its head broadly at Mayan prophecy, is that it could have been a great action movie. If the special effects team can do their jobs, certainly the producers behind the movie, which was budgeted at nearly $300 million, could have hired better writers that didn’t dumb down the proceedings. Not once in this film is something not telegraphed. Just try finding a surprise. It won’t be there, but the explosions will, and for some, that will be enough. Just not enough for me. This is lucky enough to get a 2 on my "Go See" scale. The special effects are the best thing about this movie.