'2012' nothing but morbid eye-candy

Article Published: Nov. 19, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'2012' nothing but morbid eye-candy

John Cusack runs from flames and narrative plausibility in 2012.

Roland Emmerich's 2012 warns us the end is near, but for this 158-minute disaster epic, the end can't come soon enough.

2012 is spectacular eye-candy, especially if you're keen on seeing landmarks blown to smithereens, but it's little more than a morbidly guilty pleasure, its thin plot stretched taut to connect one disaster sequence to another, ultimately failing under the weight.

But what sequences they are. Director Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow), still feeding his disaster fetish, has spared no expense this time around, delivering some of his best special effects to date, especially when seen on the big screen.

An erupting Yellowstone National Park is in-your-face explosive, a sinking Los Angeles is disturbing and eerie, and a fiery Honolulu resembles something out of Dante's Inferno. Make no doubt, the special effects are the stars in 2012, and, boy, do they shine. And explode. And explode again. And again. For almost three hours.

In between, there's some semblance of a story involving John Cusack (Better Off Dead, High Fidelity) as struggling and recently divorced author Jackson Curtis. While taking his kids camping in Yellowstone, Curtis learns from a wild-eyed pirate radio broadcaster (Woody Harrelson, Zombieland) that things aren't as they seem, that the world's governments have been concealing knowledge of a natural cataclysm that will mark the end of the world as we know it, and he feels fine.

Turns out there's some method to his madness, as geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor, American Gangster) learned in 2009 that solar flares have rendered the Earth's core unstable, which will inevitably result in a deadly shift of the planetary crust in 2012, coinciding with an alleged end-of-days prediction from the Mayan calendar.

Governments begin working together to build several "arks" that can spare only so many people from the destruction at hand, namely the billionaires who funded the project and generally rich yuppies with connections.

When Curtis learns of this, it's almost too late. As the world starts going to hell, he must race against time - and all logic - to rescue his family and find the arks.

The screenplay, written by Emmerich and 10,000 B.C. collaborator Harold Kloser, is packed with your typical Emmerich shtick - prolonged suspense (usually involving people running to catch up with something before it's too late), cliched dialogue ("We are one family"), a dog escaping almost certain death unscathed, and beat-you-over-the-head symbolism (the Sistine Chapel's ceiling cracks and separates the painted hand of God from that of man).

The tale is weak and predictable, filled to the brim with "Oh, come on!" moments and frustrated groans, and even its qualified actors struggle with the poor material, except for Harrelson, who revels in the silliness of it all.

Cusack is basically just there for the ride (and a paycheck), and Thandie Newton (Mission: Impossble II, Crash) rounds out the cast as a predictable love interest.

Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon, Be Kind Rewind) portrays a sympathetic U.S. president, but basically serves to validate comedian Dave Chappelle's theory that cinematic black presidents always preside over catastrophic scenarios, and Oliver Platt (The Impostors, Frost/Nixon) nonchalantly trudges through a cookie-cutter role as Glover's chief of staff.

Though visually dazzling,-- 2012 is a cookie-cutter movie, a doughy conglomerate of every disaster movie from the 20th century and the early aughts.

It's nothing original, but Emmerich has crafted a recipe that's sure to win over disaster movie fans, special effects buffs, and anyone who'll get a kick out of watching it after the year 2012 has come and gone.

2012, rated PG-13 for intense disaster sequences and some language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.

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