Rated PG-13 for intense disaster sequences and some language.
2012 was exactly what you expected it to be... mindless entertainment.
Scientists (in India!) have discovered that neutrinos from the Sun are heating up the Earth's core. Secretly, governments around the world prepare for the inevitable without informing the general public. Finally, in 2012, all hell breaks loose and the Earth's crust starts to separate causing mass destruction all over the planet. Jackson, a sort-of author plans an escape from Los Angeles with his ex-wife, kids and his ex-wife's new husband towards where he believes the government has set up spaceships to save the chosen people from a certain death. At the same time, Adrian, one of the scientists who discovered the problem, is urging the government to tell the citizens what's happening, while Carl, a higher-up in the governmental cog, insists it would only lead to anarchy. Meanwhile the President decides against trying to save himself, and stays behind to tend to the others. And there are many other random people who either live or die.
The nice thing about a movie such as 2012 is that you know what you're in for before you even think about driving to the theater. You're going to get a movie full of spectacular special effects and a story you couldn't care less about. So let's start with that story. There are way too many moving parts. Now, a lot of these disaster films throw in multiple people for whatever reason... maybe to care about them so when they die you feel something. Or maybe to give you a lot of people to cheer for. Or maybe because they're hoping the more faces you recognize the less you'll pay attention to what they're doing. On one side you've got a guy who is divorced but still in love with his ex who has remarried and is relatively happy. The kids are indifferent to their dad but seem to like stepdad. On the other side of the country you've got scientists and government officials. One is morally strong and ready to give his own life to protect others. The other guy is morally corrupt and ready to kill 90% of the Earth's population if it means saving himself. Then there's the monk from Tibet and his family, the crazy guy in the forest who knows more than most do, the hot girl whose father happens to be President and the Russian billionaire with creepy kids and a hot girlfriend. And a small dog. In one way or another, their stories all connect as they race to China to get aboard an Ark that will save them from the rising waters. And when I say rising, I mean oceans that are now as high as Mount Everest. Oh and to get there, part of the trip is on a plane flown by a plastic surgeon who had one flying lessons years earlier. Now here's the funny part. Even though billions of people end up dying by the end of the movie, we're supposed to feel happy because divorced guy gets back together with his ex-wife and survives as a happy family. And we're supposed to forget that not only did billions die, but the stepdad died too, just a few minutes earlier in a horrible way. But hey, John Cusack lived so hurray!
I didn't care for ONE single person in this movie. I had hoped they would all die. Yet out of all the people we meet along the way, only five of any significance (to the story) die. For those of you who are interested in keeping the suspense alive, stop reading because I will now list them here... There's the Indian scientist who discovered everything (of course, kill the Indian). There's the President, who dies in a noble fashion while helping others. But then there's the Russian billionaire who was willing to sacrfice the people who helped him in order to save himself and his kids. Yet he dies while saving his children. So I'm not sure if I was supposed to like him or not. Then there was his girlfriend, who was pretty nice but died a horrible death for no apparent reason. And finally, there was the stepdad who got grinded to death. He was another likeable person who didn't do anything wrong. So why kill these secondary characters off? I still don't understand the point of the movie. I mean OK, my guess is that the producers had a lot of cool special effects they wanted to try and someone put up a dartboard of other disaster movie plots and they took turns throwing darts to come up with the story. So apparently there was no real purpose to the movie.
Which leads us to the special effects. There is no slow build to an exciting conclusion. The disasters start happening pretty quickly with cracks forming in the ground, leading to larger cracks which swallow up entire cities. At one point John Cusack and family are racing through the streets as the entire world is swallowed up behind them. Later, John Cusack and family are racing through the skies as the entire world is swallow up beneath them. Yet somehow they always manage to stay literally one step ahead of disaster. It was impressive. But I digress. We were discussing the special effects. Watching entire cities collapse is always a crowd pleaser, although I will admit that watching people falling from skyscrapers was a bit too much for me. But seeing buildings crumble, large tidal waves smother the White House and watching a mountain range explode... wait, why did the mountains explode? At the moment I can't remember how or why a mountain range would explode into a massive fireball. Perhaps there was a volcano underneath them. Oh wait, they were in Yellowstone so yes, a volcano exploded killing Woody Harrelson, who may have been the best character in the film. The problem is that while the special effects were great, the movie ran 158 minutes, which is way, way too long for a ridiculous movie to run. Keep the special effects, chop down the story and make it a nice 2 hour movie and you've got yourself a deal. The story in this one is too horrible to make the movie go so long.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, 2012 was a decent enough film. Cut about 45 minutes to an hour and you've got a slickly paced end-of-the-world flick that might have been a little better than the plodding monstrosity it ended up being. But still, who doesn't like watching a mountain blow up now and then?