(possible 2012 spoilers abound)
Back when the trailer for end-of-the-world disaster flick 2012 hit theaters, my friend Matt put it best.
"This is going to be the best-looking bad movie EVER."
So when it arrived at the dollar theater this week, we wasted no time in setting up a time to see it. In fact, it only took us 48 hours to find a time that was agreeable for both of us. This was a good thing because you really have to act fast on those dollar theater flicks as they can come and go with amazing speed.
For those that have been under a rock, 2012 is yet another in a long line of Roland Emmerich movies that destroy large American cities, but this time upping the ante to include the entire world. Based very loosely on ideas put forth by the ancient Mayan calendar that the world will experience some kind of physical or spiritual upheaval on or near the winter solstice in 2012, the movie is basically an excuse to show massive global calamity the likes of which have never been seen before. Even though the trailer looked fantastic from an effects perspective, I was prepared for cardboard characters, bad dialogue and a dog that narrowly cheats certain death. Because, as Matt said "when has Roland Emmerich ever let me down...oh wait...EVERY TIME." (Yes, Matt is very witty. I'm hoping that by hanging out with him some of that either rubs off on me or is absorbed by osmosis.)
I'm happy to report that 2012 contains all of the previously mentioned items (although the dog cheating certain death came a lot later in the movie than I thought it would.) I'm also happy to report that it was nowhere near as horrible as I was expecting. First of all, the effects were amazing. As I always say, if I'm going to see a movie like this, it's going to be in the theater because I think even on Blu-Ray, it wouldn't pack the same punch as it does in the theater. There's something about seeing mass destruction like that, computer animated as it may be, that is equal parts horrifying and exhilarating. The destruction of Los Angeles and its subsequent falling into the Pacific Ocean had me on the edge of my seat in spite of myself and was probably made just that much more personal because I visited L.A. last summer. The eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera was no less intense. You don't want to be taken in, but you can't help yourself. The attention to detail is so good that even though parts of it feel cartoonish, you are caught up nonetheless. And while I could have lived with about 50% less of scenes in which an airplane just barely escapes the approaching apocalypse, by the time the USS John F. Kennedy slammed into the White House, I was totally on board.
But along with the good must come the bad. The stock characters present in all of Emmerich's movies are here as well. This time, it's John Cusack in the role that would have gone to Jeff Goldblum 10 years ago. Honestly, I prefered him to Goldblum (hell, I prefer a purple turd to Goldblum) and Cusack never seemed to be taking the movie too seriously. And dear LORD the dialogue. You had the obligatory wink-wink-nudge-nudge dialogue, and then you also had the stuff that was so bad the groans were audible. I didn't find it any more offensive than anything in any other Roland Emmerich movie, although when you end a disaster movie with the cute little girl declaring that she doesn't need Pull-ups any longer, you know you need a script doctor RIGHT NOW. But clearly, we weren't there for the dialogue (although that posed a huge problem when the picture cut out about an hour and a half into the movie while the audio prattled onward.)
Overall, I really do recommend this movie. Could it have been tightened up storywise? Sure. Were there characters that annoyed me beyond words? Oh yeah, but at least Woody Harrelson (in the Randy Quaid role) died early on. In actuality, 2012 is a big dumb Saturday matinee movie. It's a B or C movie with an A+ budget. Will it bring about world peace or a cure for cancer. Hell no, but it was a more than enjoyable way to spend the afternoon - and at 158 minutes, you're in it for the long haul. Once again, like Freddy vs. Jason before it, it benefited from amazingly low expectations. And at least it was better than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
But that sure wouldn't take much.