"2012" is insane. There's no other way to put it. There are more deaths, explosions and collapsing buildings in one destruction-laden set piece than in a decade's worth of Hollywood disaster movies. Either you give in to the apocalyptic lunacy, or you spend the film's nearly three-hour running time shaking your head and wondering, "Why?"
But if you don't get it, you probably shouldn't have stepped into the theater, as most critics seem to understand, none more so than Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times. " '2012' delivers what it promises, and since no sentient being will buy a ticket expecting anything else, it will be, for its audiences, one of the most satisfactory films of the year," he wrote. "It even has real actors in it. Like all the best disaster movies, it's funniest at its most hysterical. You think you've seen end-of-the-world movies? This one ends the world, stomps on it, grinds it up and spits it out."
Variety's Todd McCarthy even gave co-writer/director Roland Emmerich and co-writer Harald Kloser credit for adding some fairly compelling characters to their crumbling world. "Coming up with halfway decent characters with which to populate disaster films has always proved an almost insurmountable problem, but Kloser and Emmerich have brought a measure of wit to the enterprise," he says. "Pic's Everyman is Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), a rumpled author whose most recent unsuccessful novel happens to have been called 'Farewell Atlantis,' and who never paid enough attention to sexy ex-wife Kate (Amanda Peet) and their two young kids (Liam James and Morgan Lily)."
The family gets thrust back together when the end-of-times arrives with a series of quakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. How they attempt to survive provides the film with the connective tissue between — and often during — the disaster sequences. Some reviewers, though, felt it all got just a bit too ridiculous. "The result is a state-of-the-art multiplex three-ring circus whose special effects stagger the senses and play like a video game, whose human drama aims for the cosmic and lands waist-deep in the Big Silly," Ty Burr argued in the Boston Globe. "Call it 'Apocalypse Really Soon,' or, better yet, 'Airport 2012.' "
But in the end, it comes down to the eye-popping visual effects, and most reviewers conceded that on this front Emmerich succeeded. "I was prepared to set my brain on spin-cycle and just roll with it — who doesn't enjoy a good CGI soak now and then?" MTV News' Kurt Loder said. "And there is in fact some snazzy digitalia on display here: a monster tsunami crashing over the Himalayas; a spectacular White House takedown (yet again); and some monster-wave ship-twirling that's truly, uh, titanic. An L.A. freeway buckles and falls, Las Vegas craps out, and the coast of California rears up and slides right into the ocean."
But we thought we'd give Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle the final word: "Emmerich gives you everything you expect, but gives it to you bigger. ... Sure, you'll laugh at '2012' — I laughed at it; laughing at it is part of the experience — but you'll do it from the edge of your seat."
Check out everything we've got on "2012."
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