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John Cusack in 2012

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

FEW directors seem to enjoy creating disaster on a global scale as much as Roland Emmerich.

Having allowed aliens to trash the planet in Independence Day and then let Mother Nature do her worst in The Day After Tomorrow, he now envisages the ultimate Doomsday scenario as an ancient Mayan prophecy is allowed to come true.

2012 is a big, brash and incredibly dumb crowd-pleaser that feels like a greatest hits compendium of every disaster flick that’s come before it… and then some.

No cliche is left unturned and not one stereotypical character gets overlooked. It’s as though Emmerich has gleefully constructed the definitive “how to” guide for creating global meltdown.

But here’s the kicker… while the director has impressively created the end of the world as we know it on an effects level, the sensation just isn’t that much fun.

Early on, there’s one thrilling sequence after another as various characters take us on a roller-coaster ride through tumbling buildings, crumbling streets and incredible volcanic eruptions.

But once the film drags us towards a final third in which the remnants of humanity attempt to survive, the enormity of the travesty [not tragedy] we’ve just witnessed becomes painfully apparent.

Essentially, Emmerich asks us to forget about the multi-billion death toll he chalks up along the way in favour of rooting for just the few he chooses to save for the latter dices with death.

These include John Cusack’s chauffeur and his estranged family and love rival, Chiewetel Ejiofor’s hyper sensitive government adviser, Danny Glover’s ultra-caring US President and his daughter (played by Thandie Newton), Oliver Platt’s over-zealous politico and Woody Harrelson’s hysterical harbinger of doom… not to mention a big, fat and ultimately cumbersome Russian billionaire.

But while there’s certainly a guilty pleasure to the adventures and scrapes they find themselves in (performances are fine but don’t really register), the film ultimately feels bankrupt of humanity.

A lot of the survivors are either politicians or billionaires, while the majority of the deaths are reduced to glib sight gags that feel particularly insensitive in a post-9/11 environment.

And while the effects are mostly cool and do possess a wow factor to them, some look incomplete and all serve to lend a voyeuristic feel to the mass destruction on show.

To cap matters still further, Emmerich shows no regard for logic or common sense, with key characters at various points being able to perform death-defying stunts in small airplanes with next-to-no-training or out-run cataclysmic volcanic eruptions on foot.

There are few surprises, either, in finding out who lives and who dies, as the fate of virtually every character is too easily telegraphed in advance.

And for a film that runs in excess of two and a half hours, the flaws eventually outweigh the positives and test the patience.

Less cynical viewers may indulge in the lunacy and spectacle of it all… for this is the blockbuster at its loudest, crudest, brashest and dumbest. But even the brightest optimist would be forced to concede that only Hollywood could possibly find hope and a happy ending from an end-of-the-world scenario.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 158mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: March 29, 2010