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Roland Emmerich’s “2012” is insanely entertaining November 13, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, Movies.
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If you’re not a fan of “Independence Day” or “The Day After Tomorrow” or “Armageddon” or “The Poseidon Adventure” by all means, bypass 2012 at all costs and you can stop reading now — but if you did like any (or all) of those movies, then run, do not walk, to your local theatre to see Roland Emmerich’s insanely entertaining end-of-the-world disaster film.

Let me say right off the bat that I love destruction and explosions and volcanoes and tidal waves in my movies, so right off the bat, I knew this was going to be great fun. And it is. It’s bigger, louder, visually eye-popping science fiction — with a big emphasis on the fiction. It’s 2012 and as predicted by the Mayan calendar thousands of years ago, the planets and sun are in perfect alignment – solar flares cause a heating of the earth’s core, and the fun begins when the earth’s plates start to shift around. The science is murky and not referred to a second time, but that’s all you need to set the story into motion. Presidential advisors sound alarms, noble acts are committed, ignoble ones are defeated, and for the lucky ones, half a million implied survive in arks. Yeah, you heard me right, arks.

But getting there is one rollercoaster ride of a grab-your-popcorn-check-your-brain-cheer-for-the-CGI-destruction experience. John Cusack tries to salvage family ties (he apparently was too distracted writing a fiction novel about the end of the world to pay attention to knock-out Amanda Peet and the kiddies). Woody Harrelson has the strangest cameo as a pirate radio host who predicts it all and narrates it as he watches Yellowstone erupt (this is of the Randy Quaid in Independence Day strange variety). Every character is a paper-cutout as far as backstory and interest. But who cares about the people here. It’s about the effects — and I do not say this lightly — the effects here don’t border on Art…they define CGI Art.

There are wonderful things here — and there are laughable things as well. Emmerich knows that the best way to approach the (bad) script is to make fun, and let the audience laugh along. And you do. There are times you laugh with the movie, and there are times that you laugh at the movie. And it’s all perfectly blended into one extraordinarily entertaining motion picture.

One scene about 3/4 of the way through this (almost three hour) movie finds our family and other stragglers having crash-landed in the mountains, watching helicopters carry a surprising load to their final destination: it’s both art and ludicrous at the same time. It made me smile for many minutes.

I just loved this movie, and I can’t wait to go see it again. Seen in a surprisingly full movie theatre in Ann Arbor this afternoon (I thought I was the only person that didn’t work on Fridays), this is sure to be the fall blockbuster the movie studios have been waiting for. I can’t wait to see the grosses on this one come Monday morning…one caveat — as in many recent adventure action movies, there are several scenes of children in peril: not as intense as Jurassic Park, but enough to cause parents pause to think about their young-ones and their tolerance for this kind of mass-destruction and death and counterbalance it with their estimate of their own kids nightmare quotient before bringing them into the theatre. It’s typical PG-violence — bodies fall but don’t land — drownings, fire, crushing, crashing are mostly implied — bodies fly, they occasionally cling to things in the distance, but for the most part disappear. Again, it’s about the special effects, not the people.

Visual parallels can be drawn to Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow – complete with space-view shots of the world below. But it’s a formula that works — and here, it works bigger, faster, louder, and better. It’s the disaster movie to end all disaster movies. And I absolutely had a ball. There is nothing to think about here after you leave the movie theatre, except how amazing the special effects are. And that is exactly what I needed this afternoon. And that’s the view from Ann Arbor today…

UPDATE: Sunday 11-15-09 — The first weekend boxoffice take for 2012 was 65 Million Dollars over three days.


1. Mark - November 22, 2009

The End of the World Arrives Three Years Ahead of Schedule
I had an interesting pre-cursor while going in to see 2012 . I was with a small group of three, and I handed my tickets to the doorman, who, after ripping them and handing me back the stubs, said: “ Enjoy this graphics , this isn’t the kind of movie you go and see for the dialog.” My friends and I looked at each other and laughed. We were also a bit worried. Did we just drop about $15 bucks each to watch another disaster movie with vacant plot and characters? Are we foolish to expect more than a vacant plot and characters in a disaster movie?
Fortunately, my answer is “No.” The answer from one of my friends who was with me is “Sort of.” But this isn’t my friends review, it’s mine. All mine! So, the answer is decidedly…”No” on both counts. 2012 proves that you can actually have an entertaining disaster movie as well as a few emotional chords to strike.

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