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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews


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2012 – Delivers a “groundbreaking” adventure 

Roland Emmerich, the filmmaker who brought us Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, delivers another disaster-themed movie that showcases spectacular CGI effects.

Emmerich’s doomsday scenario revolves around a historical date significant to several world religions and cultures.  Based on the Mayan calendar as well as biblical prophesy, the end of the world as we know it will occur in just three years, December of 2012…as if there isn’t already enough stuff happening on this planet to fear or worry about.

Director Emmerich and script co-writer Harald Kloser ran with a story that follows a cast of characters struggling to survive a global cataclysm. Like most apocalyptic/disaster tales, there is a subplot for each character and, as usual, their stories become linked together in a very contrived manner, as could only happen in movies!

The cast of characters includes Adrian Hemsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) a geologist/science advisor to the President who discovers horrific news from his colleague in India that due to the biggest solar eruption in history, the earth’s crust is destabilizing, causing temperatures to arise in hot zones across the globe and the creation of massive earthquakes, tsunamis, and tidal waves. In other words, the heating of the earth’s core will result in an impending worldwide catastrophe likely to put an end to the human race.

Given the inevitable facts, noble Helmsley warns the President’s Chief of Staff Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), who refuses to let the public in on the truth. In fact, he has no problem having those privy to the information killed in order to keep the truth from leaking out. Anheuser is part of a big plan set in motion involving massive arks (think Noah) built to save and house heads of state, VIPs, and select (i.e. financially-able) members of the population.

Meanwhile, during a trip to Yellowstone National Park with his kids (Liam James and Morgan Lily) Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) a divorced and struggling novelist/turned limo driver for a Russian billionaire (Zlatko Buric) encounters Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson), a pickle-loving, crazed radio show personality who tries to warn him, as well as his radio listeners, of the impending Armageddon.

Jackson becomes the central focus of this story as we watch him, with kids in tow, manage to get back to L.A just in time to save his wife Kate (Amanda Peet) and her live-in plastic surgeon boyfriend Gordon (Thomas McCarthy) as an earthquake causes their house to collapse and the world around them is literally falling apart.  And as surrounding devastation mounts, Jackson and his folk are shown trying to make their way to a safe haven either by car, camper or plane and, needless to say, always narrowly escaping by the skin of their teeth.

It’s a hold-on-to-your-seat, roller coaster ride highlighted by amazing visual effects, thanks to the CGI wizards. If you’ve seen Emmerich’s previous movies you should know what to expect. As all hell breaks loose: global destruction comes in the form of skyscrapers falling, bridges and highways collapsing; international landmarks toppling in Paris, London, and the Vatican; the Washington monument, White House, and the mountaintop statue of Christ in Brazil, all crumbling to the ground as the earth breaks apart, resulting in worldwide cities and land masses falling into the ocean.

Every movie of this kind comes with the guessing game of who survives and who dies, attempts at emotional farewells, reconciliations, forgiveness and redemption. Others that fit into the unfolding scenario are an elder George Segal as half of a performing duo on a cruise ship, Danny Glover as U.S. President Wilson, Thandie Newton as the first daughter Laura, Beatrice Rosen as the billionaire’s young mistress, Tamara, and Johann Urb as Sasha, the dutiful and brave Russian pilot; and some clever cameo appearances by look-alikes of Governor Swartzennegger and Queen Elizabeth.

It all is very formulaic and predictable, but like they say, it is what it is. In other words, for movie goers who are fans of larger-than-life epic adventures that are special effects driven, 2012 fills the bill. It’s all about the special effects, and there are lots of them during the 158-minute movie.  While I can’t say the CGI effects are groundbreaking, in the literal sense, audiences definitely can expect a “groundbreaking” experience.
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