Wednesday, November 18, 2009


"Enough with the fat lady! Your obsessed with fat ladies!"

Two families struggle to survive, and a scientist working with the government races to sustain humanity, as devastation envelopes the world.

Civilization is standing on the precipice yet again, and surprise surprise- it's Roland Emmerich's fault. As disaster movies go, it's ambitious. In Independence Day it was the world's major cities. The stakes got upped with The Day After Tomorrow, with the entire northern hemisphere being put to the screws. But on the irreversible devastation scale, 2012 out does them all. Unfortunately, that is pretty much the only difference between director Roland Emmerich's newest nigh apocalyptic outing and the ones that came before. That and the fact that it doesn't have the word "Day" in the title.
The problem isn't that it's a bad or poorly done movie, the problem is that by now we've all got the formula down. It starts with picture perfect sunny days and a divorced couple. Then we watch the only guy who truly understands what's happening get ignored while explaining it. We'll spend the next 10-20 minutes (increasing with each new release) watching all hell break loose. Then take a breather while the president talks about it dramatically.
Of course when he's done there's even more destruction. Then a brave few make their stand, where in there's even more destruction and death, an outrageous and over the top joke, at least one act of self sacrifice (sometimes these two come at once "In the words of my generation...!") and the divorce fences get mended through acts of heroism. And somewhere in there at least one (though rarely limited to one) father and son pair learn that they really do appreciate one another.
I understand that movies of a certain genre often end up having certain things in common, but this is something more. I have to say for me it's getting old. I (nor anyone else I would hope) go into these movies with any hope of truly being moved, but even so- knowing the pattern kills a lot of the fun. I am reminded of my growing disdain for Tim Burton's work. But where he uses the same pallets for each movie, Emmerich uses the same emotional set pieces. Though in his defence, Emmerich is still doing much better than Burton as that the bulk of these "repeat offenses" only apply to his disaster movies.
John Cusack brings his trade mark sarcasm to the pot, which is always enjoyable- but the real stand out performance comes from Chiwetel Ejiofor (your pronunciation is as good as mine). Here's an actor I've been watching for a while, and I'm glad to see him as a leading man. His character is full to the gills with sentiment, but he does well with it anyway. In the end I think the lack of brilliant performances comes more from the material than the talent. Watching this movie it's obvious that the focus is on the destruction, not the characters.
I don't mean to get overly aggressive here, but I think the point is valid. 2012 is porn for disaster junkies. An enjoyable adventure through the end of civilization, I just think that it could use a little more focus on the human element of the story. How will we care whether humanity survives if we don't care about any of the people fighting to be the ones left. Not to mention that it's awfully hard to sit patiently through two and a half hours of brutal apocalypse sustained only on eye candy. That's a long time to spend watching the world end, no matter how good it looks while it's doing it.

The Real Deal Recommends:
Identity: For a spectacular film starring Cusack and Amanda Peet.
Serenity: What? A chance to plug Chiwetel Ejiofor and Firefly? Score!

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