Co-writer/director Roland Emmerich’s vision of the end of the world should definitely be seen on as large a screen as possible and with as good a sound system as possible. As can be expected from a movie made by the master of disaster movies, the visual effects that show the massive destruction of the world as we know it—there are earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis, etc.—are quite impressive, but they do eventually come close to being exhausting. Interestingly, for all its simplicity, the last image has a certain surprising poignancy that makes it memorable.
At 158 minutes, 2012 can definitely be characterized as a long movie, but it does not feel overlong. The film barely registers on an emotional level because it lacks sufficiently developed characters that the viewer genuinely cares about. Furthermore, it suffers from having too many silly moments for its own good (for example, the concept of airlifting tropical animals to the Himalayas by helicopter is just absurd and it looks ridiculous on the screen), from being annoyingly uneven due to the awkward inclusion of family-adventure elements, and from employing virtually every cliché of the genre.
Compared to Emmerich’s previous entry in the disaster-movie genre, The Day After Tomorrow, which features a fairly engaging story and visual effects that are rather impressive even by today’s standards, 2012 as a whole is a disappointment.
John Cusack’s performance in the role of Jackson Curtis is okay; his line
We’re gonna need a bigger plane is a nice and obvious reference to Jaws, in which Roy Scheider’s character Martin Brody says,
You’re gonna need a bigger boat upon seeing the shark for the first time. Chiwetel Ejiofor turns in a solid performance as Adrian Helmsley, and the same goes for Oliver Platt, whose character Carl Anheuser becomes an antagonist by doing what he believes is necessary to ensure the survival of the human race. Thandie Newton and Beatrice Rosen bring unexpected nuances to their characters Laura Wilson and Tamara, respectively, while Woody Harrelson’s exaggerated oddball of a character (Charlie Frost) stands out in a negative way and seems out of place here. Zlatko Buric is fairly good in the role of Yuri Karpov.