Once again Roland Emmerich has created a movie that is a thrill ride from the beginning to the end, but this time he grapples with the popular conception that the world is going to come to an end when it reaches the year 2012. Unlike the paranoia that surrounded our journey into the new millennium back at the end of the nineties, which was mainly brought upon by what we thought was going to be a massive glitch affecting all of the world’s computers, the ending foretold for the year 2012 is imagined to be far worse.
Roland has envisioned an epic end that is probably far superior to anything that the ancient Mayans could come up with. In this film it isn’t aliens, or warring factions bent on world domination, no this time it’s the planet itself that revolts against humanity. And the sun itself allies itself with the planet in an effort to wipe out the human race.
Luckily for the people in the audience that are a little slow at understanding the scientific jargon and details, the director has provided a handy flash animation on display on a computer screen that perfectly explains the details of what is causing the catastrophe. There is a bit of heavy hand here, but it is probably needed in an effort to make sure everyone understands exactly what the world is so abruptly coming to an end. Although it is doubtful that a neutrino could ever “mutate”, it is enough to say that massive solar flares are causing the inside of the planet to heat up much faster than the surface. The solar energy is somehow altered into a state that has a microwave-like effect on the planet.
And that thankfully is the end of Emmerich’s questionable scientific explanation of the question of why the world comes to an end in the year 2012. Now comes the part that we’ve all been waiting for, the glorious and magnificent ending. The audience is like Woody Harrelson’s character, we know that the ending is going to be breathtaking, and we all want front row seats to the ending. And that is exactly what the audience gets in this movie.
At first it starts out slow, a building gets literally ripped in half by what is initially thought as just ordinary seismic activity. But this is just the beginning as the ground itself starts breaking apart violently, destroying large sections of the city that our protagonist is in as he seeks to save the lives of his ex-wife and family. This is a race, not against another individual, but a race against the planet itself in a desperate effort for survival.
Fasten your seatbelts because it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Truthfully the only things that could have enhanced the spectacular special effects of this movie would have been seating that moved in relationship to the scene being showed, or perhaps if it had been presented in full 3D format. There are many times when the footage and use of special effects will literally take your breath away. This movie has far more similarities to a roller coaster ride at an amusement park then something so ordinary as a “film”. There can be no question about where the majority of the budget went.
And because of that there are other things that suffer. Although the acting cannot be blamed, the characterization is a little weak. These are all characters and relationships that we have all seen before. Most of the multiple storylines and subplots are fairly predictable and almost cliché. Once again we see a father who is trying to reestablish his connection with his kids and dreams of rekindling his relationship with his ex-wife that he has never stopped loving. Even one of his kids is afflicted with the clichéd cinematic adolescent problem of bedwetting. But truthfully, all of the actors are just window dressing for this showcase of special effects that this movie is.
Besides the family and those that are included with them on their journey towards possible salvation there are more important players on the world stage. This is not just the possible ending of one family or city, it’s the end of the world. We are allowed to see the world’s government’s efforts to maintain secrecy in the days leading up to Armageddon. The fear is that if the people knew that the world was going to end there would be much panic, and panic doesn’t help a lot when the world is falling apart all around you.
The last part of the movie does fall a bit flat, when the main characters arrive at a place where they might be able to benefit from the governments’ effort to save a select few. And of course the ones that are going to survive are those that have enough money to buy a ticket to insure their survival. But you do have to laugh at the poor planning of the world’s governments in choosing the survivors. Although the wealthiest of the world have tons of money, the majority of them offer very little in terms of actually insuring the survival of the species.
The moment that should have been thought out better was when the clock says that there’s only fifteen minutes left to decide who gets to survive the end of the world and one character decides to give an impassioned speech that takes at least ten full minutes. By the end of his speech I found myself thinking “Great speech, but now there’s not enough time left so everyone dies..”
This is a great movie, although at times pesky things like actors and plot get in the way of the thrill ride that the audience can expect to experience.