dir Roland Emmerich
scr Harald Kloser, Roland Emmerich
prd Harald Kloser, Roland Emmerich, Larry Franco
with John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, Oliver Platt, Tom McCarthy, Woody Harrelson, Jimi Mistry, Beatrice Rosen, Zlatko Buric, George Segal
release US/UK 13.Nov.09
09/US Fox 2h38
The end of the world is nigh: Cusack and Harrelson

ejiofor peet newton

29th Shadows Awards
Woody Harrelson

R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
2012 Gleefully over-the-top, this film takes the disaster movie pretty much as far as it can go, drawing on the Mayan prophecy that he world will end on 21 December 2012. Emmerich deploys all the genre elements (solid cast, detailed back-stories, gigantic set pieces) to give us a raucously enjoyable ride.

While on a camping trip in Yellowstone, novelist-turned-chauffer Jackson (Cusack) stumbles across a secret military operation and a raving nutcase (Harrelson) who claims the end of the world is nigh. Sure enough, top government scientist Adrian (Ejiofor) is advising the President (Glover) and his Chief of Staff (Platt) about preparations for impending natural catastrophes. By the time Jackson gets home to Los Angeles, the pandemonium has begun, and he barely gets his kids, his ex (Peet) and her new husband (McCarthy) out. But where do they go now?

L.A.'s obliteration is one of the most spectacular effects sequences ever put on screen: it's a thrilling chase through the most insane apocalypse you've ever seen, with a handful of likeable characters trying desperately to cheat fate. And this is only the beginning of a film in which these people have to outrun a mega-volcano, escape from a collapsing desert, crash land on an ice cliff and survive a Titanic-sized crisis at sea. All because powerful solar flares have destabilised the earth's crust.

Strangely, the science sounds vaguely plausible, even if the way it plays out is pure fantasy. Emmerich pushes every scene to maximum-chaos, while keeping us hooked with strong characters and comical asides. Along the way, there are cheeky references to every other disaster movie, pop culture icons and real-world disasters. And Emmerich never takes things too seriously; even when he gets sentimental over a parent-child moment or a threatened puppy, there's a twinkle in his eye.

In fine disaster movie tradition, the cast is too good for such silliness. Cusack and Ejiofor get the meatiest roles, while Peet and Newton also offer solid female leads on the edge of the action. And Platt is funny as the requisite boneheaded politician. But of course the real stars are the effects gurus who have seriously outdone themselves with a gob-smackingly enjoyable day of reckoning. Where can the genre possibly go from here?

cert 12 themes, language, violence 30.Oct.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall