Screenwriters: Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser
Starring: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson, Oliver Platt, Danny Glover, Thomas McCarthy, Jimi Mistry
Running Time: 158 mins
So amused were South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone by the script for Roland Emmerich's The Day After Tomorrow, they wanted to film it themselves using puppets as a spoof of Hollywood's big budget blockbusters. Those plans never transpired, though the duo did eventually make Team America: World Police, and cinema is probably a better place for it. If Stone and Parker were able to find unintentional comedy in Tomorrow, then they'd surely have a field day with 2012, Emmerich's ultra-silly tale of the end of days as foretold by a Mayan prophecy.
2012 is a bad film, utterly stupid at times, but there's fun - hearty laughs, even - to be had at just how rubbish it is. Emmerich, a sort of modern-day Irwin Allen, sets up his latest cinematic apocalypse with vaguely plausible sounding science guff. Magnetic poles are reversed, the Earth's crust turns to liquid, neutrinos get mentioned at one point... carnage inevitably ensues. By the time Woody Harrelson's pickle-loving 'end is nigh' radio DJ surfaces, all sense of verisimilitude has fallen by the wayside and it's time to stop taking 2012 seriously and accept its hilarity. Emmerich places family drama at the centre of the pyrotechnics - John Cusack's unsuccessful author is still involved in bringing up his and his estranged wife's (Peet) kids - and inevitably the natural disasters bring them closer together. At no point, though, does the human interaction take priority over the digital spectacle.
Emmerich's newest take on the end of humanity is rife with clumsy dialogue, set pieces that range from the sublime to the shoddily-greenscreened ridiculous, and gloriously crude gags. The sight of Queen Elizabeth II attempting to wrangle a couple of corgis into a mankind-saving ark and a heavily-accented Austrian governor declaring "thee vorst iz oveeer!" just as a giant earthquake strikes are two of the highlights. Also worth noting is a crack in a crucial place on the roof of the Sistine Chapel and a bizarre news report namedrop of Diana when a character loses his life in the same Paris tunnel that claimed the Princess. 2012 may have moments to top the absurdity of Jake Gyllenhaal trying to outrun a drop in temperature in The Day After Tomorrow, but at least it steers away from that film's awkward eco-preaching and just gets down to destruction.
A cheesefest on an epic scale, 2012 is a case of computer processors working overtime to compensate for a lack of action on Emmerich and co-writers Harald Kloser's word processor. There are valiant attempts at acting from the ensemble, notably by Brit thesp Chiwetel Ejiofor as a government official caught in bureaucratic mire, but it's all in vain as the humans inevitably feel about as alive as the Team America marionettes. Cusack is stripped of his usual laid-back charm amid the noise and Danny Glover's stoic President appears a cheap substitute for Morgan Freeman's Deep Impact commander in chief (he's seen one apocalypse too many, perhaps?). Leave your brain in the cinema lobby before seeing this one.
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