2012 **1/2 (out of ****)

Director: Roland Emmerich
Writers: Roland Emmerich and Harald Kloser
Cast: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oliver Platt, Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Tom McCarthy, Zlatko Buric, Beatrice Rosen
Rating: PG-13 (intense disaster sequences, some strong language, apocalyptic violence and really bad science)
Running Time: 158 min
Release Date: 11/13/09

Since the death of the late Irwin Allen, Roland Emmerich has emerged as the new “master of disaster” with such productions as The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day, and now the ultimate disaster movie 2012. This one ends the world as we know it. Geographically this is. Well, the planet is still there anyway!

Government geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) learns from a scientist in India that not only has there be a major surge in neutrinos emitted by the sun but the strength of the weak force interaction as increased to the point that these neutrinos are heating the Earth’s core. Also, there is to be big alignment of the planets and the center of galaxy. Finally the ancient Mayan’s had predicted the exact date of Earth’s destruction. All this is mixture of scientific nonsense and a misreading of Mayan’s anthropology but it makes for a great disaster movie plot. Helmsley crashes a Washington black tie event to hand the Presidents science adviser, Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), a report containing the bad news. Anheuser quickly organizes a secret international plan to save a remnant of the human race.

We also follow Jackson Curtis (John Cusask), a less than successful science fiction writer and limo driver, who is divorced from Kate Curtis (Amanda Peet). Kate is now living with a cosmetic surgeon (Tom McCarthy). Jackson takes his two charming children on a vacation to Yellowstone which it is now occupied by a government scientific team and the U.S. Army. There he just happens to meet Helmsley, who just fortunately had read his book (only 500 copies published) and Charlie (Woody Harrelson) a conspiracy theorist who as figured out the whole plot. Charlie seems to be the only one openly taking about the coming disaster that hasn’t been killed by government agents.

All of the above events will prove critical to the main action of the movie. We meet a variety other people as well. It turns out to be a small world after all when we find out Jackson’s Russian billionaire employer (Zlatko Buric) is one of a select few wealthy who have paid one billion euros (not dollars in a not to subtle knock on the fall value of the dollar) to get a ticket to ride on one of the survival arks while his girlfriend (Beatrice Rosen) has had her breasts enlarged by guess who. Movies of this genre always set up a strange moral calculus that determines who lives and who dies. What odds to you give that nasty billionaire or the cosmetic surgeon boyfriend of Kate?

For all of its predictable flaws, 2012 is a special effects extravaganza. Jackson and compatriots are just one car length or plane length ahead of death for much of the show. The action is so over the top that one wants to laugh. Yet, one is also sobered by the thought this is about the death of over six billion people. 2012 is a bit too long but movies of this sort usually are. You get what you expected from this film.

Finally, don’t worry about this actually happening. The science is totally bogus. Just keep repeating, “It’s only a movie!”

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