In a few years time something will happen because people believe it will - be that mass suicides, or mass yoga practices. The level of intrigue for most of us is probably on a par with our interest in who wins American Idol. 2012, however, is such a nothing nothingness of a film that it should be consigned to a pile marked "unreviewable," so there's little to say in the face of all its tired old silliness.
Bill Maher put it better than this review will likely manage: "Stop trying to scare me with your Mayan calendar doomsday theories. I'm supposed to be terrified by counting the days on the Mayan calendar? Why, is my Mayan girlfriend late for her Mayan period? If the Mayans could see the future, how come they couldn't get away from Cortez? Besides, we have much scarier things to worry about in 2012." That would be Sarah Palin running for President.
He's right, Armageddon films reinforce certain ways of thinking which support the status quo. The concentration on the end of the world - by the Christian right or the movie industry - distracts us from wanting or needing any kind of social change in the here and now. We've come to understand through the Armageddon narrative that we will only find compassion for the poor, or just for our neighbors, once the skyscrapers are crashing to the ground and the earth is opening up underneath us. The New Agers effectively rebranded 2012 in a somewhat admirable attempt to spin this situation for the good. They have learned that humanity needs a deadline. However the alignment with the Mayan calendar gang makes their attempt look like cheap exploitation.
So, anyway, in this film John Cusack needs to get his family out of LA and over to China where they can safely escape the destruction. Or so a crazy, wild-haired Woody Harrelson told him in Yellowstone Park. The crazy and wild-haired folks are always right. Have the people in disaster movies watched as many disaster movies as the people watching? Major monuments fall down, but they are all the same ones that fell down during Emmerich's Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. He even lifts from his previous forays into the End Times with a dog-led subplot - although here Cesar the Papillion is not as charismatic as Independence Day's Boomer the Labrador - and a rousing Presidential speech.
It's hard to tell whether John Cusack's family is less loveable than Will Smith's or Dennis Quaid's, or if after seeing through Emmerich blowing up the world and questioning our humanity three times now, four if you count Godzilla, we have become desensitized to the plight of fictional Hollywood characters in the midst of impending doom.
For all his liberal hand wringing over the state of the world and the state of our souls, Emmerich sure makes it hard for us to care. The Internet is allowing greater access to real disaster: images, videos, Twitter posts from the center of real destruction. Who knows what that all means for humanity in the long run, but it spells box office disaster for disaster movies.
Director: Roland Emmerich. Written by Roland Emmerich and Harald Kloser. Starring: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet. Rated PG-13