Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Thandie Newton, Thomas McCarthy, Oliver Platt, Morgan Lily
Liam James, Johann Urb, Zlatko Buric, Beatrice Rosen
Danny Glover, George Segal, Woody Harrelson
If the law of attraction had scientific validity, then Roland Emmerich would be held responsible for the apocalypse.
Throughout his career he has destroyed the planet by way of aliens, natural cataclysms, giant reptiles and meteors; this time he goes the conquistador's way and exploits the Mayan by stating that according to their calendar the world will come to an end on December 21, 2012.
And just as they predicted, when the date arrives the planets align, the sun emits radiation that causes "the Earth's core to destabilize" and the disasters begin.
Los Angeles succumbs to a massive plate movement, Yellowstone Park becomes the Earth's largest volcano and a Tsunami covers the Himalayas.
Fortunately there's a backup plan; as G8 members have been working on the construction of massive arks to help preserve art, animals and for a billion-Euros-a-seat, the planet's finest people.
But Emmerich can't let the world go down in this corrupt hedonism and for every dirty politician like the US President's Chief of Staff, Carl Anheuser (a slimier than usual Platt) there's someone whose spirit is nothing but saintly like the President played by Glover, or the film's leads.
On one side we have Jackson Curtis (Cusack), a failed sci-fi author, working as a limo driver, who discovers about the disaster from a loon in the woods (who else but Harrelson?) and runs to save his two kids (the lovely Lily and James), his ex-wife (Peet) and her new man (McCarthy).
We also have heart-o'-gold scientist Adrian Helmsley (Ejiofor), one of the first people to discover the Mayans were right and becomes advisor to the U.S. President, only to discover that the people behind the arks don't really care about humanity (gasp!).
The predictable plot will unite their stories at one point, but before that we are subjected to two hours of terrible acting, ridiculous dialogue and more CGI than you'll ever want to see in your life.
One of the film's major problems is its need to be so big about everything; therefore Emmerich has to steal from any other major disaster movie you can think of.
There's a mini Poseidon drama (where poor Segal is relegated as a stock player), "Earthquake" like moments of cheesy tragedy, Ejiofor and Cusack trying their best to be Paul Newman and Steve McQueen from "The Towering Inferno" and even a nod to "Titanic" as the life saving arks find themselves in peril.
What this movie fails to do is connect us to the people in the midst of the tragedies. Watching Cusack's character most of the time feels as if it's taking the fun out of watching the preposterous ways in which the director can think of destroying historical monuments, especially because the whole thing might even be a manifestation of his regret about losing his family.
So Emmerich removes the morbid fun out of watching the world collapse, by preaching to us why it should be saved, through characters that never really justify their need for salvation, besides the billing of course.
What's more, for all Emmerich has to say about what makes the world such a wonderful place, he constantly does his best to remind us about our worst.
One of his plotlines includes the death of a French art curator (think "The DaVinci Code" with Thandie Newton) who is killed in a car accident in a familiar looking Parisian tunnel.
That the director chooses to kill a man in the place where Princess Diana died, isn't what's disgustingly tacky, but the fact that he states it as something "curious" is a repulsive nod to tabloid lovers everywhere.
Another moment has him getting rid of almost every Russian character in the plot; because why would a new Earth need mobsters and Russian brides he asks.
And then, in one of the film's most cringe worthy scenes he seems to suggest that reality television will not die with the apocalypse, but will become a way of bonding and learning.
Perhaps Emmerich believes his movies to be just entertainment, but deep within their plots there often lie ideas that glorify the Western world and squeeze even the last cliché out of everyone else.
The world will not come to its end because of prophecies ancient civilizations made, but because of a humanity that has the technology and resources to exalt the beautiful things we can create, yet chooses only to glorify the very worst in our nature.