Science fiction and fantasy                                            


directed by Roland Emmerich

2012 poster  
Scientists are hard at work in an Indian copper mine, monitoring solar eruptions and neutrino counts. But something odd has come up. Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) investigates, and finds that the neutrinos emitted by the sun have mutated, causing a physical reaction that's heating up the Earth's core. So the film has barely started and already the audience is asked to swallow some pseudo-scientific claptrap.

Adrian takes his findings to Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), who initially blows him off because rich, important men like him don't care about science in films like this. Then we're shown a series of events that at first don't seem to be connected: riots about 2012, people getting displaced by a dam project in China, a rich sheik being asked for a vast sum of money, and a shady group of people sneaking off with priceless artworks and substituting convincing fakes. Things don't start to come together until after we meet Jackson Curtis (John Cusack). Jackson is a divorced writer who decides to take his kids camping in Yellowstone, in the midst of an outbreak of unusual earthquake activity.

Yellowstone isn't just a pretty park that's home to some interesting geysers and Yogi Bear. It's also the location of the slumbering mega-volcano that will one day destroy the USA, although no-one knows when in the next several hundred thousand years it will erupt. But Jackson Curtis acts as though he doesn't know anything about this, calmly checking out the disappearance of a lake instead of turning around and driving for his life, like a better-informed person might have done. He meets Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson), a crazy conspiracy nut who introduces Jackson to his end-of-days theories. Charlie has been tracking events, and he believes that the privileged elite have some sort of secret plan for riding out Armageddon.

The Earth's crust is destabilising, and before long we're knee-deep in disasters and seismic activity. It's all done on an exaggerated scale. When a tsunami wave crosses the ocean it causes a mere ripple, and the wave only becomes massive when it approaches the shore. But in 2012 impressive-looking waves are more important than any attempt at scientific accuracy or believability. When the water rises in this movie watch out for your mountains, because this is water with attitude.

2012 is full of expensive yet incredibly predictable destruction. It's like The Day After Tomorrow with 20% more demolition, only this time the damage is caused by earthquakes and volcanoes instead of weather. Both movies feature ruined cities, unexpected and unlikely phenomena, and people failing to listen to the prophets of doom. But the similarities don't end there. Faced with the end of everything there are tearful goodbyes, acts of futile self-sacrifice, and stirring speeches made when no-one really has the time to be talking. There's running, leaping over chasms, and an overblown, soppy ending. Most of the characters conform to the types established in Roland Emmerich's earlier movies as well. This film is a formulaic scientifically slack re-run of old ideas and wanton destruction disguised as entertainment. It's about as much fun as watching a child knock down Lego for a couple of hours. How many times can a director try to sell the same movie?

11th May 2010

Film Details

Year: 2009

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 12

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Sunshine cover    

Sunshine by Danny Boyle
The sun is dying, so a group of astronauts set out on a mission to re-ignite it and save humanity.

1 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Roland Emmerich