Yes, "2012" is what some might describe as "death porn" or "destructo-porn." It's a disaster film based on an old conspiracy that goes where so many disaster films before it have gone. It's a marvel of special effects, but an absolute disaster in story telling.
"2012" is based off the popular conspiracy that on December 21, 2012 the world will end because it's the very day the Mayan calendar ends. Hours of unnecessary footage on the History Channel have tried to take everything from history and put it together to convince us that it will happen.
Now, I'm not saying I didn't like "2012" because I don't subscribe to this whole theory. Let's take a look at the story to see what is actually wrong with it.
The film has multiple story lines. One involves the President of the United States (Danny Glover) and two scientists: one with good intentions (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and another with shadier intentions (Oliver Platt).
The most important story involves Jackson Curtis (John Cusack). Jackson is a divorced writer who must get his two kids, his ex-wife (Amanda Peet), and her annoying new husband (Tom McCarthy) to safety as the world crumbles. That seems nice, until you realize that it's the exact same plot of Spielberg's "War of the Worlds."
The rest of "2012" basically involves the audience watching the world get destroyed. The Los Angeles freeway collapses. The Vatican crushes an entire crowd. The White House is crushed by a giant tsunami. Yellowstone National Park turns into a giant volcano. This then goes on for another two-and-a-half hours. It's entertaining, and even a little enthralling at first. But after a while, you're just waiting for it all to end.
Don't get me wrong, I love a good, special-effects laden blockbuster. If done well, it can make for great cinema, and even greater entertainment. However, what prevents "2012" from the possibility of being good is Roland Emmerich. Emmerich you could say is obsessed with destruction, as he also directed "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow." It's a testament to how lazy "2012" is when you see that it has literally the exact same closing shot that "The Day After Tomorrow" had. That's right, Emmerich ripped off himself.
Anyway, Emmerich's problem is that he cares more about the spectacle, than the humanity. As a giant earthquake splits the earth in two, splitting streets and causing buildings to collapse, thousands of innocent people crash to their deaths. They are not seen as humans, but merely as small specs in the distance. Even when main characters die, nobody seems phased by it in the slightest bit. Perhaps most tastelessly, is when an entire office building filled with people collapses, but the only thing we're supposed to be paying attention to is that the family got away safely in a jet. How can we cheer for one person, when everyone else around them is dying? Quite ironic for a film that preaches to remain humane in dire times.
For films like this, one should leave the idea of reality at the door. Good movies can suspend your disbelief from reality, but bad movies make you wish they had a little reality injected into them. How is it that Jackson and his family can narrowly escape death that easily? Not to mention, most of what is passed off as sound science in this film is completely wrong.
Possibly the one redeeming aspect of "2012" is Woody Harrelson's hilarious performance as an apocalypse-loving DJ. Seriously, this man can make eating a pickle seem funny. Most importantly, Harrelson looked like he was having a good time. Too bad no one else in the cast was.
Emmerich not only directed the film, he also co-wrote it. And what an awfully written screenplay it is. It's filled with so many inconsistencies and gigantic plot holes. Not to mention, it also makes the main character incredibly unlikable. I know that some people in life are bad people, but shouldn't the guy we're rooting for be at least a little bit nice. He can't even obey a clear "No Trespassing" sign.
I'd like to say that despite the flaws "2012" is nonetheless a good, entertaining time at the movies. It is, for about an hour and a half. The rest is dull and often laughable. The viewer can never really enjoy any of the film's thrill's because of how much is happening at once. Emmerich can't decide which way the world should end and therefore decides to gives us every possibility. "2012" might've been more enjoyable if it paced itself better.
Maybe the worst part of "2012" is the sense of smug superiority that it gives off; it believes itself to be much more intelligent that it actually is. At one point, the last survivors on earth board a life-saving ship known as the Ark. There's also a character named Noah on it. Coincidence?
I hate to call a film sadistic, but "2012" truly is, as it is not a celebration of life and survival, but rather a film that enjoys at the destruction of a planet and the loss of life. You're bound to have a more entertaining time looking at the crazy 2012 theories online, then spending $10 on this film.
Better Apocalyptic/Disaster Thrillers: Children of Men, War of the Worlds, Zombieland, Jaws, Akira, 12 Monkeys, Wall-E, Planet of the Apes, Titanic