You should see this movie. But before you do, I want to explain a few things. 2012 is by no means High Cinema, and anyone expecting such has no sense of humor and likely entertains themselves by jealously hoarding a stamp collection because of a particular misprint of the liberty bell that somewhat resembles a labia. This type of person should remove the stick from his rectum and realize that this movie is basically a cartoon, and a ridiculously exaggerated one. To contrast, I was one of my high school’s biggest nerds, and even I understand nothing 2012 does should be taken seriously in any possible universe.
Let’s start with 2012’s premise: neutrinos are passing through the Earth at such a quantity that they’re actively heating the planet’s core. Let’s ignore that these same neutrinos would, using the movie’s logic, broil whatever is on the surface before affecting the core. It all begins in a copper mine where a neutrino detector is installed, and while this is not explained, these detectors normally work by monitoring a large volume of water placed underground because neutrinos are so impossibly elusive that they basically interact with nothing. The detectors are not placed deep underground because that’s where neutrinos react, but because all other radiation is blocked and observing these particles actually becomes possible since they pass through basically everything. But, no… in the movie, neutrinos interact with the Earth’s core only, slowly heating it “like microwaves,” as one character helpfully explained. The best part is that all of the scientists balk at the impossibility of this, but accept it because the neutrino detector is boiling.
But we all know the premise doesn’t matter. We just want to watch shit blow up. And boy, is this a convenient setup for such low expectations. You see, since the Earth is heating from the inside, the “glue holding the tectonic plates together” melts, meaning the mantle can just float anywhere. I presume you can imagine the total and absolute obliteration made possible by removing all constraints on destructive capacity. But it gets better! You see, it isn’t just quantum physics that is thrown away, but elementary physics, just because that wouldn’t be convenient enough. 2012 wants to entertain you God Damn it, and it won’t let fucking, pansy-ass physics interfere with that primary objective!
Jackson Curtis, played by unfortunate John Cusack, wants to save his family. In order to do this, he:
- Jumps an unwieldy limousine and an RV loaded full of radio equipment, over yawning chasms. This is pretty pedestrian, but outright absurd, considering these vehicles were somehow maintaining speed over shifting terrain and crashing through several obstacles.
- Drives the same limousine through a collapsing building. This is also whimsical, but almost forgivable. But watching this movie, you’ll notice that everything falls sideways. It’s good that the buildings in this universe have foundations that snap like twigs, and that structures never fall into themselves, because otherwise there wouldn’t be nearly enough debris to dodge…
- … with a low-flying turboprop. We understand these types of aircraft don’t immediately gain altitude, but from an effectively abandoned airfield to the middle of freaking L.A., I almost expected a passing dog to whiz on them as they flew past.
- Drives a car to escape a crashing Russian aircraft. This is actually remotely plausible, except this aircraft crashes conveniently where they wanted to land anyway, and a passing convoy of helicopters just happen to be transporting animals and spots their wrecked vehicle. Later, after walking aimlessly through the Tibetan Plateau, the only truck heading toward the Arks just happens to be passing by.
- Outruns a pyroclastic flow on foot, which can travel at up to 450 miles per hour. This flow is produced by the Yellowstone Caldera, which is about the same size as the entire state of Rhode Island. If this blew up–which it would under these circumstances–it would all blow up, essentially leveling the entire midwest in a matter of minutes. Luckily, Mr. Curtis can outrun this, after struggling out of a chasm opened by tremors just beneath the RV he was driving.
- Reaches China with only enough fuel to fly to Hawaii because of shifting continents. This kind of movement would basically obliterate every standing structure and most mountain ranges in China, you know, where all those secret arks were constructed, but no damage is evident. Hell, it’s essentially tranquil in China, bring the family! (He does.)
During their adventures, they discover Hawaii is now a range of volcanoes (duh), California slides into the Pacific Ocean (duh), all the earthquakes from the tectonic shifts have produced a veritable plethora of Tsunamis across the globe (duh), and entire continents can shift over fifteen hundred miles in a matter of hours (what!?). Combined with the fact Jackson can run faster than most aircraft fly (what?!) especially when being chased by crumbling asphalt caused by earthquakes over 10 on the Richter Scale (what?!), that buildings fall slower than a turboprop can fly (what!?), and fucking tsunamis can flood the fucking Himalayas.
Despite all of this, the characters maintain a kind of detached poise that everything will be OK because humanity will work together. This is the same humanity that sells seats on the Arks for one billion euro each, that has no qualms at abandoning the very people who built the arks until one man’s impassioned speech magically changes their minds, builds the arks with posh cabins instead of refugee-style accommodations for better efficiency, and doesn’t tell a single living soul about the oncoming calamity until after several hundred million people have died. We’re supposed to believe we’ll turn everything around, start a brand new day, and glimpse birds, deer, and other woodland creatures cavorting contently around us in newly acquired trust in our benevolence.
That the world has been completely destroyed is irrelevant. Because as the waters recede, we find that the damage wasn’t so bad after all, and everything will be OK! Except, that we forgot about Yellowstone, which would have filled the atmosphere with so much ash, it would take several years to dissipate. Who cares that if the continents can shift over a thousand miles, that means the seabed is effectively magma, which would have converted most of the oceans into atmosphere-crushing steam, and when combined with the various ash plumes, would likely transform Earth into a rough equivalent of Venus for an indeterminate amount of time. But one year is apparently enough for the neutrinos to stop assaulting the planet, the raging catastrophe to subside, and everything to return to a lush paradise ripe for the plucking.
On every conceivable metric, this movie is abhorrent, impossible, and rather insulting to any sensibilities of a brain having undergone at least a kindergarten education. Despite all this, or maybe even because of it, 2012 is wonderfully entertaining. It’s wrong on so many levels, you’re left with no alternative but to stop balking at its assertions and simply accept them. It’s a parody and pinnacle of every disaster movie ever made, and seems to know it. This is a genre I usually eschew because things sometimes get too preachy on top of the destruction. Twister? Hah! Deep Impact? Meh. Armageddon? Riiiiight. The Day After Tomorrow? You must be kidding me. It’s obvious Roland Emmerich woke up one day, said to himself “You know what? Fuck it. I’m going to destroy everything,” and bought enough special effects to virtually annihilate every square inch of the globe, along with two orders of magnitude of its population, along with essentially all of its flora and fauna. It’s literally impossible to eclipse that kind of achievement, and that in itself, makes it worth observing just to enjoy the scale of destruction he envisions–it really is something to behold.
Ignore the plot, turn a blind eye to the impossible physics. They don’t matter, and are just elements of Deus ex machina anyway. It was convenient to the characters, which you shouldn’t care about anyway. Not when L.A. is essentially poured into the Pacific like a scoop of loosely packed sand. Not when the Sistine Chapel splits like an egg exactly where God and Adam’s fingers meet in Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, and the chapel itself rolls over the fleeing populace like so many ants. Not when the White House is crushed by a tide-tossed aircraft carrier. Not when a cruise ship gets flipped like a Tiddly Wink by similar waves. This movie has a middling plot to tie the visuals together, but it’s really all about the artistic license in the inherent gleeful chaos unleashed by Mr. Emmerich given even the flimsiest excuse.
Sure, one could argue ignoring the plot is tantamount to admitting any movie can be fine so long as it’s pretty. But considering the overwhelming scale involved, there really is no feasible way to make any occurrence in this movie believable. How can we really care about one measly family while they barely escape death, when billions are dying during their flight to safety? How else can he basically destroy every iota of the surface, while keeping it habitable so it has a happy ending US audiences demand? It’s ok to just enjoy the ride once in a while, and that’s exactly why I went. About the only real complaint I have is that it wasn’t on the Imax or in 3D, which would have simply been epic and visceral. But, you can’t win ’em all.