“2012” – setting a new standard for disaster films

 2012 movie scene

Review by Jason Thompson

Back in 1996, Roland Emmerich probably never would have guessed that the film “Independence Day” would define his career. Emmerich is still trying to destroy the heck out of the world in his new opus simply titled “2012.”

In 2009, a scientist discovers that the Earth’s temperature is rising due to something about neutrinos being too high. He calls upon colleague Dr. Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to help him solve the mystery behind this strange phenomenon. They calculate that Earth’s temperature will continue to rise until the world as we know it starts breaking apart like a bad science project.

This takes us to the titular year, and down-on-his-luck writer/limo driver Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) wants a relationship with his estranged son and daughter. As any good dad would do, Jackson takes them camping, but coincidentally discovers part of the government’s cover-up of Earth’s impending disaster. After that, “2012” is all about three things: death, destruction, and good old-fashioned global chaos.

It’s hard to discuss acting when disaster films are involved. Much like slasher films, the audience only demands that the actors look believable while running away from the doom chasing them. Luckily, the cast of “2012” is up to the challenge.

As the biggest name in the cast, Cusack’s performance in this film shows a constant cross between fear and disbelief. I guess I would look frightened yet befuddled too if entire cities were breaking apart behind me like giant slabs of Styrofoam. On the other side of the nobility coin is the criminally underrated Ejiofor. He has been a leading man-in-waiting for a few years now, starting back with “Dirty Pretty Things” and continuing with films like “Inside Man” and “Children of Men.” If Cusack is the perspective of the audience, Ejiofor is both its beating heart and its conscience.

Standout supporting turns from Oliver Platt and Thandie Newton elevate the film greatly and give its emotional moments just as much urgency as the carnage that follows behind. The true hero of this film, however, is none other than Mr. Woody Harrelson. Between “No Country For Old Men,” “Zombieland,” and now “2012,” Woody’s back and stealing scenes more than ever. Good to have you back, Woody!

If you have seen the trailer or any footage of this film, and you’re not on board, don’t bother. The film is two and a half hours of global obliteration. “2012” sets a new standard for disaster films and may require a second viewing just to take in the full panorama of its destructive CGI splendor. Sure, the film is a monument to impossibility, and the plot is convoluted beyond discussion, but we don’t watch these films for their logic. We watch because we love the spectacle of it all.

For all the carnage, however, the character moments ground the film just enough to suppress the cheesiness the film could have had. If a good disaster flick is what you crave, you’ll get your fill in spades with “2012”


Jason Thompson is an aspiring screenwriter from Los Angeles, California. Catch him anytime at his blog www.mysmallpotatoes.wordpress.com.

Review also appearing in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor.


  1. Thanks for the great review Jason! I appreciate your honesty.

    “Sure, the film is a monument to impossibility, and the plot is convoluted beyond discussion, but we don’t watch these films for their logic. We watch because we love the spectacle of it all.”

    So true! Going to the movies isn’t always about digging up some deeper meaning. Sometimes it’s just cool to watch things blow up and come tumbling down.

    I am a little surprised John Cusack took this role. I think it might have been better suited for someone like Keanu Reeves. 🙂


  2. I just have to put my two cents in here. The “OH COME ON!” factor in this movie is really high!!! The special effects are great but there is absolutely no feeling for anything that is going on. The film is riddled with every cliche that can be put in it! The good guys are perfect, the bad guy is perfectly bad and the destruction of all the people on Earth is treated like simple eye candy. If I ever get stranded in the middle of the Himalayas, at night, during a raging snow storm, I hope I can walk a couple of yards and have an old truck pick me up! I hope my plastic surgeon boyfriend can get me out of an ash cloud with his new found flying skills! That’s only two of the “OH COME ONS!” that bugged me about this film. I think there are about 20 more! By hour two I had gone numb and kept looking at my watch. The end is nothing but a Titanic style drama that bored me to tears. And the cherry on the top of this mess is the last line!!!! (I won’t give that away here). I like a little believable story with my disaster movie – this had nothing plausible. I’m sorry – this movie STINKS!!!!


  3. Fantastic review! My husband really wants to see this movie… I’m ambivalent, but I know to enjoy a disaster orgy like this, one should see it in the theater.


  4. I enjoyed this movie very much. It had me on the edge of my seat, AND holding the hand of my best friend next to me. One of the reasons why it really got to me was because I live with my one year old brother and my single mother. All I had to do was place myself in their positions and I basically cried and shook throughout the whole movie. I believe all things are possible and I have an extremely opened mind. This movie is NOT for people who live in a black in white set world. People who believe in all shades of gray, I hope to see your bottom planted on the theater seat. The effects were very real, which amazed me, and I enjoyed the family feel of it, even though the world was coming to an end. I loved the fact that it greatly expressed the importance of love for all people and how in any disaster we need to come together as a family. I think this movie is very under rated, and I feel that people who just wanted to see crashes and booms were slightly disappointed and probably felt that the real message in the story was forced upon them, leaving them bored, as expressed by the person above me. I think this movie is worth a watch and I think it requires your full attention and open mind.


  5. Saw this film with Heidi’s folks. I was waiting for Carmie to cover her eyes and hide but we just ended up poking each other in the ribs and laughing. I saw this movie having already read Heidi’s review and Diane’s remarks. There were certainly so many “Oh come on” moments – like the airplane flying successfully through the volcanic ash cloud. I think the ash should have cut the engines….but, “oh well”. We all left the theater thoroughly entertained, however. Does that mean it won’t take much to make us happy during our trip to Italy coming up in April?


  6. Your so right Mickey! I went to this movie to just be cooperative. 🙂 Ended up having a lot of fun. Totally agree with Diane and her “Oh come on” factor being very high in this movie but…It was just a no brainer fun time. Lots of good movie effects that made you feel like you right there.
    Yes Mickey I’m very easily entertained. I will be “happy dancing” across Italy.


  7. And yet another apocalyptic movie, i am really wondering where this is heading. Ah, nice blog by the way 😉


  8. The “Movie” 2012 was so bad as in pathetic. Great special effects. Jubba The Hutt of Star Wars fame should have been part of the cast.

    A new rookie pilot with a couple of hours under his belt flies a sophisticated twin engine aircraft as though he was a member of the Blue Angels.

    How he even got the aircraft started is also bogus.

    I turned it off out of respect for those like myself that actually flew for a major airline. I do not mind fantasy but this was far beyond that.

    Two Toes Down.


  9. Thanks for stopping in Robert. Perhaps they should have consulted a real pilot??

    “Two toes down.” — A great way of letting us know how you really feel! I might steal that from you. 🙂 Thanks again for checking in and hope to see you again in the future.


  10. In case someone is wondering, Jubba is Jabba’s younger antagonistic “Weight Watching” brother.


  11. 2012 is well made spectacle. It’s finely crafted trash. It’s in on the joke, and it’s laughing along with you.


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