In 2009, scientists have discovered that recent solar flares have produced neutrinos that are causing the earth’s core to heat up like a microwave. The implications and projections are serious enough that Dr. Helmsley rushes to Washington DC to inform the Chief of Staff, who in turn tells the President. The report is then shared with all the heads of major nations. The situation becomes dire as the earth's crust displacements show that the North Pole will soon be located in Wisconsin. Of course no one tells the rest of the world’s population that the world will end sometime in the year 2012.
Jackson Curtis (played by John Cusack) is a writer who must make his living as a limo driver and part time father to his two kids who live with his ex-wife. His book that was about people who don’t lose hope when faced with an apocalypse didn’t sell very well. He’s on his way to take his kids to Yellowstone Park for a camping trip, oblivious to the earthquakes and cracked roads hitting California. They discover their lake has dried up and is in a restricted military area. The army takes them to a mysterious installation where Dr. Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is testing the thermals. He also turns out to have actually read and enjoyed Jackson’s book. At their campground Jackson also meets Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson), an internet conspiracy blogger, who is spying on the government’s movements. He explains to him (and the viewing audience) just what is happening in a dumbed down cartoon form. He also tells him of a ship that will be saving some, as in those rich enough to pay and government leaders from the impending doom. The Institute of Human Continuity has been secretly spiriting away art, significant species, and the world’s greatest treasures to preserve.
Disaster happens fast and furious from this point on. Jackson, his ex wife, her boyfriend, and the children are racing around in the limo while trying to escape the collapsing earth and buildings hot on their tail. A good portion of the movie involves flying over and through a world ravaged by the earth’s instability. There's very cool CGI mayhem of Los Angeles being totally destroyed and sinking into the ocean. The family heads back to Yellow Stone to get the map to the secret ship from Charlie. He’s up on a peak doing on-the-spot reporting of the world coming apart. When the magma boiling over erupts in a magnificent explosion, Jackson must find the map so they can fly out in the nick of time. Somehow, they must get to China to board the "arks" that were being built to withstand the tsunamis that will be covering up most of the land mass as we know it. Water is rising over the Himalayas! Yep, that’s high!
Meanwhile the movie resorts to the typical scenarios made famous in those 1970’s movies like Earthquake and Towering Inferno. You are introduced to several characters who are supposed to fill in back story. Episodes flash back and forth between the designated heroes, Jackson trying to save his family, and the concerned scientist Dr. Helmsley who is trying to encourage the world leaders to tell people what’s going on and rescue more people than just the rich and powerful. There’s the President (Danny Glover) going down with his country; Oliver Platt as the smarmy Chief of Staff trying to save himself over others; and Thandie Newton as the beautiful President’s daughter. There’s also several other stories that fill out the 2 ½ hour film, that are interspersed in all the action sequences. You can pretty much tell who is going to make it to the end of the movie.
Director Roland Emerrich is very experienced in creating these “end of the world” movies (like Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow) and pitting the common person against great odds. The technology has greatly improved since the earlier films. This movie is an incredible visual feast, watching the destruction of the world’s greatest architectural landmarks. Interestingly, they were going to destroy the Kaaba (the most sacred site in Islam) but they didn’t want a fatwa issued against Emerrich. For good measure the filmmakers tried to add humanitarian issues like the responsibility of telling the populace sooner than later, the strength and love of families, and how greed and avarice will only get you falling into a shaft.
Despite its length and overused plotlines, audiences will flock to this well-imagined doomsday tale. Just remember it will be a necessary component to suspend belief and just enjoy the ride. It may be too scary for younger kids, but older ones will enjoy the non-stop action. Hopefully it will spur discussions on what you would do on Dec. 12, 2012. (Review by Reesa Cruz-Hawkins)
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