There’s a phrase that I stumbled upon a while back as a result of watching M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening: “Outrunning the wind.” You see, in that movie, the characters at one point are expected to literally outrun the wind in order to survive. In Roland Emmerich’s newest disaster flick, his characters are expected to outrun the wind on a much larger scale. And if it was a ridiculous concept before, it only reaches infinitely more absurd heights in 2012.

Yes, the movie is about the Mayan phrophecy that the world will end in 2012. The cause of this catastrophe rests somewhere between solar flares and planetary alignment. Regardless, the fact is that the Mayans knew more about what was going to happen way back in the past than we could have ever figured out with our new-fangled technology. A character really points this out in the film.

Failed writer John Cusack is one of the first people to realize the danger that the apocalypse poses, and as such is quick to grab his children, his ex-wife, and her new husband just as the world begins to fall apart. An overhead shot shows them speeding through the streets of Los Angeles, cracks in the pavement forming mere inches behind them. Cusack steers his automobile through people’s lawns and eventually through falling buildings, but always just in front of the gigantic chasms that threaten to swallow his family.

In a bizarre twist, the family boards a small plane in order to hold off their destruction. Wife’s new husband knows how to fly a plane, but balks repeatedly at being labeled a pilot. Really? The world is literally falling apart around you, and you’re whining about the fact that people are calling you a pilot? People care about the weirdest things in this movie. As the neighborhood is sinking around her, Cusack’s daughter cries out because she neglected to bring her hat. Yes, her hat. Because, as the mother explains, “hats make her feel safe.” This is all ridiculous, right?

We also get to see the exploits of a high-minded scientist, played by Chiwetal Ejiofor (Children of Men), who is trying to save as many people as he can. I’m not sure that he ever actually does anything scientific, other than being told by other people what has happened. The President (Danny Glover) and his staff try to cover up and limit the impending disaster in whatever way possible in the years preceding 2012, but then it all arrives too quickly and the vast majority of the world’s population is doomed. A small group of the best and brightest (and, um, richest) are assembling in a secret safe place in China, but the President feels torn over leaving his countrymen in their time of need. He’s more of a symbol in this movie, I think, than a real person. No real person is going to die in the name of idealism. In the most offensive scene in the film, the President retreats to a chapel to pray… rather than instruct the other people working in the Capitol on what they should be doing. When somebody points out that he is needlessly wasting time, his daughter rages, “At a time like this, praying doesn’t seem like such a bad idea!” Actually, yes… yes it does. It sounds like the mother of bad ideas, as it essentially amounts to doing nothing at all.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but I will say that it descends into even more unbelievability. The lives of thousands of people are put in danger because of something that John Cusack does, and then he turns out to be the only one capable of saving the day… because everybody else around him is an imbecile. The meeting place in China is supposed to have been put together by an intelligentsia that were aware of the nature of the dangers they were facing… and yet, their entire plan can somehow be put into jeopardy by the meddling of a single out-of-work author. REALLY.

Oh, 2012 is a disaster alright. It’s such a terrible movie. I’ve heard it get limited praise on the basis of its visuals, but the special effects here aren’t so much about quality as quantity. The characters act in unbelievable ways, the plot turns in mind-boggling stupidity. It’s… it’s pretty much what you’d expect from the man who brought us The Day After Tomorrow. Can you make an excuse for this movie by saying, well, it is a Roland Emmerich film…?

I don’t think so. As Huey Lewis taught me: “Sometimes, bad is bad.”

This review was written 11/19/2009.

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