When my sister called me up earlier this week to tell me my father had a “family movie” he wanted to treat us all to, I was touched. But a mere few days later I had the dubious honor to be sitting in a theater waiting for 2012 to start.
2012 falls in the “disaster” movie category, both in story and in execution. But what else could you expect from Roland Emmerich, director of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow? What can I say, the dude hates Earth and wants to see it destroyed, be it by aliens, global warming or Mayan prophecy.
So, according to the movie, the planets align in such a way that the Earth’s core temperature rises, melting away the foundation that keeps the land masses in their positions (still with me?). After U.S. scientists and government are onto this (in 2009), they begin building these ships (“arks”) in China that only those that can afford the 1 billion Euro price for tickets can obtain entry upon. Also, Woody Harrelson, playing a drugged-out hippie camped in Yellowstone, somehow independently knows about this too.
John Cusack plays a writer-turned-limo driver that meets Woody Harrelson’s character while on a camping trip with his kids (they drive from their home in Manhattan Beach, CA to Yellowstone, WY in one day?) and learns about the impending disaster as well. After booking it back home to pick up the kids’ mother and her annoying boyfriend, they escape L.A. in his limo to the closest airport. The annoying boyfriend has also had a few flying lessons, at least enough that they are able to pilot a small aircraft to Las Vegas. There they meet up with John Cusack’s billionaire Russian boss, his twin hideous snotty sons and the boss’ ditsy teenage girlfriend. The Russian also has tickets for the ship and a large plane to get there. Keep in mind that we have already seen Los Angeles sliding into the ocean, Yellowstone sprouting a volcano, and some other generic disaster happening to Vegas that was never really addressed.
So everyone is flying in the plane (along with the cargo of a dozen luxury cars) on their way to China. Even though the pilot was sure they weren’t going to have enough fuel to make it past Hawaii, the Earth was kind enough to shift the Asian landmass far enough east that the plane’s gas and lack thereof was no longer an issue. Next, since they just couldn’t land the plane in any normal fashion, everyone piled into one of the cars and drove it out the back of the crashing plane.
The Chinese government dropped by in their helicopters and picked up the Russian and his sons (since they had tickets), and left John Cusack, ex-wife, kids, annoying boyfriend AND the Russian boss’ girlfriend (she was cheating on him!) to fend for themselves. Luckily, after a bit of walking, a nice young lama and his grandparents picked up the gang and headed for the site of the arks. The lama’s brother, you see, works at the site where the arks were built and is planning to smuggle them on board. Wasn’t that nice?
So they manage to get onboard through a series of ducts and tunnels in the infrastructure of the jumbo-sized ark, but peril befalls them when the lama’s brother and the annoying boyfriend fall into the gears of the ark’s loading dock. The boyfriend dies, the lama’s brother’s legs get mangled, and in the process a jackhammer jams up the gears. Once the ark starts taking on water from a tsunami (!), it begins taking on water since the seal has been compromised. The ark’s crew becomes aware of their stowaways and asks if John Cusack can dislodge the obstruction since he’s there. Knowing it’s a suicide mission, he selflessly goes ahead and makes his way through the labyrinth of tunnels underwater to clear up the works. And of course his son follows him in, even after he expressly told him not to. Anyway, they both work together and get the jackhammer out of the gears and the door seal gets back on track. After a few tense seconds, John Cusack heroically emerges from the underwater tunnel.
NEXT, since they haven’t quite met their quota for destroying all of Earth’s most beloved landmarks, the ark is sent free-floating towards Mount Everest. Luckily, they only bump into the base of the mountain before getting the ark’s motor going.
Cut to Day 27, Month 01, Year 0001 (yes, really) and everyone is cramped but comfortably on board the ark and making their way to southern Africa, where the new highest peak on Earth is now. We then leave the movie with a shot from outer space showing the new makeup of Earth.
As if that ALL wasn’t complicated enough for you, I DID leave out the following: Indian guy and his family who in 2009 called attention to the disaster to a young U.S. scientist, who in turn notified Oliver Platt (other government guy?), who in turn notified Danny Glover (president), who’s daughter is Thandie Newton (doctor and art preservationist), who eventually falls in love with the U.S. scientist, who’s dad is a musician who performs on cruise ships with partner George Segal. Also destroyed: Washington D.C. (the White House was taken out by a tidal wave, though more specifically, an aircraft carrier rolled over on it), Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro (crumbled), St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City bit the dust too (my personal favorite – the Sistine Chapel began to split apart conveniently right between Adam and God’s hands – brilliant touch). I’m sure there was more, but how was I to keep track? Also, I cannot leave out that John Cusack’s character’s only published work was fiction book about an eerily similar apocalyptic adventure – and also was one of the U.S. scientist’s favorite books. Do you have the chills too??
I have to say, having zero expectations for this movie, I actually enjoyed it. In the sense that I was in a crowded theater in downtown Long Beach on a Sunday afternoon with my family, and dozens of other families. With my taste in movies, that’s pretty hard to come by. As my parents, my sister and I were walking out of the theater, I told them something I wasn’t expecting to leave 2012 saying – “I haven’t laughed so hard at a movie in months.” And even though it was riddled with wild inaccuracies and plot holes, and was basically a SyFy Channel movie with a bigger budget, so what? People still cheered and clapped at the end.