Who’s In It: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Tom McCarthy, Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover
The Basics: The Mayans were right! The world IS going to end in the year 2012, thanks to an unfortunate convergence of planets that will cause the sun to microwave the earth’s core into total self-destruct mode, and the only people that might survive are a failed novelist (John Cusack), his estranged wife (Amanda Peet) and kids, her new hubby, a young but brilliant geologist (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the smokin’ hot daughter of the President (Thandie Newton), and three giant boatloads of the richest people on the planet. Basically, the clientele of a Starbucks in Beverly Hills. Get your emergency kits ready.
What’s The Deal: Roland Emmerich is The King of the Spectacle, and he wants to invite you into his brain for roughly two hours and forty minutes. Just go with it. This is nearly three hours of eyeball-searing global destruction in which the entire world is unapologetically destroyed by earthquakes, killer volcanoes and giant tsunamis -- and what’s more, it’s PG-13, so we see virtually none of the carnage. After all, who wants to see millions of human bodies being crushed, burned, drowned, or falling to their deaths up close? It’d be way harder to LOL that way. And who has time for character development or realistic plotting when you’ve got to destroy every major bastion of human civilization (the Vatican, the White House, every vacation spot in Hawaii) in the span of three hours?
Where It Gets Weirdly Religious: 2012 says that when the world ends, it will culminate in massive floods – just like God predicted! Yes, I just equated Roland Emmerich with God. It gets better. Humanity will survive by building arks to wait out the disaster. John Cusack is the hero who leads his family to salvation, and you know what? His initials are J.C. – just like Jesus Christ! I predict boffo business in the Bible belt, and thanks to a cute character detail involving Cusack’s daughter, a spike in sales of children’s pull-up diapers. (Always be prepared. You'll need a pair to get through 2012's two hour and 40 minute runtime.)
Watch For The World’s Most Ridiculously Awesome Chase Scene: What could top an earthquake chasing a limousine across greater Los Angeles? Only the sight of an earthquake chasing a limousine AND an airplane across greater Los Angeles! And I’m pretty sure the earthquake actually roared like a lion, which makes it scarier than those polite and unassuming earthquakes I’ve known.
If Only They Made Oscars For Crazy Cameo Performances: Only Woody Harrelson could play a wild-eyed, pickle-eating, hippie conspiracy theorist and still maintain his dignity. In fact, I’d watch another three hours of his kooky pirate radio DJ before, during, and after the massive wipeout of Yellowstone Park by way of volcanic eruptions and killer fireballs.
Seriously, It’s Not As Bad As You Think: Well, okay, it sort of is. Convenient character decisions, ridiculous chase scenes, and treacly moments of “humanity” combine in a laughable attempt to make something meaningful out of clearly absurd plot points. And its wanton destruction of international landmarks and loss of life is cringe-worthy in this post-9/11 world. But as far as silly blockbusters go, 2012 at least goes for it all the way. 2012 is a terrorism movie where Mother Nature herself is the terrorist, and she’s not acting out because of how awful we’ve been to the environment or to each other. Who wants to learn lessons from a disaster film, anyway?