That first movie had a geeky scientist hero (Jeff Goldblum), a dad with family issues (Will Smith), a heroic president (Bill Pullman), a lone wingnut (Randy Quaid), a crabby Jewish father (Judd Hirsch), a cute dog in jeopardy and lots of international monuments blowing up.
This new movie has a geeky scientist hero (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a dad with family issues (John Cusack), a heroic president (Danny Glover), a lone wingnut (Woody Harrelson), a crabby Jewish father (George Segal), a cute dog in jeopardy and lots of international monuments blowing up.
Well, there is one difference. The first movie wasn’t boring.
This one, however, which clocks in at well over 21/2 disaster-prone hours, is pretty stultifying. Actors say silly lines with deadly seriousness. Exposition is wielded like a sledgehammer. All you can do is grit your teeth and wait for the next wave of destruction.
There is one, of course, every half-hour or so — the movie hasn’t been so much written as plotted on a graph — complete with national landmarks and religious icons torn to bits. No Muslim symbols, though; as Emmerich has honestly and gracelessly admitted, he dislikes all religions, but gave Islam a pass for fear of a fatwa on his head.
Judging by the audience’s reaction at a recent screening, he should probably still watch his back, just on general principle.
The destruction, admittedly, is all state-of-the-art — half a century and many technical generations removed from the original “When Worlds Collide.”
But it’s all the same. Twice the hero drives a car just one yard ahead of ever-widening fissures; twice he flies in a plane that just barely dodges the looming obstacles ahead.
By the midway point, “2012” isn’t just plagiarizing other movies, it’s plagiarizing itself.
The plot has something to do with a planetary alignment (predicted by the Mayans, of course) which has somehow caused a rapid increase in solar flares. This, in turn, has caused neutrinos to mutate into a new kind of particle and bombard the Earth, where, acting as microwaves, they’ve . . .
Yeah, that was where I stopped listening, too.
It all sounds about as plausible as that lecture about Solarnite in “Plan 9 From Outer Space.” Unfortunately, as the film’s chief science guy, Ejiofor bears the brunt of it, giving long, impassioned speeches in which, more often than not, he has to admit that he’s actually been wrong and things are much worse than he thought.
Ejiofor’s a decent actor, but his calling card on screen — in “Talk to Me,” in “Dirty Pretty Things” — has always been pained sincerity. A movie that features a tidal wave hitting Washington, D.C., is no place for it. What you need is an actor who’s in on the joke — even if it’s a private one he’s sharing with the audience.
Cusack is an actor like that; unfortunately, he’s stuck here playing the dad who — as in “Independence Day” — needs to have the entire world literally coming to an end to realize he’s been kind of selfish. Glad to have helped you out with that life lesson, fella. Makes all the cataclysmic conflagrations worth it.
Cusack is pleasant, of course, but the part doesn’t give him much room to show his sense of humor. And while Amanda Peet is certainly pretty to look at as his wife, her role only requires that she open her eyes wide and occasionally scream “Wait!” If the two don’t embarrass themselves, it’s only because they’re so forgettable.
As is “2012.” The effects are stupendous, the people are attractive, and there are a couple of nail-biting scenes. But it’s all stuff we’ve seen before (and done better), mashed into one movie. Toward the end, I even recognized a scene from “The Poseidon Adventure.”