I don’t know what it is about watching the destruction of our planet or iconic U.S.landmarks that entices people to movie theaters, but “disaster” flicks tend to fare well at the box office.  2012 is no exception, having opened at number 1, although a movie like this usually gets released during the summer.

You’ve undoubtedly heard of the apocalyptic notion that according to the Mayan calendar, the world’s expiration date is December 21, 2012.  That’s when the Earth will move and sort of “purge” itself so it can begin anew.  2012 represents the visual representation of this doomsday prediction.  There are people who actually believe this.  I don’t really believe it, but when that date arrives in three years I will be a little nervous, I’ll admit.  I don’t exactly want to go the way of the dinosaurs at the age of 33.  I digress.

There’s not much to tell you about the plot of this movie – what you see is what you get.  The world’s ending and John Cusack and his family are trying to escape to one of the government-approved “ships” that will be used to preserve humanity and revive civilization.  The world’s governments have sold seats aboard these vessels to the wealthiest citizens, strategically choosing to leave everyone else in the dark.  Cusack plays Jackson Curtis, a middling writer and father of two. Jackson’s ex-wife and two children live inLos Angeles, with her new husband Gordon. Jacksonhas a strained relationship with his son, who seems to prefer Gordon’s company – a point that becomes important later in the movie asJacksongets to be a hero.

The movie boasts a pretty good cast, including supremely talented Chiwetel Ejiofor (American Gangster), Danny Glover, and Thandie Newton, who also were in Beloved together.  Glover is the President,Newton is his daughter.  The movie begins with Ejiofor, in the role of a geologist named Adrian Helmsley.  Helmsley learns of the Earth’s demise in 2009, giving the powers-that-be three years to prepare.  During this period, anyone who learns of the impending disaster and tries to inform the masses is permanently silenced.  Conspiracy theorists will probably enjoy this movie because it depicts the notion that when the you-know-what hits the fan, it’s every man for himself.  Helmsley and his colleagues know that the Earth’s sun showers will reach a critical level, heating the its core and causing tectonic shifts that will bring about worldwide earthquakes and tsunamis.  When Doomsday arrives the end begins inCalifornia, with the San Andreas Fault shifting, leading to a series of massive earthquakes asCalifornia literally breaks off into the ocean.  Wow.  The best thing about a movie like this is the special effects, which were amazing.  Buildings crumple and streets ripple as humanity perishes.  Meanwhile inWashington, the White House activates its contingency plan.  The President elects to stay behind with the people, as Adrian and his daughter prepare to escape aboard one of the ships.

I’ll be honest with you. 2012 was a decent movie.  Go see it if you like these types of movies.  I think that if you’ve seen one disaster movie, you’ve seen them all.  Independence Day, Armageddon, whatever.  Add 2012 to the mix.  The acting was adequate, but that’s not really the point of popcorn fare like this.  The goal is to entertain and dazzle with special effects, and director Roland Emmerich achieved that goal.  He also directed Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow.  My only criticism is that the movie was nothing new.  Been there, done that.  Emmerich’s own catalogue reflects that 2012 is nothing new.  The Apocalypse angle has been done time and time again.  The Mayan calendar angle is unique, but the depiction is largely the same.  The special effects were good, but I’d only check this out if you think that alone is worth the price of admission. I didn’t.

This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.

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