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2012 Movie Review: A big effects blockbuster this holiday season

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Volcanoes!  Earthquakes!  Tsunamis! 2012  throws it all up on the screen in an epic scale. Literally, it may be the most grandiose destruction movie ever created. The mother of all disaster films for sure. However, is the visual splendor enough to detract from the film’s shortcomings? Let’s put it this way; you have been warned.

The flimsy plot really just barely connects this sprawling, two-hour film. Basically, the Mayans predicted back in ancient times that the world as we all know it would cease to exist in 2012. Sadly, those premonitions are now coming true. As explained by scientists in the beginning of the film, the heat from the sun has become so intense that the earth’s core is overheating in an extreme manner, bleeding out into the crust and causing the whole thing to quake, break, and melt away.

When all of the turmoil strikes first in California, Jackson is one of the many scrambling to get his family to safety before the world literally falls out beneath him. With knowledge that a select group of Americans (including government officials and millionaires) are on their way to China to board a spaceship that will save them, Jackson rents a plane and heads towards salvation.

One thing that can be said about 2012  is that it delivers with special effects! Unlike other movies of its kind, audiences won’t have to wait until the climax for the big effects moment. Oh no, director Roland Emmerich is not satisfied with that notion. Instead, he offers up no less than four huge set pieces, spread out through the span of the film. The special effects in each moment are spectacular and exhilarating, using superb effects and displaying the horror in a very vivid manner.

Still, it’s a shame it couldn’t be more fun. By the time the audience watches the third land mass get wiped off the screen, 2012 has become exhausting. The initial breathtaking erosion of California withstanding, the movie dissolves into a series of iconic cities collapsing and mass death. Furthermore, even though director Emmerich knows the disaster film like the back of his cliched hand (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow), he also forces half-baked drama and corny dialogue on the viewer. No one really cares about any of these poorly drawn characters or situations, and any likability comes from the actors’ natural charms (who couldn’t love John Cusak!?).

As 2012 moves past the two hour mark, it becomes clear that the filmmakers were out to make some kind of disaster movie to end all disaster movies. Almost tipping into parody, the climax is still reasonably exciting, but as mentioned, any kind of fun has long since been drained from this flimsy, effects driven extravaganza. Still, one can not argue the movie delivers on its most intended level in spades. Just don’t expect anything else from 2012.

Philly2Philly grade: C +