Sure the Mayan calendar predicts the end of an age on December 21, 2012. But those quaint ancient pyramid builders didn’t count on the merging of 21st-century technology with good-old American know-how, e.g. jumping over shit in a really fast car. Though the latest piece of disaster porn perpetrated by big-budget apocalypse fetishist Emmerich (who once foiled the invasion of an advanced alien species with a Jeff-Goldblum-programmed computer virus) posits 12/21/12 as the day the earth’s crust does the electric slide (something involving solar eruptions and high neutrino counts causes earthquakes, tidal waves, and the ever-dreaded polar shift), it’s evidently nothing failed-writer-cum-limosine-driver-cum-sort-of-deadbeat-dad Jackson Curtis (Cusack) can’t Super Dave his way out of.
According to Emmerich’s guide to surviving natural disasters, the safest place to be during an earthquake isn’t a doorframe — it’s a speeding limousine. Should a fissure open up along a faultline, just push the pedal to the floor and steer toward one of the many ramp-like objects earthquakes apparently leave strewn about the highway. At worst, if you’re faced with mile-high tidal waves or the ground beneath your feet is transforming suddenly into an active volcano, you may have to take an airplane — be sure to watch for falling national landmarks. That’s what Emmerich assumes you’re watching for, anyway, because he incorporates as many of them as possible in the bloated two-and-a-half-hour runtime: We see Yellowstone erupt, the Washington monument tumble; the narrative comes to a halt in the third act so the characters can watch Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer crumble on a television news report, and the White House (not to mention President Danny Glover) is once again obliterated, this time by a tidal-wave-surfing aircraft carrier, which pauses just long enough to reveal it’s, tastefully enough, the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy. Act now, and you’ll also receive a capsizing cruise ship, a drowned Buddhist monk, and the Vatican collapsing while the Pope says Mass.
Yes, Emmerich’s one coldhearted mofo, and 2012’s one of the most misanthropic films I’ve seen this year, turning actual tragedies like tsunamis (remember the one that killed hundreds of thousands of actual human beings in 2004?) into excuses for million-dollar CGI moneyshots. There’s also a plot going on somewhere in all this destruction — Curtis has an ex-wife, a bedwetting daughter, and a poorly selling novel — but I don’t care about it, and neither does Emmerich. Neither will you, because everyone involved with this movie seems to assume its audience is functionally retarded and just wants to see fancy tall buildings fall go boom.
I’ll assume the same, and since you’re capable of reading, I’ll go ahead and tell you how this tragedy ends: Curtis’s daughter, now master of her own bladder, makes a cute, hopeful face at the brave new world from the deck of an ark full of survivors (you bet your ass animals are being stockpiled below, Noah-style). Then the screen goes dark and you exit the theater wishing the Mayan calendar had included more fart jokes and boobs. — Jeremy Martin