Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: John Cusack, Danny Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton
Watch 2012 online in the UK: Netflix UK / Amazon Prime Video / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / Google Play
The Mayans saw it coming – the most preposterous piece of exposition ever. It works for anything. The credit crunch? The Mayans saw it coming. The X Factor? The Mayans saw that coming. Jodie Whittaker as Dr Who? Richard & Judy? The Mayans saw them coming too. So who can blame Roland Emmerich for using that flimsy line to justify his latest piece of destructo-porn? This is 2012. Screw the London Olympics. There’s a new show in town: it’s the end of the world.
Joining Roland for the ride are Jackson Curtis (Cusack), a loser/author whose semi-published book failed to keep his marriage to Kate (Peet) alive, Adrian Helmsley (Ejiofor), a handsome, naïve government scientist, the President of the United States (played by Danny “I’m too old for this” Glover), and his daughter, Laura (Newton).
Of course, before the free-for-all hits full swing, there’s the tiny matter of global annihilation to get out of the way. That’s no problem for Roland – he’s king of blowing the Earth up. Throwing pixels upon pixels at his processing units, the master of CGI carnage has outdone himself here. Colossal tidal waves, collapsing skyscrapers, liquid hot magma; there’s nothing quite like watching the world get wiped out by Photoshop.
That’s always part of the problem: there’s only so much green screen your eyes can take before you notice the shiny surfaces and the perfectly rendered corners of Emmerich’s Armageddon. Sure, he dumps some humans in the way, but there’s no real narrative, just a before and after sequence for every major landmark. It’s an extended episode of What Happens When Buildings Fall Down; even the Sistine Chapel gets a look in.
But the effects, for the most part, are impressive to behold. Never backing away from atrocity, the B-movie blockbuster is bold enough to show destruction at the biggest possible scale; as planes weave implausibly between office blocks and billowing smoke, 2012 cheekily lingers to show the millions of people plummeting to their deaths.
Shoving the horror bluntly in your face, at times it’s hard not to laugh as emotional phone calls keep getting cut off by screaming and loud bangs; yes, while everyone falls to their doom, the mobile phone networks are still working. Avoiding extinction? There’s an app for that. Ladling on syrupy soap opera stuff at the last minute, 2012 tries to give it all a human heart. But as the writer redeems himself and an evil, rich Russian meets a hilariously sticky end, you wonder why they bother. At two and a half hours, no-one expects subtlety or substance. We just want the sheer excitement of total world demolition. And, even with shinier, more CGI-heavy contenders like Geostorm around, Emmerich doesn’t disappoint.
2012 is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.99 monthly subscription. It is also available on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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