Sunday 15 November 2009

Review: 2012

Year: 2009
Director: Roland Emmerich
Screenplay: Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser
Starring: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson

Synopsis is here

Lets say certain filmmakers are artists in more of an impressionist sense. Kubrick would be precise pencil drawings, Haneke would draw harsh pictures with black charcoal, Tarrintino would be pop art and Roland Emmerich would paint with big bright colours with a massive roller brush, such is how broad he is.

Subtly isn't one of Emmerich's strong points. Everything is in your face, obvious and blatant. What you see is what you get and if you are going into 2012 to see something high brow and classy, then you may be a little bit slow and will never get to see the next Jane Campion film because your clearly too simple. If however you wish to see the destruction of the world (read; America) then your in the right place. I have no problem with Emmerich's constant desire to fuck with the planet as Independence Day is one of my favorite memories of cinematic nostalgia. My issue with Emmerich is since then I haven't felt that any of his disaster flicks dizzying heights of enjoyment since. Godzilla was a farcical remake, and The day after tomorrow had far too much navel gazing pandering for it's own good.

Watching 2012 has realized how much I've grown since ID4. Emmerich has pretty much traced over the work he's done before. It's not so much that the motifs are the same (of course there's destruction of famous architecture) but now, Emmerich has now resigned to nabbing characters from his work and merely giving them different names and actors to play them. Two examples of this would be Woody Halerson's Charlie character is Randy Quaids Russel Casse with longer hair (swap aliens for end of the world), while Oliver Platt's Carl Anheuser should be swapping notes with Albert Nimzicki such is their shared dislike for humanity. 13 years since Will Smith K.O'd an alien with his right hook, Ol Roland is still writing the same script, with the same arcs and only slightly modified lines. It was fun when I was 12 and now it's still enjoyable to a point, but to say that it's not getting a little bland would be a lie.

It's not all bad, Emmerich is a good judge of casting and fills the film with a glut of respectable character actors to make the film watchable. Don't expect any turns that will have you blubbering in the aisles, but at least your going to watch reliable performers. If I'm going to be sat in a cinema for almost three hours I'd rather be watching John Cusack and Chiwetel Ejiofor than say Channing Tatum and Paul Walker. Also Emmerich as a director of disaster, does a satisfactory job in building moments of tension and generally creating some arresting visuals if you were to really place any thought into them. Trouble is, in no way are you supposed to doing anything of the sort. Emmerich reminds you of this by filling the film with huge piles of Gorgonzola throughout, usually to fill in the films dubious science and plot holes.

To be honest Emmerich's lashing of cheese dose much to show that he appears to be at heart quite a bloody minded optimist and in a cinematic world that is filled with "dark" franchises and cynicism it's quite reassuring to see a director championing the human spirit (albeit with a kindergarten logic). It's a shame he shows such positivism with a plodding pace, simplified characters and three plot strands too many.

But who cares about that? In a film where the worlds gonna end, no one gives a damn about character and plot! It's all about the effects! Fair enough, however despite Emmerich doing an admirable job of upping moments of tension, the CGI payoff still isn't as strong as his previous efforts. In fact it boarders on overkill. I may have been spoilt on the superb effects work on District 9 but that's still not really a reason for sloppiness. In 2012, nothing beats any of the moments that took place in ID4 (expect for when that golden lab escapes). While the film is (rightly) relentless in it's set pieces, it's over reliance in what are quite average effects weaken the film considerably. Add this to the films simplified logic and moments of absurdity and you have a film that is quite uneven. Only a film like this could have the BBC still broadcasting so easily despite the fact that England would probably have been ravaged beyond repair. The Murdocks have no right to complain about the Beeb if the taxpayers money can produce a channel that will have news broadcast through wind, sleet, snow and of course the complete destruction of the world as we know it with such ease.

Bizarrely coming out in November (this is a summer blockbuster if ever I've seen one) 2012 is an interesting alternative to the upcoming tweeny boppingness of New Moon this week. But only if you can stand it's overlong plot, moments of ludicrousness and average at best effects. I dare not watch Independence Day again in fear of trading it in to a second hand shop.

Hear Byron talk more about this movie at Geekplanetonline