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Mysterious and different, but ultimately the same old thing.
John Cusack Stars in "2012."
OPENING WEEKEND: $45,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $150,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

June 15th, 2009: With the Mayan calendar ending in 2012, a large group of people must deal with natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, typhoons and glaciers.

What to Expect: The thing about me that is absolutely crucial to know is that I freaking love disaster movies. My family, when we were all around on New Year's Eve, used to have this tradition where we'd rent six movies all on a theme and watch them on the Eve and on New Year's Day while consuming delicious snacky treats and knitting (well, not my dad). Every other year or so we'd have to do disaster movies because we all loved them so. There's just something about a disaster movie that makes no apologies. There will be wildly unrealistic interpretations of the laws of physics, there will be attractive young starlets in peril, there will be a trauma-induced romantic hookup and probably an ill-advised power ballad theme song.

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Of course, one of the giants of the genre is Irwin Allen, who was responsible for a lot of celluloid schlock in his day but also for two of the greatest disaster movies ever made: "The Towering Inferno" and "The Poseidon Adventure." They have spawned dozens of imitators but no one really recaptured the sheer manic glee of Allen's onscreen disasters until the chasm yawned forth and outward ventured a German inheritor named Roland Emmerich, who bestowed upon us "Independence Day," which certainly has its faults as a work of modern cinema but does not fail to deliver as a glorious summer hybrid of alien-invasion movie and disaster movie.

ID4 was not Emmerich's first film. He and writing/producing partner Dean Devlin also gave us "Universal Soldier" and "Stargate," and went on to inflict "Godzilla" upon us. It wasn't all unfortunate...the duo also produced "The Patriot," which is a pretty good movie despite starring Mel Gibson, and which did have the special bonus of making most of America sit up and go "Hey, who's this Heath Ledger guy?"

In 2000 after "The Patriot," Devlin and Emmerich, who'd been as joined at the hip as the Coens up until then, parted ways for reasons not entirely clear but which seem to have something to do with Devlin's desire to make more Stargate films while Emmerich wanted to pursue films with his own production company. The split is generally thought to have been amicable, as Devlin confirmed during a speech to a university audience. Devlin's star has dimmed considerably since splitting with Emmerich, it must be said, while Emmerich has continued to make films, mostly of the popcorn variety, earning himself a reputation as a director capable of bringing a big-budget film on time and with money to spare. He went back to the disaster movie genre with 2004's "The Day After Tomorrow" then went prehistory with "10,000 B.C." The former was a pretty significant hit, the latter was...well, not.

Which brings us to "2012."

The year 2012 has long been bandied about by the Tinfoil Hat Brigade and its many offshoots as the year in which the world ends, based on some obscure features of the Mayan calendar (and no, it doesn't end in that year). I suppose they had to fixate on something after Y2K turned out to be a whole lotta nothing, huh? But it was too juicy a tidbit to resist for a disaster maven like Emmerich, who penned the mysterious script with "10,000 B.C." co-writer Harald Kloser. Word around the campfire is that the script was so good and exciting that the studios entered into a bidding war for it, with Sony coming out on top, producing the film with a massive $200 million budget. But what was it about this script that was so phenomenal?

Umm...it was...wait, don't tell me...it's on the tip of my tongue...no one really knows. The intelligence on what exactly the movie is about has been contradictory. The current boilerplate says that the film is about a group of people dealing with global cataclysms. Earthquakes! Floods! Volcanoes! It's Deep Armageddon on Dante's Volcano the Day After the Levees Broke! Okay. Another summary I found says that John Cusack's character, who seems to be a writer or possibly a scientist, opens up a portal to another dimension and meets himself to avoid an apocalypse. That's...different, but I think it was the plot of the now-dead Michael Bay "2012: The War for Souls" film. Or how about this? The apocalypse happens right at the beginning and the rest of it is just everyone trying not to die.

Emmerich was remarkably tight-lipped about the content of the film in an interview, saying only that it would be different, not just explosions, and would be something totally new. Words to that effect came from the studios who bid on the project too, saying that "2012" contained more than just the usual hook studios want for a summer tentpole picture.

Which "2012" is not, surprisingly given Emmerich's affinity for warm climates to release his films into. It was originally slated for a big summer release, but Sony moved it to fall. It seems like they're trying to establish another major-moviegoing season in the fall, given how much success they've had with Bond in that season. No rumblings of problems with the film or reshoots, so this does appear to be a strategy move.

It will also allow time for marketing. Looks like they're pulling another "A.I."/"Cloverfield" viral marketing campaign, with websites from the Institute of Human Continuity inviting people to enter the lottery to be among the saved when the Bad Stuff Goes Down. I'm only wondering how many crazy people are going to sign up thinking it's real. Cusack's character also has a website for his book, some kind of heartbreaking work of staggering genius or triumph of the human spirit or whatever all about the coming apocalypse.

Starring in the film is the long-absent-from-blockbusters John Cusack, darling of the indie film and the romantic comedy, hoping for a return to black numbers in the ledger book. His last blockbuster was 1997's "Con Air," in which he starred with Nicolas Cage, who also just starred in a kind of apocalyptic thrilled in last spring's "Knowing." Coincidence? You be the judge. I'll only start getting suspicious if John Malkovich turns up in a disaster movie. Costarring is Amanda Peet, who I love for reasons totally unrelated to movies (she stood up and proclaimed she was having her children immunized, a welcome counter to all the crazy coming from Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey these days). She is far from the only Person of Awesomeness in this film, though. Under-the-radar stealth movie star Woody Harrelson is here, as well as Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is not only a person of awesomeness, he comes with awesomesauce on the side. Playing the President is Danny Glover (Morgan Freeman must not have been available) with Thandie Newton as his daughter. Somewhere in there fit Oliver Platt and George Segal. That's a pretty decent lineup. Peet described some of the footage Emmerich showed them mostly by repeating "It's crazy!" about half a dozen times. She's pretty much a newcomer to big-budget popcorn fare herself, so she's likely easily impressed, but the secrecy coupled with the enthused leaks from the studios could be encouraging. Or just par for the course over-hyping.

Emmerich's track record is not great. "10,000 B.C." was received mostly with enthusiastic rounds of mockery and irritation at its very existence, and he's got the same screenwriter here for "2012." But as Mike Medavoy says, you're only as good as your next film, and one good project forgives all.

All this navel-gazing might not matter. I'm not the only one with a toothy yen for a nice juicy disaster movie. There's a reason the genre has survived so long. It's fun to watch stuff get destroyed real good. If it gives us nothing else, it ought to give us that. But what's with these rumors that they destroy the White House? Come on, Emmerich. Been there, done that. Get some new material.

In Conclusion: Roland Emmerich just can't lay off the disaster movies, so here's another one. A decent cast, mysterious plotline and viral marketing lead us to a fall release for this Apocalyptic thriller with the cryptic numeric title. Unless it blows more chunks than a fratboy after midnight, the film will likely do huge business, but with a king-sized budget it'll need more than huge business to make back the investment.

Similar Titles: Cloverfield, The Day After Tomorrow, Twister
November 13th, 2009 (wide)
March 2nd, 2010 (DVD)

Columbia Pictures

Roland Emmerich

John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Thomas McCarthy, Woody Harrelson, Chin Han, Morgan Lily, Beatrice Rosen

Total: 90 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Drama

Click here to view site

Rated PG-13 for intense disaster sequences and some language.

158 min





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