- The Washington Times - Friday, November 13, 2009

“2012,” the new disaster picture from Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow”), is 160 minutes long. That’s two hours and 40 minutes of Earth destruction and cardboard-cutout characters screaming in terror while they drive/fly/boat away from impending blue-screen computer-generated doom.

It’s way too much. And I’m not talking about the relentless CGI.

Why bother with a plot in a movie like this? Are the scenes between failed author Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) and his ex-wife Kate (Amanda Peet) necessary? Does their rote relationship add anything to the plot? Are their cute children really needed to advance the story?

Probably not. Let’s remember, the plot consists solely of the world coming to an end: Audiences are coming to see how the Mayan prediction of 2012 as the world’s last year will come to pass. Something about “mutated neutrinos” heating the Earth’s core and causing the crust to shift.

Again, does this patina of science make any difference? Does it matter why the Earth’s disintegration is taking place or why the natural disasters are occurring? Is there any relevance in the moral righteousness of the scientists who make the discovery?

Of course not. We’re simply interested in the action sequences. We just want to see stuff blow up.

The action sequences — the destruction of Los Angeles, replete with collapsing freeways; the supervolcano said to lie beneath Yellowstone National Park blowing its top; a plane fleeing a deadly ash cloud as Las Vegas disintegrates below — are a tour de force on the big screen but oddly unmemorable the day after.

This stands in sharp contrast to the destruction of the world’s landmarks in “Independence Day” by marauding aliens: Seeing the White House and the Chrysler Building destroyed is bound to stick in the brain longer than random freeways and suburban houses succumbing to a massive earthquake.

Still, these action sequences and the CGI spectacle are why we’re here. So I offer Mr. Emmerich this modest proposal: For your next film, just cut out all the extraneous scenes — “extraneous” being anything that doesn’t involve massive explosions or collapsing cities. A version of “2012” that stuck to this aesthetic would not only be far leaner — seriously, 160 minutes of this nonsense is at least 90 minutes of back story too many — but it also would avoid laughable dialogue and ridiculous dei ex machinis, insulting the intelligence of your audience far less in the process.

★½
TITLE: “2012”
RATING: PG-13
CREDITS: Directed by Roland Emmerich, written by Mr. Emmerich and Harald Kloser
RUNNING TIME: 160 minutes
WEB SITE: https://www.sonypictures.com/movies/2012/
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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