When it comes to wanton destruction, nobody does it quite like director Roland Emmerich.
In films like “Independence Day,” “Godzilla” and “The Day After Tomorrow,” he has gleefully indulged in all manner of human cataclysm, and he seems especially fond of demolishing familiar landmarks.
His latest exercise in vicarious annihilation is “2012,” an incredibly hokey ‘end-of-the-world’ disaster flick that fails by virtually every critical measure except for one.
The only reason to see “2012” is for its visual spectacle, and on that count it absolutely delivers…big time.
Emmerich’s script is a virtual compendium of movie clichés, echoing too may disaster flicks to list. (But if the makers of 1951’s “When Worlds Collide” and 1965’s “Crack in the World” are still around, they may want to call their lawyers.)
“2012” stars John Cusack (“Identity”) as a failed writer named Jackson Curtis whose ex-wife Kate (Amanda Peete from “X-Files: I Want to Believe”) and kids live with her new husband, a doctor named Gordon (Tom McCarthy from “Duplicity”).
Their lives (and everyone else’s) are about to be disrupted by explosions on the sun. Subatomic particles bombarding the Earth are causing the core to overheat, threatening to violently break the continents apart.
A geological expert named Dr. Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor from “Redbelt”) warns White House Chief of Staff Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt from “Year One”) of the impending disaster. President Wilson (Danny Glover from “Saw V”), in concert with other world leaders, surreptitiously plans for the apocalypse.
Naturally, there are lots of peripheral characters, including Thandie Newton (“RocknRolla”) as the President’s daughter, Zlatko Buric (“Dirty Pretty Things”) as a Russian mobster and (memorably) Woody Harrelson as a wacko radio prophet. Harrelson’s over-the-top performance is as excessive as Emmerich’s destructiveness.
But the plot and characters in Emmerich’s absurd screenplay are irrelevant. They only exist to provide props to populate the scenes of mayhem.
Those scenes are very impressive, however. Emmerich and his special effects magicians realistically destroy all of the buildings along Los Angeles’ Santa Monica Boulevard, the statue of Christ in Rio, the White House, the Vatican and the Vegas Strip.
But even these visuals begin to wear out their welcome. The final reel, which involves a series of gigantic “arks,” is poorly paced and overlong.
The movie features a running gag about Cusack’s daughter’s need for pull-ups. Audience members may need them too considering the movie’s unforgivable 2-hour and 40-minute runtime.
“2012” is for those with an appreciation for over-the-top visuals and a strong bladder. (PG-13) Rating: **1/2
* Avoid at all costs
** Only if you're bored
*** Good movie
**** Well worth your time
***** Be sure to see it