Heading up the cast is John Cusack as a regular schmoe trying to keep his family, including ex-wife Amanda Peet, alive in the face of Armageddon. Chiwetel Ejiofor, who was excellent in last year’s Redbelt, a film nobody saw, will probably do a lot more for his career here. He plays the heroic scientist who has to break the news to President Danny Glover that he’s not going to get a second term. There are also supporting roles for Thandie Newton as Glover’s daughter and Oliver Platt as the chief of staff, and Woody Harrelson gets a small but memorable role as a conspiracy nut who turns out to be right.
Of course the real stars of 2012 are the special effects team. If you’ve seen the trailer for this movie, then you know how over the top the action scenes are. And trust me, the trailer doesn’t show it all. If the movie were nothing but these action scenes, it would get tiresome pretty quickly. Thankfully, triple threat writer/director/producer Roland Emerich shows some understanding of pacing, if not subtlety. He lets the movie slow down for little character moments, which for the most part are just as silly and unbelievable as the action scenes, but appreciated nonetheless.
Of course this is nothing new for Emerich, who so memorably destroyed the White House in Independence Day and gets the chance to try and top himself here. I haven’t much cared for Emerich’s films in the past, but whether I’ve just been worn down by so many truly awful movies of late, or Emerich has actually gotten better, I have to admit I found myself enjoying 2012. No, this is not a great movie that will affect you in any meaningful way. The dialog is hokey. The direction is hamfisted and manipulative. I could find a thousand ways to pick this movie apart. But you know what? It wouldn’t matter, because it’s still a damn entertaining slice of