This weekend I caught Roland Emmerich's apocalypse epic 2012, which is definitely one of those movies that might have been a fun spectacle to catch on the big screen, but is certainly not worth your time on the small one.
I guess my biggest question is how did Emmerich, who brought us the incomparably amazing Independence Day 14 years ago (14 years ago!) (I love Independence Day), manage to make such a boring disaster movie with today's effects technology? For the first five hours of 2012, I could not wait for something to happen. Way too much time was spent on setting up Woody Harrelson as a crazy man, John Cusack as a tortured writer, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mister Conscience. There was so much unnecessary character development used as a way to shoehorn plot points into a story that didn't make any sense to begin with.
See, the conceit is that world leaders have known of an impending natural catastrophe for years, and have built impenetrable arks in China that a few thousand world elites can wait in to ride out the apocalypse. So how does the average family of John Cusack, his ex-wife Amanda Peet, their two kids, and her boyfriend make it to the ark? Well they have ties to some random family of Russian weirdo mobsters/politicians, of course! Also the boyfriend is a plastic surgeon / pilot. So I kinda yawned my way through the part of the movie where they drive cars away from earthquake fault lines and road collapses that follow them down the road for some reason, and where they fly airplanes underneath collapsing buildings, and manage to get limousines and RVs to soar over crevasses in the earth. This is the part that would have been really cool to see on the big screen, probably.
Then we get to the arks. Oliver Platt (who is just the perfect casting in any role where you don't want the character to be likable; see Lake Placid, Please Give, Huff, The Big C) (No really, see Lake Placid) is Government Dude who becomes the de facto leader of the U.S. contingent of ark-bound elites when President Danny Glover dies. Of course he is kind of a douche, and Scientist Chiwetel Ejiofor Who Has No Rank Or Power keeps calling him out on being callous to the deaths of billions and being willing to sacrifice some lives in order to save others. Um, welcome to the difficult decisions that people have to make in the face of apocalypse, guy. I found myself agreeing with everything Oliver Platt the Sorta Antagonist was saying, and when Ejiofor makes an impassioned plea to The Entire Human Race I was just like "ugh, this never would have happened." See, the thing is just that I am willing to suspend my disbelief on this stuff when a movie is at all interesting, and 2012 did not incur that kind of trust.
The final unbelievable thing was just too outrageous (in a movie about the end of the world), and has been bothering me for days. There's a whole Poseidon Adventure -style set piece where the doors of one of the arks won't close because something is interfering with the gears. So some of the characters are trapped in an area of the ark with floodwaters rising, and John Cusack has to go swim to the gears and fix it in order to save everyone onboard (thus fulfilling his contractual proviso that he be drenched in every movie; see Say Anything..., Pushing Tin, High Fidelity, 1408, The Contract, Being John Malkovich, and like, every John Cusack movie except America's Sweethearts). So here's the problem. It is unclear to me where the megatsunami is coming from. The East China Sea? The Bay of Bengal? I have no idea what those water temperatures would be like. But it's established that the ark is positioned near Mt. Everest at this time, so the outside temperature could well be 100º below freezing. Look all I'm trying to say is that everyone probably would have frozen to death in the water anyway. Also everyone was able to see everyone else all the time because of the most conveniently placed hi-def security cameras ever.
In conclusion, this movie would have been better if Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton had spent more of it making out and talking in sexy British accents, and less other stuff was happening.