Ah, the Nineties.
It was a simpler time, a time of summer blockbusters, a time when special effects were mind-blowing, not crass and overused, and Roland Emmerich knew how to cast a hero.
With Independence Day he created a classic – what other film sees Will Smith punching an alien in the face, and Randy Quaid saving planet Earth by shouting “UP YOURS!” whilst catapulting himself, kamikaze-style, in the core of a UFO spacecraft? My point exactly.
But since this 1996 epic, Emmerich’s work has been repetitive and lacklustre, relying too heavily on thrills and spills to entertain. His casting skills have also taken a wayward turn for the worst. 2012’s lead actor John Cusack is not Superman material. He’s at his best playing dorky vinylophile Rob Gordon in High Fidelity – a subtle comic character, not a musclebound action figure. But then again, Emmerich did cast Matthew Broderick as the protagonist in Godzilla, so we should have seen this coming.
After tackling aliens and climate change, Roland decides to get overzealous and unspecific with the danger in this film. As the planet’s core starts to boil, humans come under the threat of a smorgasbord of natural disasters – from tidal surges and volcanoes, to the Earth’s poles doing a violent switcheroo – frankly, it’s all just a bit over the top. John Cusack plays deadbeat writer Curtis Jackson, who learns of the planet’s impending doom from a hippiefied version of Woody Harrelson and then must save his extended family from becoming the main course of a nationwide human barbeque.
What annoys me is that the movie monikers Emmerich was famed for with Independence Day (remember the irony of REM’s “It’s The End of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” playing over the opening credits?), instead get uncomfortably shoe-horned into 2012, contributing to the largely bleak tone of the film.
But what I take most umbrage with is Emmerich’s prediction for the “continuation of our species”. Instead of pre-warning the masses of the planet’s untimely demise and holding a lottery to see who will make it onto the species-saving “Arcs” (a la Deep Impact), *SPOILER WARNING* the survivors of 2012 are the world’s elite – those who can afford the one billion euro tickets. Anyone who sought to inform the public about the core-boiling implications, was murdered in a worldwide government conspiracy, for fear of, gasp, making the stock markets crash or, God forbid, damaging the economy. When quizzed about this White House Chief Of Staff Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt) asks “What did you think we were going to do – hold hands and sing Kumbaya?” *SPOILER ENDS*
Perhaps I’m alone in this, but I think that would have sent an altogether healthier message about the power of the human spirit.
If that hasn’t put you off, check out our exclusive 5 minute clip of one of the movie’s show-stopping action scenes (it’s really probably the best bit in it), or read up on how they’re turning it into a TV show….