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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » November 18, 2009
Film review
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November 18, 2009 By Witold Żygulski   
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Over the past couple of years, movies about the end of the world have been increasingly popular with producers who have budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars to shock viewers with ever more sophisticated special effects. This strategy pays off, because the said effects are what draws audiences to movies that usually have nothing else to offer. Most characters in doomsday movies are one-dimensional while the scripts overdose on sentimentality, which is set off by bombastic musical scores. A plot filled with implausibilities can be forgiven in a film bordering on science-fiction, but such movies also abound in long sequences with nothing much happening except for the characters engaging in diatribes about the meaning of love, family, patriotism and other lofty ideals. Then, in the grand finale, viewers have to watch a scene in which one or more characters sacrifice themselves to save the world, after which viewers can go home suitably uplifted.

In 1998 alone, movie theaters worldwide were successfully invaded by two such productions, Armageddon by Michael Bay and Deep Impact by Mimi Leder.

2012 is no exception to the rule . The director is Roland Emmerich, who since Universal Soldier in 1992 has been feeding audiences stories about minor and major threats to Earth and its inhabitants. Sometimes the danger comes from mighty and hostile extra-terrestrial civilizations (Stargate from 1994 and Independence Day from 1996), at other times it is monsters brought to life by short-sighted scientists (Godzilla from 1998). What has been selling best recently are blockbusters about Mother Nature herself turning on mankind. First, in The Day After Tomorrow from 2004, Emmerich played on fears of a new ice age. This time, he uses a popular prophecy based on an (incorrect, experts say) interpretation of the ancient Mayan calendar, according to which doomsday will take place on Dec. 21, 2012.

This, in the film, is when horrible plagues hit the world, including enormous tsunami, torrential downpours, earthquakes, exploding volcanoes, gigantic fires and whatever else can be processed into mind-blowing computer generated imagery. As hundreds of millions of Earth's inhabitants die and thriving cities turn into ruins in a matter of hours, a group of characters are struggling to survive. While doing so, they obviously take the opportunity to take an overdue look back at their lives, make up with their families and so on. In the on-screen struggle we see an unfulfilled writer Jackson Curtis (John Cusack-High Fidelity, Con Air, Grosse Pointe Blank), his ex-wife Kate (Amanda Peet-The Whole Nine Yards, Syriana), an underrated scientist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Eijofor-American Gangster, Love, Actually) and a spooky eccentric Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson-Natural Born Killers, People vs. Larry Flynt, No Country for Old Men).

The sentimental and infantile dialogues in 2012 are an ordeal, but it's the American president (Danny Glover-Lethal Weapon series, Predator 2) who gets the prize for trying the viewer's patience the most. His solemn lines and lengthy, leaden speeches make you wonder if this character was a hidden, half-baked attempt at comedy.
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