Retro Disaster Kitsch, 11 April 2010
Author: gary-444 from United Kingdom
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With Director Roland Emerich you know what you are going to get. Explosions, tidal waves, crashing buildings and catastrophe are his lingua franca. He delivers. Yet as many have pointed out, this is a deeply frustrating film. The storyline is fine, and ambitious, and there is a budget to match. The actors are solid, and the ample two and a half hour running time is more than enough to get the story told, so why the carping? In short, the story is not told well enough.
The trailers allude to Mayan prophesy of the destruction of the world in 2012, yet in the film it only just gets a mention. There is no sense of ancient foretold doom. When the world starts to “turn hot” the global meetings are little more than an excuse to provide location shots to sell the film in different countries, and a sub plot involving the state execution of whistle-blowers poised to reveal all to an unsuspecting public appears, then disappears, to little purpose.
John Cussack is a convincing hero, Danny Glover is hopelessly miscast as the American President in a horribly written role and Thandie Newton is wasted as an incidental love interest for co- hero, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Woody Harleston has a bizarre cameo as a hippy dj who knows what is going on and has the secret map that reveals all, and appears to be the sort of person to keep the kids well away from.
The action scenes themselves are tremendous, but there appears to be little holding it all together. Clunkily episodic, each scene seems riddled with cliché and seems to demand it’s own disaster sequence. The characters get insufficient time to win us over and the human interest ephemera like the hero’s daughter ‘s bed wetting are grindingly forced. Worst of all the biggest Disaster Movie Cliché of all – that the dog always survives, is alive and well.
The climax of the film is grotesquely drawn out as man-made arks are launched to save civilisation. Incredibly this causes Emerich to then go into “Poseidon Adventure” mode, in an exercise of wholly unnecessary self indulgence. Inside all of this there is a decent film waiting to get out. The discipline, a word which Emerich does not know the meaning of, of delivering a 90 to 105 minute picture would have produced a much more satisfying, and impactful result.
The end result is closest to 1950’s style world disaster / Alien movies, but without the charm.