With Earth on the eve of destruction in 2012, we can't stop the impending apocalypse; we can only hope to contain it. Conspiracy theorists, such as Woody Harrelson as the film's resident nutjob, believe that the Mayan calendar foretells the end of the world on December 21, 2012. Scientists may not put any stock in the predictive power of an ancient civilization, but they notice that the planet is heating from the inside at an alarming rate, which may cause the crust to crack.
Of course, the powers that be don't bother informing the public about the forthcoming catastrophe. Rather, they plan for how to save their own skins and ensure the future of humanity. Failed author turned limousine driver Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) happens to be in the right place at the right time when hell on earth arrives. Armed with knowledge of a long shot survival option, Jackson scrambles to save his former wife Kate (Amanda Peet), kids, and their stepdad.
As INDEPENDENCE DAY and THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW demonstrated, 2012 director Roland Emmerich was already proficient at destroying the world's landmarks and land masses for vicarious thrills. In wiping out most of Earth's population in 2012 he takes his filmmaking as ant colony stomping approach to a new level. Fortunately the faceless nature of the mass casualties keeps this from being the most depressing movie ever.
Alternately serious and goofy, 2012 is intended to be a breathless action picture with some sobering moments and a hoot of a comedy. Emmerich would be better off losing the pretense of respectability and embracing the B-movie showmanship that is clearly his strength. Emmerich and 2012 don't do heartfelt emotion and character so well.
The film is padded with a few little stories and one primary tale of the fight for survival, but these lumbering scenes of dialogue and plot generate about as much feeling as reading the names on a company's emergency phone tree. 2012 perks up when catastrophe befalls the planet, but after awhile the repetition of CGI destruction becomes numbing.
Harrelson's pickle munching, paranoid radio talk show host brings some over-the-top humor that this preposterous movie desperately needs, but in terms of tone 2012 follows the lead of its solemn survivors more often than not. Then again, maybe Emmerich is slier than he's given credit for. Punctuating 2012 is the discovery that enduring the possible end of the world cures a little girl's bed-wetting.