Disaster films and Hollywood have enjoyed a long and successful partnership over the years as box office gold has been found in fictional disasters. Irwin Allen had a string of hits such as “The Towering Inferno” and “The Poseidon Adventure” which in turn lead to the films such as “Dante’s Peak”, “Volcano”, “Deep Impact”, and “Armageddon” who kept the tried and true formula of relatable, regular people forced to cope with extraordinary situations where they must battle against all odds to survive.

In the new film “2012” director Roland Emmerich follows up his other end-of-the world epics “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow”, with a story about the total devastation of the earth and all life upon it due to an increase of neutrinos from the sun heating the earth’s core causing the displacement of the Earth’s crust.

Keeping to the established formula of the disaster films, 2012 centers around a struggling writer named Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), who learns of the pending catastrophic events while camping at Yellowstone National Park with his children. The presence of forbidden areas and swarms of soldiers and scientists leads Jackson to believe that the local conspiracy radio host Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson), might be right in his predictions that we are all on borrowed time, and that the increase in earthquakes and fissures along the fault lines are a very bad omen.

Unbeknownst to Jackson, and the majority of the world’s population, U.S. President Wilson (Danny Glover), and his fellow heads of state, are preparing for the coming tragedy. Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt) and a team of geologists lead by Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetal Ojiofore) are trying to determine exactly how much time they have to save what they can of humanity. Unaware that the fate of mankind is being decided by the politicians and those with money, Jackson and his children soon find themselves rushing to stay alive, with his ex-wife Kate (Amanda Peet), and her boyfriend in tow. Jackson learns of a plan to save select members of the population and pins their very survival on being able to arrive at what they hope is their salvation before time runs out.

Spectacular effects follow as Los Angeles and other cities are swallowed up by massive sinkholes and buried under collapsing bridges and buildings in some of the most amazing sequences of mayhem and destruction ever captured on film. The movie does an amazing job of showing the absolute calamity and chaos and does a passable job with the relationships between the characters. There are some nice supporting performances from Thandie Newton and George Segal. It is just a shame they were not given a bit more to work with. The cookie cutter scenarios that many characters faced seem to have been lifted from the book of disaster film plots.

I did not go into the film expecting realism, as I fully expect the world will go on as normal on December 22, 2012. However, I did have to note some of the absurd developments that strained any semblance of credibility the film may have had. One such scene had the characters being flooded and trapped for an extended period of time by water. Since their locale was near Mt Everest, I had to assume that it was not warm spring water they were submerged in, and had to wonder if hypothermia just went the way of most of the human populace.

Then again, we were dealing with a heated core that was essentially melting the earth’s crust. So maybe the water was warm.

As with all disaster movies, I do have to remember the audience is asked to suspend all disbelief, at least for 160 minutes. While the film does take some vast leaps of logic, there is enough good action, special effects, and strained levity to make this a good distraction, as long as you are willing to check your brain at the door and just enjoy the ride.

3 stars out of 5

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