Wait!! He’s got top billing! We can’t leave him behind!

Theatrical Release Date: 11/13/2009
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Tom McCarthy, Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover, Liam James, Morgan Lily

Roland Emmerich and his never ending string of apocalyptic films are back! This time, he turns to the Mayan prediction that our demise will come in 2012 as the vehicle to use more computer generated effects than you can shake a stick at.

Like James Spader, Will Smith and Dennis Quaid in prior films, it’s now John Cusack’s turn to represent humanity in tough times. Or as I’ve been putting it, the tagline for this should have been “Watch John Cusack outrun the apocalypse!”

The beautiful thing about Emmerich’s films is that the audience knows that they’re there for a ride. It’s dumber to bring your analytical mind into the theater than it is to buy the ticket in the first place. Even though they try to develop characters and weave some fantastical tale, what we’re looking for is to watch the latest in CGI destroy famous landmarks and scrub the face of humanity off of the map.

To that end, “2012″ is a great success. Buildings topple, explosions abound and water washes away everything in its path. I would have personally liked to have seen more destruction, and fewer landmarks get the on-screen axe than you might think, but I appreciated little touches like killing old ladies driving too slow to outrun the gaping hole opening up in Los Angeles.

Cusack and his family travel on foot, by car, plane and boat (Dr. Seuss would be proud) to escape the path of destruction. Most times they are doing so, they are inches away from annihilation and the sheer luck by which they avoid certain death had myself and much of the audience laughing out loud. I’m not sure that’s supposed to be the reaction but what else can you do when events keep happening on-screen which are far too fantastically unrealistic? And all that fantastic unrealism takes place in … wait … 158 minutes? What the???

Yes, you read that right. That escapist need you plunked your hard earned money down for will also cost you over 2 and a half hours of your time. That’s 13 minutes longer than “Independence Day” and the problem herein lies in the fun factor involved. At least when Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum were repelling alien invaders, they had Randy Quaid trading in his crop duster for a F-16 and President Bill Pullman delivering a rousing yet corny monologue. Here, we get a wacky Woody Harrelson (who’s far more fun in “Zombieland“) and President Danny Glover – and while I’ve got nothing against either, it just wasn’t as cheesy or fun (and the big monologue goes to Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character).

Now I will readily admit that I thought I’d be bored for much of this extra time but Emmerich managed to keep the pace high so I thank him for that. But still, the bottom line is that it should only take an hour and half to explode and destroy all the pretty locations in the world as our hero narrowly avoids what should be completely unavoidable obstacles, all the while saving his family in the process. That extra hour comes from a two-pronged script misstep. First, there’s the extra plot development tied into secret government preparations that comes about once the world starts to end and second, there’s all the needless talking amongst the cast of characters. We don’t care what these people have to say, we just want them to either escape or be crushed by the hand of an angry Mother Nature.

I love mindless effects films as much as the next person and there were plenty of disaster scenes here to fill that proclivity. However, I would also have liked the extra time to meditate and reflect on my life and where it went wrong so I can only give “2012″ a 2.5 out of 5. There are plenty of films that are actually shorter but somehow feel longer but at least then I have real time left to question that film choice with – here, I lost the time irregardless. The film does what we want it too … only it does a little too much of it.