But something happened to me about midway through this film. I was chugging along fine, enjoying the heck out of Woody Harrelson's fantastically OTT madman, confidently predicting that the fate of mankind would come down to John Cusack's daughter learning to stop wetting the bed and laughing at the idea of a camper truck outrunning a pyroclastic flow travelling at roughly the speed of sound. But then scene after scene of gorgeously rendered chaos and death started and I got tired, and then I got turned off. Somewhere about the time that the spirited Russian tart-with-a-heart gets needlessly drowned I actively began to hate the film. And at the final shot - with the white, middle class family dressed in Gap-casual wear staring into the sun on their way to taking over Africa, I began to loathe the whole nasty, squalid, shitty little film. At least when Knowing destroyed the world, it had the balls to actually do it. 2012 is bug-fuck insane, but also, ultimately cowardly.
Maybe I'm getting older, or maybe there was something rotten at the core of this movie, I don't know. I think there is something nasty, and almost confrontational about the amount cruelty in this picture. If this movie were a stand-up comic, it would be Andy Kaufman. 2012 is almost like an extreme performance art piece about how bleak and uncompromising Emmerich can make a major blockbuster. Even Chiwetel Eljiofar's big humanity speech plays into this, because he is essentially trying to convince us to care about a bunch of billionaires who bought their way on to the Ark and who we have been invited to hate for the entire film. This is who we are supposed to repopulate the earth with? I say let the whole lot drown.
I also have to respectfully disagree with Stephanie Zacharek, a critic I respect hugely and who writes for Salon. In her review of 2012, she said;
There are some moments of mild sadism in "2012," like the one in which a crowd of Indian refugees (including one of the movie's many ill-used actors, Jimi Mistri) cower in fear before being washed away by one of those tsunamis. But if "2012" isn't exactly cheerful, at least it doesn't have the sweaty, mean-spirited sheen of, say, Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds."
I couldn't disagree more. Despite its faults, War of the Worlds has far more humanity and respect for its characters than this piece of trash. Emmerich wanted to push you buttons. Spielberg was telling a story. One is an artist, the other a hack. That to me is the essential difference.