I'm not sure why it is – perhaps he was bullied at school? – but Roland Emmerich appears to have it in for planet Earth. In Independence Day (1996) he had aliens come and raze the cities of the world, while in The Day After Tomorrow (2004) Mother Nature finally got her own back and went all enviro-mental on our asses.
Now in his latest blockbuster, 2012, Emmerich has used the myth of the Mayan calendar's predicted cataclysmic solar event in the year 2012 as his starting point for wiping out almost the entire population of Earth. Well, all those not fortunate enough to be part of their nation's government at the time or able to cough up the 1 billion euro required to purchase a seat on one of the arks built to house these “survivors”.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. The arks don't come into play until around the 90-minute mark with almost an hour still to go (groan!). Emmerich may have it in for Earth, but at two-and-a-half-hours, he's not letting her go quickly. That said, while 2012 may be butt-numbing it isn't, surprisingly, mind-numbing.
That's thanks in no small part to the casting. Instead of your typical action heroes we get the likes of fine actors such as John Cusack, as a failed author and father trying to do good, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, as a scientist who seems to have studied at the Sidney Poitier School of Humanity. Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson and Tom McCarthy (better known as the director of The Visitor and The Station Agent) are also along for the ride.
And it is a ride. Sure you'll guffaw at some set pieces – a stretch limo outrunning an earthquake – but you'll be gripped by others, for after years of practise, no one does apocalypse quite like Emmerich. 2012 may be big but it's not dumb. Silly, yes, but not dumb. Michael Bay take note.