Ladies and Gentlemen - I am pleased to announce that it's the end of the world again. You are all going to die unless you and your photogenic family are the focus of a $200 million mega movie. Then you can narrowly zip between collapsing skyscrapers in a toy-plane, overtake rapidly developing faults in the earth's crust in a stretch-limo, and jump across chasms in an RV.
You can climb aboard a modern day Noah's ark and dodge tsunamis to emerge into a beautiful, post apocalyptic, sun-decked world. And you can smile at your future with beatific optimism a la
Manoj Kumar overlooking the toiling serfs in "Mere Desh Ki Dharti". But if you are not the star of a Roland Emmerich film, boy, are you in a nasty soup.
With 2012, Roland Emmerich gets off again on a replay of his favorite cataclysm fantasy. Whatever the reason, long dormant volcanoes begin shuddering in their craters like zombies clamoring to be let out, the earth begins to heave and crack, and the sea rises in skyscraping waves to swallow land.
We've seen the CGI before in Independence Day, Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow
. But I guess we missed that particular wave gobbling a cruise-liner, or exactly that aircraft carrier crashing into the White House, or even that multi-level parking-lot flicking cars onto the road like Tazos. Emmerich resurrects the end of the world again, it seems, for exactly these precious details. Not much else has changed.
Like before, disaster seems to have an inordinate preference for the developed world. Plus touristy hotspots on the remaining globe. When the overheated sun boils the earth's core due to a galactic re-alignment, it is Los Angeles, Washington DC, Vatican City and Rio De Janeiro that are first hit.
Emmerich could have treated us to some variation with a sub-Saharan or Middle-Eastern theme, but he clearly prefers knocking over the Washington Monument or razing the Las Vegas strip. When the poles of the earth re-align, one of them ends up in Wisconsin. Not sure how it works, but why not give good old Mumbai a chance, or Hyderabad - or even Rumpachoodavaram, AP? Last I checked, geology and politics were still rather divorced disciplines. The presence of Indian mining-engineer Satnam (Jimi Mistri), who is the first doomsayer, is a nice touch. Then again, you wish his broken accent and surroundings were not so Indiana-Jones-and-the-Temple-of-Doom exotic.
So, it is Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), a divorcee and writer from Los Angeles, who has his hands on the joystick in this disaster flick. He finds out on a camping trip with his kids that the world is coming to an end. And that the government has a diabolical conspiracy to cover it up, whisking away only the richest and most influential in a fleet of arks, while the rest of humanity perishes without warning. The cost of rescue is one billion euros. What the powers-that-be intend to do with the one billion Euros after the earth has been thoroughly mutilated is anybody's guess.
So Jackson steps on it and whisks his family past a Pompeii-style volcanic eruption, a mother of all earthquakes, and an Atlantis-style sinking of most inhabited land. Through some spectacular, but deja-vu
-inducing CGI, he flies them across the planet to the ark-boarding point in China. Tribute to Chinese manufacturing skills is duly paid with awed observations on how they stacked up the monstrous fleet in record-time.
Of course, when the end of the world is near, can moral debate be far behind? Is it right, ask Curtis and Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Elijofor), chief security advisor to the President of the USA, that the escape route is only open to the stinking rich? The amoral Presidential Chief of Staff, Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), is happy to wave a lacy kerchief at the have-nots before taking off on his luxury ark, with barely a sniff of regret. But Helmsley and Curtis together play Moses to cure the misguided ships of their depravity.
A lot of implausibly narrow escapes later, a small population of humans and a menagerie of giraffes, elephants and other fauna is delivered to the new world.
2012 has its fair share of finding-lost-love routines in the background of the crash and burn. When you are about to be slammed to death by a 1000ft seismic wave, it's nice to have someone to kiss goodbye. Hurried family bonding and making up with past lovers in the face of extinction is the gentle touch Emmerich could never resist.
All in all, a good ride for all disaster-philes out there who whoop with pleasure in the shadow of crumbling skyscrapers and great, gray walls of water. But if you are the kind who gets jaded quickly and have seen The Day After Tomorrow, you're good. Pass it along.