Directed by Roland Emmerich
Runtime: 158 min.
Directed by Richard Kelly
Runtime: 116 min.
FOR ALL THE elaborate apocalyptic imagery in Roland Emmerich’s latest F/X marathon 2012, there’s
not a single witty or memorable sight. Not much story either: U.S.
geologist (Chiwetel Ejiofore) discovers that the Earth’s crust is
shifting due to enormous solar flare eruptions. Neutrinos heat up the
Earth’s core “like a microwave,” which gives Emmerich’s CGI team the
chance to design various destruction scenarios. It’s a demolition field
day—breaking landmarks from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., to the
Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.
destruction derby is extended through multiple subplots that string
together the Chicken Little geologist, a divorced-dad novelist (John
Cusack) and his estranged family, an end-of-days radio kook (Woody
Harrelson) and, oh yeah, another black President of the United States
president’s daughter (Thandie Newton) is involved with saving the
Louvre’s art treasures—key to a government conspiracy plot that
involves Princess Diana’s death and the secret construction of
is super-banal and so are its special effects. All the crumbling and
explosions that looked so cool in the TV commercials go by extremely
fast.Videogame style replaces logic and physics. It lacks the
imaginative weight of the disasters Spielberg visualized in War of the Worlds that
conveyed a scary sense of reckoning. For critics who objected to
Spielberg’s evocation of 9/11, Emmerich’s catastrophes are
blame-free.They also lack the subversive, psychological pull that made WOTW and Final Destination 3 so magnificently surreal, powerful and cathartic.
King of the Dumbed-Down Blockbuster, Emmerich (Independence Day,The Day After Tomorrow) confuses
asinine storytelling with populist escapism. He’s more manipulative
than craftsmanly—always saving dogs, killing off low-wattage co-stars
and stretching credulity to the point that, to give in, commits one to the illicit
destruction of cinema. Strangely, Emmerich’s shamelessness parallels
Richard Kelly’s enervated take on sci-fi horror in The Box, another over-long genre botch.
Kelly, king of dumbed-down nihilism, takes a short Twilight ZoneTV episode,
“Button, Button,” and extends it unendurably—to the point that there’s
no longer any moral snap to the story of an American couple (Cameron
Diaz and James Marsden) accepting a million dollars to activate a box
that will kill a stranger.
course, Kelly’s into serious grimreaping, unlike Emmerich’s hackwork,
but they both get the same demoralizing result. Each film features a
scene where a child is isolated from its parents and tormented with
possible abandonment or death. Kelly literalizes it by detailing the
child’s sensory deprivation, and that’s essentially what Emmerich does
to the popcorn audience.