Near the end of what feels like a fourteen hour slog of a movie, U.S. Presidential aide Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt) exclaims, "Oh, for God sakes!" in reaction to some last minute do-gooderism. Though he plays a villain, you can't help but sympathize with the guy, for he's in a film where the moral centers - geologist Dr. Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the President's daughter (Thandie Newton) - pat each other on the butt for saving... five hundred extra billionaires. A few weeks later, after both of their fathers have suffered drowning deaths, Ejiofor and Newton are seen flirting and giggling about some future whoopie that will help kick start Human Race 2.0 by producing a baby of their own. Cut to Cusack, a tranny-looking Amanda Peet, and their kids out on the ship's deck sailing towards Africa (the only land mass still above water). Having already digested the horror of a billion corpses that are roting underneath, how does Emmerich bring a little human levity to this scene of cuddly characters? By dropping in a diaper joke, of course. Cue Adam Lambert song, roll credits.
Amazingly, critics seem to be giving 2012's ugliness a pass because they view it as a "popcorn spectacle", "formula done to perfection", and "a laugh riot". To be sure, it is none of those things, and you should stop reading any paid-per-word goofball who would go to print with such nonsense, but something that really sticks in my craw is how 2012 has come out of the critical gauntlet somewhat celebrated while Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has been regularly branded "one of the worst movies of the decade"? Look, both films are bad, but, damn, if I was forced to choose between Blu Ray copies of either, you can be sure I would be grasping at the hand which held Bay's monstrosity instead of Emmerich's.
Is it because critics take offense to T:ROTF's marketing of high-priced autos and high-thighed hos to an under PG-13 audience, but play pussy when Emmerich pops up with some of his phony eco-sensitivity? Or maybe it was the ghetto slang and gold toothed grins by two of T:ROTF's go-to comic relievers that rubbed the critics raw. Fine, but may I remind you that 2012 ends with a boat full of mainly super-rich white people sailing towards the continent of Africa. Neo-colonization fantasy anyone?? "Lighten up, man!". Trust me, I'm as light as they come, and I can get off on grandiose visual nonsense with the best of 'em, but if you're going to strap me in a seat for two and half hours, at least stimulate my senses. Heck, the animated "car chase" scene in G-Force was more magnanimous than one puff off of 2012. Even its most entertaining facet - the sub-plot of Woody Harrelson's militia-minded conspiracy rat - disappears way too soon.
It's understandable that a filmmaker would get all tickled-up and excited at the prospect of blowing up the world on film, but Emmerich simply takes this idea too seriously. What's worse, after deciding to go down that straight-lipped path, he plays the extinction of billions of humans completely wrong. No, I wouldn't expect any director to be able to bottle the genuine emotions of a plane full of people who are witnessing millions of their fellow citizens descend off the coast to their deaths, but could you at least try? I don't think I've experienced a more disturbing sequence this year than when plastic surgeon Gordon Silberman (Tom McCarthy) tries to guide a plane through a split-in-half building while people fall from all floors of torn cement and wiring. When out of the rubble, a punch line comes.
Psuedo-psychologists worry about the desensitizing effect of video game culture on our youth. I think they'd serve our society better if they checked up on the sensitivity of secluded millionaire filmmakers instead.