Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) works for the United States government, and he has received some alarming news on a trip to India: astrophysicist Dr Satnam Tsurutani (Jimi Mistry) has worked out that neutrinos from the sun are about to cause some major upheavals on Planet Earth. Helmsley heads back to Washington with his concerns, but has to persuade the President's right hand man Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt) that the world is in danger of catastrophe in three years. Those years go by and the powers that be have been planning for what now seems inevitable, but writer Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) has had an idea of what was going to happen for some time...
Ever since the disaster movie made a comeback in the nineties, Hollywood has been upping the stakes to create bigger and better cataclysms, so it was natural that the end of the world should come along sooner or later. Step forward Roland Emmerich, the director who dedicated himself to blowing up things good, real good, on a massive scale, and latched onto some half baked "prophecy" about the Mayan calendar which some had been using for the latest end of the world predictions that come along every few years. This provided all the excuses he needed to set in motion a melodrama which told us yet again that things looked bleak for humanity.
But really, what Emmerich was tapping into was not the oh dear, what a tragedy that we're all going to die line of thinking, but the doomsayers' relish of such a concept: not so much "oh dear" but "hell, yeah!" As depicted here, if it wasn't for all the mass death then this apocalypse would be a great idea, and that's being charitable as there's a sneaking suspicion that the film believes it wouldn't be a proper armageddon without all that loss of life as well. Couple that to some Biblical imagery, notably missing from the Mayan view of things, and you have an extremely morally dubious basis for the story and indeed the action. Sure, there are frequent times where everything halts for a big conscience-raising speech, but that merely gets in the way.
So if you wanted to give into your desire to witness most of the population of our planet expire - as long as it wasn't anybody you actually liked being killed, of course - then 2012 was the blockbuster for you. This feeling turned out more prevalent than many would care to admit, as it seemed the more people dead in your disaster movie the bigger the hit, something that could be traced back to Emmerich's Independence Day, and here he was only too happy to oblige with the computer generated spectacle. On those terms, this was perfectly enjoyable as long as you didn't allow your doubts to ask you what it was precisely you were enjoying about the demise of billions, but it didn't appear to have troubled Emmerich and company either.
So sit back and wallow in all that rubble, all those explosions and earthquakes, and all those screaming souls, which would be easier to take if there were not so many people - real people, not those in the movie - who would welcome such events, as long as they were among the saved, naturally. As it was we were asked to identify with Cusack's fictional family who have been split up as his ex (Amanda Peet) has moved in with another man, immediately presented as unworthy of survival because he's a cosmetic surgeon. There's a puritanical streak as to who makes it to the end and who does not; let's just say you're OK if you're a child or a dog, but it doesn't do you any good to be Russian. For some reason we see Queen Elizabeth II and her corgis getting away as well, one of a handful of welcome gags which suggest that this is not to be taken entirely seriously - yes, it's junk, but you can't dine on salads every night. Music by Harald Kloser and Thomas Wander.