No landmark is safe in Roland Emmerich’s latest disaster porno, the Independence Day man picking up where The Day After Tomorrow left off with a two-and-a-half hour deluge of global cataclysm that has everything from the Washington Monument to St Peter’s Basilica crumble into dust. California’s first to go, an earthquake sending Los Angeles tumbling into the San Andreas fault; not long afterwards, a volcano turns Yellowstone into a lake of lava. Soon Hawaii’s up in smoke, Asia’s underwater and the London Olympics are being suspended. In the words of John Cusack’s reluctant hero, “the whole goddamn world is going to shit!”
It’s not aliens or Mother Nature that are to blame this time, though, but an ancient Mayan calendar that gives mankind an end date three years from hence. That’s all the excuse that Emmerich and fellow writer Harald Kloser need for their Doomsday scenario, which sees Cusack and his family flee to China in the hope of blagging seats on the gigantic arks that government boffin Chiwetel Ejiofor has been constructing in the Himalayas. This he does with the aid of a limousine, a camper van and a Russian cargo plane, risibly inappropriate vehicles that nonetheless manage to outpace the calamities that follow him everywhere he goes.
2012 is fine when buildings are tumbling, tidal waves are crashing and the White House is being totalled by an up-ended aircraft carrier. It’s in the downtime that the film suffers, mostly due to monotonously similar interludes involving tearful farewells delivered over miraculously still-functioning cell-phones. Cusack’s remarkable capacity to always be in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time also stretches credulity, while a subplot about two ageing crooners on a Poseidon-style ocean liner is as tedious as it is pointless. For all we care about George Segal and his friend, they might as well be called Collateral and Damage.
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Had Emmerich whittled down his overstocked cast and downsized the soap opera, this really would have been a case of Apocalypse Wow. If you’ve an appetite for destruction, though, it’ll still send you home with a smile on your face.