Roland Emmerich destroys the world (again).
That’s the plot of this movie. But the movie doesn’t let us off that easy. No, it wants to come up with a “plausible” reason for city-swallowing earthquakes to appear everywhere and for the oceans to rise to cover the Himalayas. There’s talk of solar flares, neutrino emissions, and “mutanted neutrinos affecting the earth’s crust” and even more gobbledygook. Just call it a weird solar flare and be done with it.
The special effects in the first half of the movie are outstanding, with limo driver/author/estranged family man John Cusack having to outrun a Los Angeles earthquake that’s trying to swallow his ride along with all the local hot spots, monuments and donut shacks. That scenario of having to outrun disaster is repeated more than a few times: Cusack, who switches from limo to small plane with his ex-wife Amanda Peet and their two kids plus her new boyfriend a sort-of weekend pilot, has to get the plane up to speed before they run out of runway and are gulped down by the earthquake. Later Cusack, driving a Winnebago, has to outrun flaming boulders chucked up by an exploding Yellowstone volcano. Still later, Cusack is on a bigger plane in Las Vegas that….
The scenarios are so “later, rinse, repeat” that they become laughable. Yes, once again, the daylight special effects are exceptionally well done - the buildings, autos, smoke, flames and fire, and shattering earth all looked amazing. But when the world gets dark and cold – and the visual effects pixels are handed off to other effects house – the effects are less special, particularly the water-based stuff at the end.
Typical of all Roland Emmerich productions, perhaps save Stargate, the characters are thin and we get the especially tired relationship scenarios: there’s always the guy estranged from his wife and kids, the guy taking the place of the father in the kids’ eyes, the daughter or son estranged from their parent(s). It’s like there’s a template for this kind of movie.
At the very least they could and should lighten up things with some humor, especially if you have a cute as a button little girl as one of the cast (the fact that she likes to wear hats, and wears a few goofy ones was one of the few successful attempts at humor). Yes, it’s the end of the world, but if Schindler’s List could have appropriate moments of humor a dumb movie about the world blowing up real good could seem less self important and loosen up a little.
If you rent this do not hesitant to use the fast forward button on your DVD or DVR.