NB: This will have spoilers.
So 2012 has a metacritic score of 5.1 and a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 39%, but I would not let that dissuade you if you like things that blow up and incredible cinematic distillations of the postmodern world. This is not a movie for critics. This is a movie that takes the apocalypse movie to its logical, incredible, landmass-shifting conclusion. It is almost avant-garde in its total disregard for explaining how neutrinos destablize the earth’s crust, and its full-on repetition of the same dazzling sequence (and it is really dazzling, every time!) of racing to get a plane to take off before the runway crumbles away beneath it. This happens not twice, but three times. Every time, our embattled family that has been broken up by modernity and technology (Dad’s always at his laptop) is left to hold each other as they fly over another destroyed city. It would be cleverly meta if this movie were in any way capable of irony.
The grand political stuff rings sort of depressingly true if you get past all the silliness and bluster and the fact that Oliver Platt is the only evil politician in the entire world and the fact that they save humanity by building arks and that they manage to keep the end of the world a secret for years. (Also, why would they assassinate the director of the Louvre in the same tunnel where Princess Di was killed? And why would the newscast in the movie mention this?) They sell seats on the arks to the richest people in the world, and then they outsource the building to China, where they can just load cheap labour into trucks. So some small proportion of the first world weathers the earthquakes and tsunamis long enough to set a course for the land of the future, the new world — now the highest elevation on earth (because the tectonic plates all shifted?), and probably the only continent to avoid flooding: Africa. We’ll get it right this time!
I’m not arguing that all this genius was in any way intentional — not that the movie is made without skill, the effects are incredible and the action sequences are well-paced and easy to follow, all the actors don’t get in the way of all this (except Danny Glover, who is trying a little hard for gravitas), and it is in general adrenaline-tastic — but oh man, it is, in so many ways, the ultimate.