Now, it's not fair play to critique a disaster movie, let alone an end-of-the-world flick, at least not on a point by point basis. Are there plot holes? Are there parts of the film that don't add up or make any sort of sense? Well, duh. That's par for course.
But how does it stack up to other films? That's the first question that popped into my head during the final moments of the happy, sunshine-filled conclusion of 2012. I'd say you could file this movie in with disaster films genre, cross-referencing it with the end-of-the-world crowd. For the sake of argument, I'm going to stack 2012 up only against it's end-of-the-world brethren, if only because it was so heavily advertised as such.
My list of end-of-the-world disaster films currently looks like this:
Reign of Fire
Dawn of the Dead (remake... I'm no critic, so leave me alone)
Everything else (including, but not limited to, Deep Impact (damn you Elijah Wood), The Day After Tomorrow (damn you Jake Gillen... Gilen... Jilenhall?... whatever), 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later (worse than its predecessor), Legion (although this wasn't bad), and I Am Legend (did not live up to expectations).
(Note: I am not including in this list dozens of science fiction films that deal with the aftermath of this devastation, because those don't count. World-ending disaster must be a primary plot point, not a jumping point for some deeper discussion of humanity. God forbid we use disaster flicks to move beyond stereotypes and actually explore the human condition under duress)
So where does 2012 rank? Well, not good. But not bad either. The Mayan-justifying apocalyptic movie falls well below Armageddon for failing to promote American exceptionalism (aside from a few acts of heroic stoicism on the part of the president, the Americans in the film are self-serving jerks. Oddly, those friendly red Chinese are our saviors in the end), lack of decent monster, overly optimistic view of humanity, less than realistic ending (I realize this is an end-of-the-world film, but if you're an apocalyptic movie fan, you know what is and what isn't a realistic ending).
John Cusack, however, is an unlikely hero. I'll give whomever produced the flick points for casting him in the role of yet another lovable loser trying to stitch his life back together as the Earth disintegrates.
Also, I enjoyed the film managed to combine many, if not all, elements of disaster films into one, 2+ hour showing.
We had a rain of hellfire, a la Armageddon/The Mummy(remake), we had tsunamis as in Deep Impact, we had fluctuating weather patterns from The Day After Tomorrow and something to do with the Earth's molten core like that other movie where they had to drill to the Earth's core and set off a nuclear warhead or something stupid and anyway South Park made fun of it.
To top it off, we even had a cruise ship rolling over after being struck amid ship by a rogue wave. Can you say Poseidon Adventure?
So yeah, I won't recommend it. I probably won't watch it again. And that's the true mark of a great, cheesy film. That you'll watch it again. How many times have I seen Armageddon? Too many to count. Reign of Fire? The same.
But maybe that says more about me than the film.