Before anyone asks, yes I have seen The Day After Tomorrow, and no, I didn't hate it. I didn't love it either, but there are certain things that I think you just have to go along with in a Roland Emmerich movie. Things like, the world will end, there will be some attractive heroes, and a majority of scenes will get the reaction "Come on!" in the most delightful way possible. Unlike Michael Bay who seemingly has no reasons for blowing things up except that he likes to watch them go "Boom!" Roland Emmerich at least tries to lay the groundwork for his love of destructing national monuments and entire cities. That groundwork is usually that the planet is in peril, but that humanity will always find a way to survive. I like his groundwork. I also like that he pretty much lays everything out on the table. Nothing will be spared, but there's usually a fun journey to get to that point.
2012 is no exception. Except that with this one he throws in the kitchen sink too. The level of complete annihilation the world will have to endure if this Mayan calendar thing is right is so far beyond impressive that you want to shake both the science advisors and the special effects guys hands. In the action sequences, which I think are at least mildly impressive and slightly suspenseful (towards the end) there always comes a moment where it seems like you think to yourself "Ok now, they'll be alright" and then Emmerich throws in one little glitch, for good measure. It's like he was sitting back in post-production and his favorite motto was "it's not enough" and so they'd add just a little more.
This is a huge movie, and it feels like it. Sometimes with these movies you run the risk of a completely incoherent story (Transformers 2), completely ridiculous characters (Transformers 2) and terrible acting (Transformers 2). Basically you run the risk of it turning into a Jerry Bruckheimer produced and/or Michael Bay directed smorgasbord of sensory overload. But something about 2012 feels more like Independence Day than the recent summer blockbuster slumpers. The characters have heart, mostly, and the story moves along at a pace that doesn't feel sluggish, despite its 2 1/2 hour plus running time. I'm a John Cusack fan so you'll hear no complaints for me on the casting of Cusack in such an enormous film. He's got enough clout to carry this thing, but the good news is he doesn't have to. The standout for me was Chiwetel Ejiofor (who is quickly climbing my list of favorite actors) who always remembers he's an actor first and never gives a half-assed moment despite what could be seen as silly circumstances. With a slightly smarmy villainous turn by Oliver Platt (who I've loved since Disney's Three Musketeers) and a fantastic cameo by the on-fire Woody Harrelson, the story is able to take precedence over the effects.
I'm giving it 3 and 1/2 (out of 5) giant Russian planes. I don't think I can say it's better than Independence Day but it's certainly better than the Day After Tomorrow, and definitely worth a view on the big screen.