2012 is a 2009 American disaster film directed by Roland Emmerich. It was produced by Emmerich’s production company, Centropolis Entertainment and was distributed by Columbia Pictures. Filming began in August 2008 in Vancouver, although it was originally planned to be filmed in Los Angeles.
In 2009, Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), an American geologist, visits astrophysicist Dr. Satnam Tsurutani (Jimi Mistry) in India and learns that neutrinos from a massive solar flare are causing the temperature of the Earth’s core to increase. Adrian gives a report on this to White House Chief of Staff Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt) who ends up taking Adrian to meet the President of the United States.
In 2010, President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover) and other international leaders begin a secret project to ensure humanity’s survival. Approximately 400,000 people are chosen to board “arks” that are constructed at Cho Ming, Tibet in the Himalayas. At the same time, as the People’s Liberation Army are gathering volunteers, a Buddhist monk named Nima (Osric Chau) is evacuated while his brother Tenzin (Chin Han) joins the workers in the Ark project. Additional funding for the project is raised by selling tickets to the private sector for €3.333 million per person. By 2011, humanity’s valuable treasures are moved to the Himalayas under the guise of protecting them from terrorist attacks with the help of art expert and First Daughter Dr. Laura Wilson (Thandie Newton).
In 2012, Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) is a science fiction writer in Los Angeles who works part-time as a limousine driver for a Russian billionaire, Yuri Karpov (Zlatko Burić). Jackson’s ex-wife, Kate (Amanda Peet), and their children Noah (Liam James) and Lilly (Morgan Lily), live with Kate’s boyfriend, plastic surgeon Gordon Silberman (Thomas McCarthy).
Jackson takes Noah and Lilly camping in Yellowstone National Park. After an encounter with Helmsley, they meet Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson), who hosts a radio show from the park. Charlie plays a video of Charles Hapgood’s theory that polar shifts and the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar predict that the 2012 phenomenon will occur. He has a map of the Ark project, in addition to information about officials and scientists from around the world who were murdered after planning to alert the public. The family returns home as seismic activity vastly increases along the west coast of the United States. Jackson grows suspicious and rents a plane to rescue his family. He collects his family and Gordon as the displacement of Earth’s crust begins, and they narrowly escape Los Angeles as the city disintegrates and slides into the Pacific Ocean.
As millions die in catastrophic earthquakes worldwide, the group flies to Yellowstone to retrieve Charlie’s map, escaping as the Yellowstone Caldera erupts. Charlie stays behind to broadcast the eruption and is killed in the blast, which is expected to spread enormous, deadly dust storms throughout the surrounding states. Learning that the arks are in China, the group lands in Las Vegas to find a larger plane. They meet Yuri, his twin sons Alec and Oleg (played by Alexandre and Philippe Haussmann), girlfriend Tamara (Beatrice Rosen), and pilot Sasha (Johann Urb). The group secures an Antonov 500 aircraft and departs for China. Also heading for the arks aboard Air Force One are Anheuser, Helmsley, and Laura Wilson. President Wilson remains in Washington, D.C. to address the nation one last time. With the Vice President dead and the Speaker of the House missing, Anheuser becomes the acting commander-in-chief. President Wilson is later killed by a megatsunami that sends the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy crashing into the White House.
Arriving in China in a crash landing that kills Sasha, the group is spotted by the People’s Liberation Army. Yuri and his sons, possessing tickets, are taken to the arks, leaving Tamara and the others behind. They are picked up by Nima (Osric Chau), a Buddhist monk and are taken to the arks with his grandparents (Lisa Lu and Chang Tseng). They stow away on the ark with the help of Tenzin, Nima’s brother, who works as the ark’s welder. As the ark’s tailgate is lowered, Gordon is crushed by the gears, followed by Tenzin’s large impact driver. Yuri sacrifices his life to get his twin sons aboard in time, but the obstruction prevents the gate from closing, rendering the ship unable to start its engines. The tsunami arrives and begins to flood the ark, drowning Tamara and setting the ark helplessly adrift. Jackson and Noah work together to free the impact driver and its cable from the closing mechanism. The gate closes and the crew regains control of the ark before it collides with Mount Everest.
After flood waters from the tsunamis recede, the arks travel to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa where the Drakensberg Mountains have risen in relation to sea level and become the tallest mountains in the world. Jackson is rejoined with his family, and Helmsley starts a relationship with Laura. The final scene shows that Africa and some land masses remain above sea level.
The film received generally mixed reviews from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 40% of 2012 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.1 out of 10. Among the site’s notable critics, 49% gave the film a positive write-up, based on a sample of 34. The site’s consensus is that “Roland Emmerich’s 2012 provides plenty of visual thrills, but lacks a strong enough script to support its massive scope and inflated length.” Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 1–100 reviews from film critics, has a rating score of 49 based on 34 reviews.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone criticized the film by comparing it to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: “Beware 2012, which works the dubious miracle of almost matching Transformers 2 for sheer, cynical, mind-numbing, time-wasting, money-draining, soul-sucking stupidity.” Roger Ebert was enthusiastic about the film, giving it 3½ stars out of 4, saying it “delivers what it promises, and since no sentient being will buy a ticket expecting anything else, it will be, for its audiences, one of the most satisfactory films of the year”. Both Ebert and Claudia Puig of USA Today called the film the “mother of all disaster movies”.