I saw 2012 last night at $1 Mondays at the Cinema and Drafthouse (but have no fear that i'm ripping off the movie industry because I paid a $20 bill), marking my 22nd film I've seen this year. Here are my thoughts:
2012 was such a predictable disaster film that the audience is almost cued to watch it with a wink and a smile. Lines like "We're gonna need a bigger plane" are references to earlier films (Jaws in this case). The film shouldn't be applauded for being a parody because it clearly wasn't intended that way and it comes off more as a film that doesn't care much at all about characterization or being original. John Cusack's character I've seen before in Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds (older child despises him, younger child is too innocent to know the difference).
It didn't matter so much once the action hit because the special effects are the real treat of the movie and they certainly didn't dissapoint. Major points off for waiting 40 minutes to get to the special effects. Plot build-up and anticipation do work well in films like Jaws where the characters are interesting. The shots of a tiny single engine plane curving around crumbling towers and building is pretty cool and 40 minutes in, the picture gets interesting. The action also redeems the lack of characterization. It's the way that people react to an enormous disaster of global scale (in this case, the apocolypse) that defines them and starts to make us care about them to the point where we're in suspense over what happens to them in the finale.
I would say it's a fun but not-so-memorable film except that it was made by Roland Emmerich who's basically made this same exact film twice before: Day After Tomorrow, and Independence Day. They all take on the fairly impossible task of trying to portray the entire planet as one large ensemble and squeezing the face of humanity in a single 2-hour scenario. The scenario involves large scale apocolyptic disaster. The running theme (along with save the Earth, it's fragile) is that people are defined and ultimately united by how they react to disaster. 10,000 BC is sort of a reverse apocolypse with a beginning of the world scenario (as I understand it, I haven't seen the movie.
With these films, he's practically written his own genre and people can compare how he handles the exact same plot three and a half times. The question is whether it's unoriginal. My argument there is that some directors make a lot of sequels and Emmerich has never done that.