June 20, 2024
Peter Calder

"2012": Critics vs. Box Office (2 minute read)

"2012" is a disaster movie about a family trying to get on government-made ships to survive an extinction-level event.

Director Roland Emmerich is known for these sorts of films, with lots of action and physical stakes hanging in the balance. His other works include "Independence Day,"  "Godzilla," "White House Down," and "The Day After Tomorrow."

Another theme a lot of these films, including "2012", have in common is they do very poorly with the critics but smash through the box office in extremely high numbers. Why would a film that's so poorly reviewed do so well at the box office?  

There are a few things people need to see on screen to determine if they would enjoy the film and recommend it. Specifically, in this genre, the action plays a big part; people love to enjoy watching huge, long action sequences, fighting for high stakes. I mean, if you look at the top-grossing box office films of all time, they all have big, long action sequences. "2012" checks this box pretty consistently throughout the film.

Another attribute is the audience has to route for the character or characters in these high stakes. In "2012" case, we are rooting for the family to ultimately survive the oncoming devastation, and we're constantly feeling an up-and-down rollercoaster ride as they move through different obstructions to ultimately make that happen.  One of the movie's greatest strengths and, in part, responsible for its high box office result is also the visual effects; considering the film came out in 2009, the visuals were stunning. Of course, they had to be, though, because the majority of the film needed huge amounts of visual effects with all the action scenes. It is easy to see how "2012" checks all the box office needs, but what about the poor reviews?  

In large part, an important aspect of a film or TV show for a critic or a reviewer is every moment or second on screen must be needed for the story to move forward; if the story's not moving forward or there's a detail being shown that isn't necessary to the main theme and story, why include it? In "2012", there are a lot of scenes, characters and just screen time that isn't actually at all necessary; it also lengthens the film, so in a way, the juiciest and most important parts of the film are being diluted by unnecessary shots and details.

Another aspect of its lower critics reviews is the general cheesiness and cliches in the film. Although this is apparent, I think having cheesiness and cliches does help engage a wider audience range, and it makes the film more enjoyable for kids and families. 

The little kid inside of me really loved the film for the same reasons it did so well at the box office: lots of action, high stakes and characters you can latch on to and route for. On the other hand, it is also unrealistic, hard to believe, incredibly long and cheesy. I'll leave it to you to decide whether it's something for you to watch. 

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