The most common retort one gets when talking negatively of a film clearly intended to be consumed with a tub of popcorn and a brain switch in the off position is "Why can't you just enjoy the movie?" And I get that. I am the kind of viewer who can absolutely just sit back and let sights and sounds wash over them. But what some fail to understand is that even with the brain turned off, even with disbelief firmly suspended, some movies stink so ferociously that the stench wafts off of the screen, snapping even the most resistant critic to full alertness like a slap in the face by a glove spiked with smelling salts.
2012 is not immune to analysis simply because it is an openly absurd movie. Sure, it's about the end of the world taking place three years from now. Sure, it features some astounding special effects. Sure, it is in every way, shape, and form a popcorn tub movie. And sure, you know from the trailer alone whether or not you're game for yet another disaster porn movie from The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day director Roland Emmerich. But what the willing don't inherently know, and this is the most crucial piece of information one can be equipped with before hand, is that 2012 is 158 minutes long.
Granted, one would expect the end of the world to take more than 90 minutes, but the biggest failing of 2012 is that it barely has enough story to span half an hour, yet alone two more beyond that. Sign up for all the California-sinking, supervolcano-erupting mayhem you want, but what you're signing up for comes packaged with banal, one-dimensional characters who are only ever allowed to spew groan-inducing dialogue like so many fireballs from a, well, supervolcano. And considering the spectacle is unfortunately a fraction of the length, the audience is given more than enough time to wonder how so much mediocrity came to be from such talented people.