Originally Posted by Will_B
P.S. Sadly, the projection at the theater I was at sucked. There was some side-to-side shaking going on that softened what should have been razor-sharp special effects. If you can see this digitally somewhere, go for that instead of film.
That's what I would have thought going into it. But my dad's big into the 2012 end-of-the-world theories but not so much into waiting in line, so we went to the older multiplex in the area which has some larger screens but only a couple that are digitally equipped. For the change, the film projection was reasonably sharp and it was worth trading off digital for a much larger, natively 2.39:1 screen. What an experience.
In terms of sheer spectacle, Emmerich has really outdone himself here. On that front, I doubt he'll ever be topped. From a story perspective, I actually thought this was a lot more ambitious than ID4. Are there parts that are ridiculous? Of course; we're talking about a family that basically outruns the end of days. Emmerich gives the picture just enough of a wink and a nod to acknowledge the ridiculousness and otherwise plays it quite straight. I appreciated the global perspective, with a very "Heroes" season one feel (but with major motion picture polish). Most of the actors are terrific here, considering what they have to work with. John Cusack plays his usual type of character, the kind we've gotten from "Say Anything" through "High Fidelity", which proves very interesting in a completely different sort of film. Danny Glover plays the unnamed president who provides a visual stand-in for Obama but is written to strike a very different note: sort of a non-partisan Jed Bartlet . Glover infuses the role with incredible warmth and dignity, combining the honest wholesomeness of a Jimmy Carter persona with the eloquent authority of a Ronald Reagan. In the second half of the film he makes a decision that serves as probably the least plausible moment in the film but the one we'd like to believe our president would make. That out of the G8 leaders only he and the Italian prime minister make the decision rings far more true. Chiwetel Ejiofor, as mentioned by Will, is fantastic. He was fantastic in 'Serenity', too. A true actor that takes all of his roles seriously. Thandie Newton, criminally underrated (except for her awful impersonation in Stone's awful Dubya biopic), plays off him wonderfully in a role of few scenes. In the wrong hands, the first daughter could have come across as whining and naive. Not in Newton's. Amanda Peet usually drives me crazy, and was the thing I was dreading most about this picture. I needn't have worried; she's a vanilla mom here and leaves more of her irritating quirks at home for this role. Oliver Platt's ambiguous high-ranking White House official sounds like a beer but looks like Bill Richardson. He fulfills James Rebhorn's Albert Nimzicki asshole function here, but has a few scenes sprinkled throughout that give his character greater complexity and humanity than Rebhorn's character in that 1994 blockbuster. Woody Harrelson's amazing in everything, so it's not surprise that he makes the stock conspiracy theorist character here amazing, too. The Russian characters are a lot of fun, and generally fleshed out far more than you'd expect for non-American characters. My favorite, though, was the Russian pilot played by Johann Urb. who knew the intimidating Russian heavies could be more entertaining as good guys than bad guys? Cusack's character's son is played by Liam James, seen weekly as young Shawn in the 1980's flashbacks that open every episode of "Psych". He's really effective there and he's quite good here. You see him work through his conflicting impulses toward his father, instead of being all jerk or all loving. Anyone who has seen "Henry Poole Is Here" should not be shocked that Morgan Lily is terrific as Cusack's character's seven-year-old, bed wetting daughter. She has to be vulnerable and terrified here, and she does both very, very well. There's a surprising amount of good character stuff here, which is mostly built from cliches but tweaked just enough to be effective. Most of the science builds off or plays with real science, at least enough that the technical explanations seemed coherent and mostly plausible.