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The 1 sci-fi thriller you need to watch before it leaves Netflix this month

In a most disastrous year, 2012 is a movie that is both perfectly suited to the times and hilariously mistaken about the future.

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To say 2020 has been a year of disasters is a cliche. It is also very true. Seven months into a pandemic and there's still that unshakable feeling that everything going wrong will only get worse. Which is why it's fun (?) to look back on times we thought disaster was imminent, and we made them into rollercoasters.

2012, a 2009 epic disaster movie from disaster movie extraordinaire Roland Emmerich, is an exceedingly dumb, exceedingly long, and exceedingly fun movie that riffed on the late 2000s paranoia of the Mayan calendar apocalypse. Yeah, remember that? Watching 2012 now in 2020 is a hell of a reminder of when our doomsday scenarios seemed both more dire and more innocent.

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2012, with its all-star cast featuring John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, and Danny Glover as a now-impossible-to-imagine capable and empathetic President of the United States, is the movie you need to watch on Netflix before it leaves at the end of September.

To describe 2012 is to describe insanity on its own terms. The movie takes the (wildly misinterpreted) Mayan calendar end date of December 21, 2012 as the inciting incident for the Earth's core to implode, causing violent tectonic shifts. That basically translates to "earthquakes, everywhere." Bridges fall, Yellowstone is engulfed in fire, and cities sink into the sea. At one point, sewage covers Cusack's getaway limo, a harsh metaphor for how the movie thinks of itself.

John Cusack and Morgan Lily star in '2012' (2009).Sony Pictures Entertainment/Kobal/Shutterstock

The film, like many of Emmerich's blockbusters, boasts an ensemble cast of characters who meet when the plot demands. But its two "main" protagonists are Adrian (Ejiofor), a geologist and chief advisor to the U.S. President, and Jackson Curtis (Cusack), a science fiction writer who is emotionally losing his kids to their stepfather. As Curtis races to get his family to safety alongside a Russian billionaire (!!??), Adrian attempts science to save humanity.

Look, it's all very silly. Not only because it's 2012 and no one has a smartphone, or that Cusack's kid plays a PSP. Or that Danny Glover's President exudes palpable dramatic weight you believe a sitting President would stay behind and not board a billion-dollar ship I'm calling "Noah's Ark Force One." At this very moment on my personal Facebook, a friend from college is refusing to believe Trump could say that fallen veterans are "losers." 2012 is a ridiculous fantasy not because of the disastrous earthquakes but because it has a President who takes the job seriously.

2012 is like having an emotional conversation mid-loop at Six Flags.

When the Earths crumbles in 2012, it looks and feels like a series of 3D amusement ride set-pieces. (If you're at all like me, 2012 will make you yearn for a trip to Universal Studios. Freaking coronavirus!) Consequently, 2012 is at odds with itself, unable to achieve a consistent tone throughout its highs and lows. Sometimes both at once, it attempts eye-popping spectacle with heartfelt drama; distant families is a predominant theme made literal when fault lines crack between characters. 2012 is like having an emotional conversation mid-loop at Six Flags.

2012 is a bad movie. I love 2012. It is not a movie I revisit often, because, as its characters come to learn, time is precious and shouldn't be wasted. (By the way, the movie is two and a half hours long.) And when it comes to John Cusack, I'm a bigger fiend for Serendipity. But there's a boneheaded charm to 2012 that I've only unearthed now. 2012 isn't the smartest kid in the classroom, but you're entertained by the flashy effort of its oral presentation. Even if it is all junk science.

You have until September 30 to watch and enjoy 2012 on Netflix. There's still time. But don't wait too long. You only have until the end of the world.

2012 is streaming now on Netflix until September 30.

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