Roger Ebert once wrote, "A lot of people just go to movies that feed into their preexisting and not so noble needs and desires: They just go to action pictures, and things like that." Now, I'm not saying that Ebert is wrong. On the contrary, I completely agree with this statement. But Ebert has always been very close-minded when it comes to movies. He tends to wear his Snob-Goggles while watching films, which leaves very little good opinion for "action pictures", as he says. All great, Oscar-worthy films tell a capturing and emotional story (ie, see A Beautiful Mind, Million Dollar Baby, No Country for Old Men, etc) but that does not necessarily mean that every capturing and emotional story will always be Oscar-worthy. A good story doesn't have to be complex, nor does it have to parallel the current state of our country or be dubbed "a true story". In fact, I am of the opinion that a good story, a good film, is one that instead does the opposite - or at the very least shows us how very much worse (or better, for that matter) our situation could be. 2012 does that, and is therefore, in my humble estimation, a good film.
I have always enjoyed Roland Emmerich's films. Independence Day is a complete, brilliant classic and you should probably back away slowly from anyone that tells you different. He's had some misses; don't even get me started on Godzilla and though I never saw 10,000 B.C., I did not hear great things. But I thoroughly enjoyed The Day After Tomorrow, perhaps even more so than 2012. That could have just been due to the movie's Gyllenhaal-shaped eye-candy, but 2012's yummy Russian pilot certainly held his own in the in that particular department. All in all, I would say that Emmerich's love for world-ending disasters is not a bad or far-too-repetitive thing, as some have claimed, but rather a great thing for those of us movie-goers who enjoy watching a intense three hours of our world going to shit. And it was a fun three hours. In fact, though I was sure I would need at least two bathroom breaks for such a lengthy film, I was far too enthralled with 10,000-feet tall tidal waves and with Yellowstone blowing it's top while the always-appreciated Woody Harrelson provided much-needed comic relief. I did not once get bored and my eyes were unceasingly and willingly glued to the canvas of destruction that was in front of me. They even teared up a couple times, I'm ashamed to admit.
This is not a spectacle film with no real, genuine story attached to it. This is spectacle film that portrays a world-shattering event and with some surprisingly smooth storytelling, follows around a few, very different individuals through that event. It is a very effect method, one that many other films have followed in the past, to show different angles of the same story. See, not all effect-heavy films are without a good story to give them credit. 2012 may not have offered up a great or original story, but it was a good story.
The point, along with the fact that this movie IS worth seeing in theaters, is that you do not have to walk out of every movie a better or different person than when you walked in. You don't have to remember the movie for the rest of your life - or even until the following day. A great movie doesn't have to be Oscar material to fulfill the purpose that movies have have since The Great Train Robbery in 1903; to entertain, to provide escape, to tell a story, to thrill an otherwise thrill-less audience. 2012 serves these purposes - John Cusack is just an added bonus.