When it all comes down to it, humanity is but a representative mix of people of different abilities and talents. The smart, the rich, the artistic, the organizers and planners, and the determined with the chutzpah to match. Framing this cross-section of personalities are cold practicality that makes the toughest of decisions and compassion, yin and yang in perfect balance. It may not be entirely realistic, but it makes for satisfying storytelling anyway.
We also get to see how people will do whatever it takes to ensure the children are the first to be rescued. Self-sacrificial acts abound, though sometimes the choice is only between a rock and a hard place. And often, there is no chance at all. It wouldn't be a disaster movie otherwise, and in this one, there is no stopping the destruction of ol' dependable terra firma itself in its entirety.
The destruction on screen is at a scale never seen before in special effects. The magnitude is truly awesome as the earth's crust breaks apart in city-block sized chunks. It's a jaw-gaping spectacle as a tsunami engulfs the Himalayan mountain range and washes away a whole monastery perched on one of the higher tips. The whole effect plays on our sense of scale such that a whole building or structure that looks imposing close-up is a mere insignificant speck at a great distance away, and that distance is required to view the devastation Armageddon brings.
But placing the camera at this distance would not cause us to care what was happening if we didn't have Jackson and his slightly dysfunctional family to root for. This was the fatal flaw in "The Day after Tomorrow" in which the plot was too tightly focused on the fortunes of just one family group, but thankfully, there are lots more story threads and lots more points of view to observe in 2012. And miraculously, the loose ends do tie up at the end quite neatly so happy ending after all, such as the circumstances allow.