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Roland Emmerich
John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt
Writing Credits:
Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser

We Were Warned.

From Roland Emmerich, director of The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day, comes the ultimate action-adventure film, exploding with groundbreaking special effects. As the world faces a catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions, cities collapse and continents crumble. 2012 brings an end to the world and tells of the heroic struggle of the survivors. Starring John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Woody Harrelson and Danny Glover.

Box Office:
$200 million.
Opening Weekend
$65.237 million on 3404 screens.
Domestic Gross
$166.112 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 158 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 3/2/2010

Disc One:
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Roland Emmerich and Co-Writer/Composer Harald Kloser
• “Roland’s Vision” Picture-In-Picture Feature
• Alternate Ending
• Previews
Disc Two:
• “Interactive Mayan Calendar”
• “Mysteries of the Mayan Calendar” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• “Designing the End of the World” Featurette
• “Roland Emmerich: The Master of the Modern Epic” Featurette
• “Science Behind the Destruction” Featurette
• “The End of the World: The Actor’s Perspective” Featurette
• Music Video and “Making the Music Video” Featurette
• “Countdown to the Future” Featurette
• PSP Digital Copy
• Previews
Disc Three:
• Digital Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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2012 [Blu-Ray] (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 1, 2010)

Normally I dread the passing of time, but I must admit I look forward to the dawn of the year 2013. Once we get there, we won’t hear any more about the alleged Mayan prophecy that predicts the world will end in 2012. That hype is already nearly as bad as the “Y2K” scare, but at least the fears of 1999 had some basis in reality; the 2012 thing is just kookiness.

Maybe I’d be less irritated about the “end of the world” nonsense if it generated better art. So far, unfortunately, I’ve yet to see anything related to the alleged impending apocalypse that impresses me. That roster includes the massive disaster flick 2012, an occasionally exciting but often messy adventure.

When scientists discover that solar flares are heating the earth’s core, this signals impending doom. Dr. Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) informs the American president (Danny Glover) that the planet’s crust will become unstable and eventually cause the end of the world, so the authorities set into motion plans to save at least a partial sampling of humanity.

Along the way, we meet unsuccessful novelist Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) and his estranged family. He takes his kids Noah (Liam James) and Lilly (Morgan Lily) on a trip to a national park and learns that something amiss may be on the horizon. Conspiracy-minded radio host Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson) seems like a kook, but he nails the facts this time, and he tells Jackson what he needs to do to survive. This sets Jackson and his family on a quest to stay alive as we also follow the disaster that befalls the rest of the world.

2012 may go down as the ultimate “jack of all trades” disaster movie. While other genre efforts concentrated on one form of calamity, 2012 tries to pack in all of them – or close to it. Earthquakes, crushed buildings, tidal waves, fires, volcanic eruptions, floods – you name it and 2012 has it.

While this seems like a recipe for constant excitement, it instead becomes too much. When a film packs such a relentless roster of mayhem, it overwhelms us. Granted, 2012 doesn’t literally subject us to non-stop disaster, but it often feels that way; it includes so many different elements that they soon cease to have much impact on us.

It doesn’t help that the film uses many supporting roles as little more than props for the Grim Reaper. Disaster movies, rarely boast good character exposition, but 2012 seems especially weak in that regard, especially in terms of these secondary parts. They clearly exist solely to milk some pathos along the way. This seems so obvious that we never invest in them; from the second we meet these folks, we know they’re there as little more than cannon fodder, so we don’t care about them.

Not that we give two hoots about the main roles, either. The flick sets up one-dimensional heroes and villains, with little room for gray area. The flick throws out the occasional slight curveball in terms of who lives and who dies, but not to a substantial degree. A good disaster movie kills off a big-name actor early to set the audience on edge; 2012 fails to follow that rule, so we never feel surprised about what happens to its characters.

(Okay, I admit I kind of cared about the Russian bimbo. However, that’s because she’s so devoted to her dog. I gotta dig anyone who loves her poochie that much!)

I could more easily forgive these flaws if 2012 delivered better action. I’ve enjoyed some of director Roland Emmerich’s earlier efforts like Independence Day and Godzilla; these weren’t great films, but they had enough excitement and action to make them entertaining.

Honestly, I don’t think Emmerich has been the same since he parted ways with longtime producer Dean Devlin. At their best, they weren’t great, but they still managed to make reasonably enjoyable flicks. On his own, Emmerich creates movies that come across as more mechanical and without as much pizzazz. The action scenes still have their moments, but they’re not as effective as in the past, and they don’t blend together especially well.

It might not help that 2012 blows its disastrous wad too early. The sequence in which Jackson and his family try to escape LA easily becomes the flick’s standout segment. It’s patently absurd but almost gloriously so, as it goes so over the top that we enjoy it in spite ourselves.

After that… yawn. Okay, “yawn” is a little harsh, but the film’s frequent attempts to overwhelm us with disaster and mayhem rarely do much to connect. Again, some of this stems from our lack of connection with the characters, but it also comes from the unwavering predictability of the presentation. After a while, most of the calamities blend together, so they lack impact.

Which is a disappointment. I grew up on the disaster flicks of the 1970s and maintain an affection for the genre, so I looked forward to the thrills and spills of 2012. Unfortunately, it couldn’t deliver a whole lot of excitement.

Casting footnote: I find the choice of Glover as president to be unrealistic. I don’t feel this way due to his race, of course – I’m pretty sure a certain “Obama, B.” established the validity of a non-white president. In this media-friendly age, I just can’t accept the election of a politician with such a severe lisp. Glover slurps his words so much that it’s like they sent Sylvester the Cat to the Oval Office.

Strange continuity goof: during the climax, the Russian bimbo’s dog ends up with Lilly. However, when the dust settles at the film’s end, the pooch is with the Russian billionaire’s kids, and they allow Lilly to hold the pup. Huh? I assume reshoots caused this gaffe, but you’d think someone else would’ve caught it. It makes zero sense for the dog to magically end up with the Russian boys when Lilly clearly takes ownership of him earlier in the flick.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio A+/ Bonus B

2012 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While usually satisfying, the transfer lacked the quality to make it great.

My main complaint related to shadow detail. Low-light shots usually came across as a bit too dense and murky. I speculated that this might stem from production choices, but the film offered enough clear dark shots to make the opaque ones more frustrating.

Otherwise, the transfer worked quite well. Sharpness seemed very good. A few slightly soft wide shots occurred, but the vast majority of the movie looked concise and accurate. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and I failed to notice any edge haloes. Source flaws also failed to occur.

2012 went with a stylized palette that favored subdued hues. A slightly amber tone dominated, with the occasional blue tint thrown in for good measure. The hues stayed natural enough to be satisfying. Blacks appeared dark and tight. Overall, this was a strong presentation, but the general darkness knocked down my grade to a “B”.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Roland Emmerich flick that failed to offer stellar audio, and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of 2012 kept that streak intact. Indeed, it might be the best of the bunch, as it provided a consistently broad and dynamic presentation.

It would be impossible to choose a standout moment. So many of the sequences packed such a strong sonic punch that none of them became better than the others. With crashing waves, earthquakes, crashes, zooming planes and cars, explosions and pretty much every other flashy piece of audio on display, this was a killer soundscape.

Audio quality lived up to the soundfield as well. Effects came to the forefront and presented excellent fidelity. All moments – both loud and soft – appeared concise and accurate, and low-end was simply stellar. Bass response always appeared deep and tight.

Speech was natural and distinctive, without edginess or other issues. Music occasionally threatened to become buried under the effects, but the score still managed to display good presence. The music featured nice range and clarity throughout the movie. This was a consistently terrific presentation that definitely earned my highest rating.

2012 delivers a hearty assortment of bonus features. On Disc One, we start with an audio commentary from writer/director Roland Emmerich and co-writer/composer Harald Kloser. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion of sets and locations, cast and performances, stunts and effects, music and editing, story and character notes, and a few other tidbits.

To say the least, prior Emmerich commentaries have been hit or miss – and they’re sometimes pretty awful due to Emmerich’s inarticulate grasp of English. While this chat doesn’t excel, it works better than expected, largely due to Kloser. He manages to keep things on-task and speaks enough to ensure that Emmerich’s verbal tics don’t become too much of a distraction.

I also like the commentary’s focus on story/character issues. I feared this would be a dry recitation of effects/technical areas, but we don’t hear a ton about those. Instead, we get a decent look at various creative decisions. At times this turns into basic narration of the film, but the commentary still manages to be reasonably informative. Maybe I liked it just because of my low expectations, but it nonetheless worked acceptably well.

Called Roland’s Vision, a picture-in-picture feature boasts a variety of elements. It presents shots from the set and behind the scenes materials as well as interview clips. In these, we hear from Emmerich, Kloser, co-producer/VFX supervisor Marc Weigert, producers Larry Franco and Marc Gordon, production designer Barry Chusid, special effects supervisor Mike Vezina, co-producer/VFX supervisor Volker Engel, and actors Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Danny Glover, Chiwetel Ojiofor, John Cusack, and Tom McCarthy. They cover genre specifics and story areas, cast, characters and performances, research and various effects, pre-viz, sets and production design, and a few other technical issues.

Many picture-in-picture features offer good details and include so much material that they nearly become feature-length documentaries. “Vision” falls far short of that level. Lots of movie space passes by without any information, and the notes provided often feel basic and without much to make them notable. Despite occasional useful moments, “Vision” lacks the consistency to make it a good use of time.

An Alternate Ending lasts three minutes, 39 seconds. It reveals that some presumed-dead characters survived, and it also adds a little denouement for the main folks on the ark. Its omission was a good choice.

A few ads open the disc. We get clips for Armored and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. These also appear under Previews along with promos for Did You Hear About the Morgans?, Angels & Demons and Planet 51.

Over on Disc Two, we begin with an Interactive Mayan Calendar. This breaks into three areas. “Mysteries of the Mayan Calendar” presents a three-minute, 53-second featurette to tells us a little about the lives and work of the ancient Mayans; it features remarks from Apocalypse: 2012 author Lawrence E. Joseph. “Mayan Personality Profiles” prompts you to enter your birthdate; from there it tells you simple “insights” about you. Finally, “Mayan Horoscope” throws out more info based on your birthdate; these are similar to fortune cookie texts. “Mysteries” is a decent program, but the other elements are pretty worthless.

Five Deleted Scenes fill a total of four minutes, 55 seconds. These include “Limo Drive with Twins” (0:33), “President Wilson Talks with Sally” (1:13), “Something Must Have Gone Wrong” (1:17), “Jackson Underwater” (0:57) and “Anheuser Apologizes” (0:55). Given the movie’s bloated running time, I’m surprised anything fell to the cutting room floor. All are utterly inconsequential, though at least “Wrong” allows Dr. Helmsley to show a little spark. (By the way, “Apologizes” depends on Disc One’s alternate ending to make sense.)

Five featurettes ensue. During the 26-minute, three-second Designing the End of the World, we find remarks from Emmerich, Cusack, Ejiofor, Newton, McCarthy, Gordon, Chusid, Vezina, Weigert, Engel and actor Woody Harrelson. Designing digs into a mix of visual areas, with an emphasis on effects and how the actors worked on virtual sets. This makes the program fairly dry, as it tends to stick with technical areas. Nonetheless, it investigates these issues pretty well and it gives us good notes.

We get more about the director in Roland Emmerich: The Master of the Modern Epic. The nine-minute, 30-second piece features Cusack, Glover, Ejiofor, Harrelson, Newton, McCarthy, Platt, Emmerich, Kloser, Gordon, Chusid, Weigert, and actors Bill Mankuma and Amanda Peet. As implied by its title, “Master” offers an ode to the film’s auteur. It tells us how wonderful and talented Emmerich is and praises him up the wazoo. Yawn!

We learn about the factual side of the fantasy in Science Behind the Destruction. This one occupies 13 minutes, 18 seconds with statements from Emmerich, Kloser, Gordon, Joseph, How to Survive 2012 author Patrick Geryl, USC Professor of Earth Sciences John Platt, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl author Daniel Pinchbeck, and Planetary Society co-founder Dr. Louis Friedman. The show investigates the scientific concepts featured in the film. This doesn’t make the story a whole lot more plausible, but I appreciate the insights into technical areas behind the tale. It also offers speculation about what’ll happen in 2012. That stuff’s less compelling, mostly because a couple of the participants come across like crackpots.

The End of the World: The Actor’s Perspective goes for seven minutes, 34 seconds and includes info from Emmerich, Cusack, Peet, Weigert, Kloser, Glover, Newton, Ojiofor, Harrelson, McCarthy, and Platt. The program includes a few minor notes about the cast, but mostly it just recites the credits and provides praise for all involved.

Lastly, Countdown to the Future goes for 22 minutes, two seconds. It includes material from Joseph, Geryl, Pinchbeck, Mayan shaman Don Carlos Barrios, and San Jose University Professor of Physics Dr. Friedmann Freund. Ala “Science Behind the Destruction”, this piece looks at the potential disaster that could come in 2012. Though longer, it repeats a fair amount of info heard elsewhere, and we the same crackpots as well. They take this whole Mayan “countdown” seriously; I don’t. I guess we’ll know who’s right in a few more years, but I’m guessing when December 22, 2012 rolls around, Geryl and other doom-n-gloomers will look pretty silly. (If I’m wrong, I’ll probably be dead and this website will be toast, so what do I care?)

Next comes a Music Video for Adam Lambert’s “Time for Miracles”. The glam Idol performs an insipid ballad that would seem better suited to one of his more country-oriented peers. The video itself is more action-oriented than most, as it plops Lambert among various disasters, some of which feature movie footage. Despite the mayhem, it’s a pretty dull video, and Lambert’s attempts to look sad just come across as weepy.

We learn more about this clip via the two-minute, 43-second Making the Music Video. In it, we hear from Lambert, Emmerich, and music video director Wayne Isham. We get some basic remarks along with shots from the video set. It’s little more than promotion for the song and the film.

Under Previews, Disc Two includes ads for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Michael Jackson’s This Is It, By the People: The Election of Barack Obama, and Breaking Bad. No trailer for 2012 shows up anywhere in this set.

Disc Three provides a Digital Copy of the film. As usual, this allows you to slap the flick onto a computer or portable device. Disc Two also features a digital copy meant just for PSPs.

As a fan of big, flashy action flicks, I looked forward to 2012. Unfortunately, it ended up as a disappointment. I can’t say I disliked the film, but it offered too much mayhem without much emotional impact or power. The Blu-ray presented generally good picture along with phenomenal audio and a collection of supplements with ups and downs. I wanted to like 2012 but found the result to be pretty forgettable.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2352 Stars Number of Votes: 85
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main