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2012 (2009)

Sony Picture Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/2/2010

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/24/2010

What is Roland Emmerich's problem? That's not a rhetorical question, I really want to know? Why is he bent on seeing the Earth destroyed? Does he have a checklist of major landmarks which he'd like to see demolished? Throughout his career in movies like Independence Day, Godzilla, and The Day After Tomorrow, Emmerich has razed, flattened, and blown up famous locations and buildings from all points of the globe. His movies are like watching the worst travelogue ever. His latest movie, 2012, continues this trend, as the Earth's greatest enemy turns out to be the Earth.

The Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012. Because of this, some believe that this marks the end of time. 2012 opens in 2008 as scientists Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Satnam Tsurutani (Jimi Mistry) discover that unusual activity from the sun is causing the Earth's core to becoming much hotter than normal. Helmsley takes this information to politician Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), and he immediately made part of a team to come up with some sort of contingency plan. Meanwhile, failed author turned limo driver Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) is taking his kids (Liam James and Morgan Lily) camping in Yellowstone. Once there, Jackson crosses a government barrier and finds that a lake has dried up. He also meets Charlie (Woody Harrelson), a conspiracy theory nut who is convinced that the government is hiding the truth about strange weather phenomena. Curtis is intercepted by the military and meets Helmsley, who has actually read Curtis' book. Curtis returns to L.A. with his kids, and drops them off with his ex-wife, Kate (Amanda Peet). However, it's not long until L.A. is rocked by strong earthquakes and sink-holes begin to open everywhere. Meanwhile, Helmsley is now working directly with President Wilson (Danny Glover) and an evacuation plan is put into effect. It seems that part of the plan to deal with the crisis involves the safe-keeping of certain high-ranking officials. Curtis learns of this plan and attempts to get his family to safety.

As the film takes place in 2012, I guess that 2012 is an appropriate title. However, a better title would have been "Don't bother seeing this movie unless you plan on seeing it in the theater". I didn't see the movie in a theater, but I can only assume that seeing 2012 on a huge screen would be the only way to derive any pleasure from it. Why? Because outside of the main premise, you've got a movie which essentially has no story, and plays just like Emmerich's other movies.

Am I saying that if you've seen one of Emmerich's films, then you've seen them all? Not necessarily. Despite it's cheesy nature, Independence Day certainly has it's moments, but it also served as the blueprint for Emmerich's future films. What sets Independence Day and Godzilla apart from The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 is that in ID4 and Godzilla, there was an enemy for the humans to fight. 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow are simply disaster films -- there is some natural catastrophe and we watch the humans deal with it. Along with these last two films and his prehistoric epic 10,000 BC, Emmerich has fallen into a pattern of having stories where characters must make long journeys in order to save their loved ones.

Did I just say "story" in that last sentence? That would be an overstatement when it comes to 2012 in the first act, we learn that the Earth is going to boil itself into oblivion, and after that the movie turns into the porn version of a disaster film, as we are treated to one crumbling city after another, but no character development or notable plot twists. Every few minutes, there is another special effects orgy of collapsing buildings and explosions, which, again, I'm sure was breathtaking on the big screen. But, at home, I found myself constantly checking the running time. The movie has a great cast, but they are squandered by the lack of story and the mind-numbing dialogue in which they are forced to spout. And as with any film of this nature, as the film progresses, the story becomes less about escaping the disaster than about man's inhumanity towards man. And, of course, we get the realization at the end that we're all really the same.

With Stargate and Independence Day, Roland Emmerich's problem used to be that his films had great openings and great finales, but would sag in the middle. Today, he can't make a movie with any sort of cohesiveness. Instead of being advertised as movies, things like 2012 should be labeled as special effects demo reels.

2012 slides into the ocean on Blu-day Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look great and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture shows an impressive amount of depth and the level of detail is top-notch. The only knock here is that the clarity makes some of the special effects look questionable. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 25 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Here we have another great DTS track from Sony. The stereo effects are great, showing nice detail and proper separation. The surround sound effects are nearly constant, and the mix does a fine job of placing distinct sounds into each speaker. The subwoofer effects are wall-shaking good and really bring-home each explosion and earthquake. Another great transfer for a bad movie.

In a unique move, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released 2012 in two separate Blu-ray Disc editions. For the purposes of this review, only the single-disc version was screened. This version is relatively shorn of extras. "Picture-in-Picture: Roland's Vision" offers PIP comments from the filmmakers who pop up from time-to-time to discuss various scenes. We get an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Roland Emmerich and Co-Writer Harald Kloser. The only other extra is a 4-minute ALTERNATE ENDING which offers more character development...something which wouldn't feel at home in an Emmerich film. The two-disc version contains featurettes, documentaries, and deleted scenes.

Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long