2012 (UK - BD)
Chris takes a look at the Blu-ray release of this Roland Emmerich disaster movie
In 2009, a young geologist by the name of Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) discovers that a new form of neutrino emanating from the sun is steadily heating up the Earth’s core. Believing that this will eventually lead to a series of cataclysmic events, he reports his findings to his superior, White House Chief of Staff Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), and eventually to the United States President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover). As other world leaders are apprised of the situation an unprecedented International endeavour begins—to create a number of ‘arks’, which will house some four hundred thousand people to ensure the continuity of the human race.
Fast forward to 2012 and we find failed author Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) working as a part-time limo driver for Russian billionaire Yuri Karpov (Zlatko Buric), while struggling to rebuild his relationship with his children after his divorce from their mother Kate (Amanda Peet). During one such attempt he takes the kids camping in Yellowstone National Park, where he encounters a fruitcake by the name of Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson) who informs him that the end of the world is nigh, as predicted by the Mayans thousands of years ago. Charlie also claims to have knowledge of secret government spaceships that are being created to save humanity, and although Jackson initially thinks he’s nuts his opinion begins to change when the military arrives and escorts them out of the park.
Back in Los Angeles seismic activity continues to increase along the West Coast, and Jackson becomes convinced that there is more to Charlie’s ramblings than he first thought. He arrives at his ex-wife’s house just in time to rescue her and her new boyfriend Gordon (Tom McCarthy) as Earth crust displacement causes massive earthquakes to tear the city apart. The group flee the destruction in Jackson’s limo, just barely making it to a nearby airfield where Gordon pilots them to safety as Los Angeles falls into the Pacific Ocean. Escaping to Yellowstone to find Charlie they learn that the ‘arks’ are being constructed in China, and after narrowly escaping the eruption of the Yellowstone caldera they set course for Las Vegas in order to commandeer a plane large enough to make the journey...
By this time I had pretty much lost the will to live. 2012 is not a good film; in fact, it’s not so much a film as a series of set pieces strung together with an excruciatingly hackneyed plot, appalling delivery of cringe-worthy dialogue, and an utterly implausible number of coincidental occurrences and scientific errors. I think it says a lot about a film when you can't even remember any of the character's names while you’re watching it, as was the case for me. All the usual stereotypes are in full effect, from the lowly scientist who just happens to discover the impending catastrophe before anyone else, through the conspiracy theory nut that just happens to be right, to the absentee single father who reconnects with his estranged wife and children (and there's even an uptight stepfather thrown in for good measure). It even adheres to the unwritten rule that a black President equals the end of the world.
Of course such adherence to American disaster movie tropes means that even though the planet is hit with literally everything from earthquakes and volcanoes, to tsunamis and douchebag politicians (all that’s missing is an alien invasion), the filmmakers refuse to kill dogs or fat Russian kids (but hot Russian girls are fair game). If they’d had the stones to kill off just one character that I was expecting to live (or vice versa) I would have been mightily impressed, but at no time did I feel like that was ever going to be an option. I will give credit for the spectacular scale of the destruction depicted in 2012, but even that was tempered by the fact that I knew it was all CGI and that almost every scene reminded me of a similar event in a better disaster movie ( Earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure, and Volcano all came to mind). I even enjoyed Knowing more than 2012, and that’s saying something...
2012 arrives with a 2.40:1 widescreen transfer (1080/24p AVC) that's just what you'd expect from a recent feature. The palette follows the recent trend of modern blockbuster movies, which is to say that it's incredibly stylised. Colours are generally very warm in the exterior scenes, with the resulting image looking like everything was shot at around dusk on a hot summer's day. Interior shots are much colder, with a steely-blue tint that gives them an almost antiseptic appearance. Contrast runs a little hot throughout, but again it's a stylistic choice. By way of comparison another modern disaster flick, Knowing, had a very similar look. Detail is predictably impressive for the most part, and although it's not quite up there with the very best I've seen it showcases the jaw-dropping scenes of destruction more than adequately. However, to echo the sentiments of Gabe Powers in his recent review of the US disc, there's a noticeable amount of digital smearing in a number of scenes. Back on the positive side, black levels are suitably inky and shadow detail remains good throughout. It's also a very clean transfer, with no truly obvious artefacts save for perhaps a light bit of posterisation. On the whole it's a very good effort, if not quite deserving of top honours.
Sony delivers yet another fantastic DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track for this Blu-ray release of 2012. You'd expect a film in which the world literally comes to an end to have a pretty lively sound mix, and you certainly won't be disappointed with what's on offer here. The track comes alive in the opening moments and doesn't really let up for the duration. There are plenty of ambient effects, from the sound of rainfall in India, to the chirping crickets of Yellowstone Park, and discrete effects attack from every direction for almost the entirety of the picture. The scene in which Jackson and his family escape Los Angeles in an aeroplane is an aural tour de force, as pavements crack, buildings crumble, and everything generally goes to hell. Debris flies all over the sound-stage, shooting from front to rear, side to side, and back again. Bass is also particularly ferocious during this scene, not to mention every other scene in which things blow up—which is a lot of scenes! The Mount Bighorn eruption sent shock-waves through my living room! Dialogue can sometimes be a little indistinct against the maelstrom of sound, but it's not exactly essential to one's enjoyment of the film anyway. In any event, all the different elements come together to create a track that is as close to reference quality as any I've heard in recent times.
As I understand it, the US got two different versions of 2012. From what I can tell the UK gets all of the content from the Special Edition minus the Digital Copy (actually I think there were two Digital Copies), which is fine by me. Of course this is a mixed blessing when it comes to the review, because I actually have to sit through it all...
Interactive Mayan Calendar: This option allows access to a sub-menu, which in turn provides access to a 'Mysteries of the Mayan Calendar' featurette (which also has its own entry on the main extras menu), a Mayan Personality Profile, a Mayan Horoscope, and a legend. For some reason we're allowed to submit dates up to and far exceeding 2012, so perhaps all not hope is lost (either that or the BD producers are more optimistic about our future than some).
Mysteries of the Mayan Calendar (03:53 HD): This short featurette tells you all you need to know about the Mayan Tzolk'in calendar, or at least all you need to know for the purposes of watching 2012. As always, there's more speculation about our impending doom.
Commentary with Writer/Director Roland Emmerich and Co-Writer Harald Kloser: If you can get past the reasonably strong German accents this is actually a pretty informative commentary track. I can’t say that I was relishing the opportunity to sit through the entirety of the film again so soon after watching it, so I only sampled an hour or so of the track, but what I heard was quite an enjoyable blend of technical and artistic discussion.
Picture-in-Picture: Roland's Vision: This is yet another picture-in-picture track that doesn’t utilise the full potential of the technology. There are big gaps between the footage, and a lot of it seems to cover similar ground as the accompanying featurettes. I’d really like to see start seeing PiP used for video commentary rather than simply slapping a few clips over the film at random intervals.
Designing the End of the World (26:03 HD): This is a pretty standard making of featurette. It includes talking head interviews with the cast and crew, along with plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and discussion of the logistical issues surrounding a production of this size. Understandably there's a lot of talk about visual effects.
Roland Emmerich: The Master of the Modern Epic (09:31 HD): This is another short featurette in which cast and crew wax lyrical about Emmerich's ability to craft visually arresting movies. Yep, it's basically a love-fest.
The End Of The World: The Actor's Perspective (07:34 HD): This featurette concentrates on the film's ensemble cast and Emmerich's reasons for casting them. Most of the principals are on-hand to talk about their roles and it served to remind me of what a fantastic cast of genuinely talented actors Emmerich put together for the film. It's odd, then, that I felt so emotionally detached from the finished article and their stilted performances (Ejiofor aside).
Science Behind the Destruction (13:19 HD): This featurette provides an overview of the underlying science behind the events depicted in the future. It features interviews with Emmerich, a consultant geologist from USC, and a guy who believes that the world really will come to an end in 2012—cheery stuff.
Deleted Scenes (04:55 HD): Five deleted scenes are included, although they're actually more like extended scenes. To be perfectly honest none of them would have added anything to what is already an over-long movie.
Alternate Ending: If you don't think that the movie stretched the bounds of believability enough, there's this quite frankly ludicrous alternate ending for you to enjoy. In it, Chiwetel Ejiofor's dad somehow survives being hit by a tidal wave, and John Cusack manages to save his son's mobile phone complete with MP3 collection...
movieIQ: Sony's new technology allows you to watch the feature with accompanying cast, crew and trivia information, providing you have Internet access that is.
BD-Live: As per usual there's nothing on offer here beyond generic trailers and previews. There's certainly no 2012-specific content.
2012 is a bloated mess of a movie that failed to engage me on an emotional level in spite of all of the human loss and suffering, but it sure does a great job of blowing stuff up. If that's your sole criterion when it comes to cinematic fulfilment you'll probably get on with 2012 a lot better than I did. Technically the disc delivers solid visuals and a superb audio track, along with a generous selection of bonus material, so you'll at least be getting your money's worth with the Blu-ray if not the film itself. Personally I'd seek out Emmerich's older alien invasion disaster flick Independence Day in preference to this, but that’s just me. Hell, I’d even take The Day After Tomorrow...
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 29th March 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 French, Audio Description Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: Arabic, Danish, Dutch, English, English HoH, Finnish, French, Hindi, Norwegian, Swedish
Extras: Picture-in-Picture, Commentary with Writer/Director Roland Emmerich and Co-Writer Harald Kloser, Designing the End of the World, Roland Emmerich: The Master of the Modern Epic, Science Behind the Destruction, The End of the World: The Actor's Perspective, Mysteries of the Mayan Calendar, Alternate Ending, Deleted Scenes, Interactive Mayan Calendar, movieIQ, BD-Live
Easter Egg: No
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Tom McCarthy, Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover, Zlatko Buric, Beatrice Rosen, Liam James, Morgan Lily
Genre: Action and Sci-Fi
Length: 158 minutes
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