Using the premise that the aligned planets and Mayan calendar ending in the year 2012 signals the end of the world the simply named summer blockbuster 2012 arrives on Blu-ray. This is a high budget disaster film that performed well at the box office, but how does it fare at home?
First off I have to say that this movie is absolutely ridiculous. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Armageddon was ridiculous but fun, Independence Day was ridiculous but stirring and interesting. 2012 is completely ridiculous as well but has trouble finding a path, it is a somewhat enjoyable popcorn flick, but paper thin most times.
2012 opens with an oddly disjointed series of past events showing scientists and government officials discovering the Earth’s core is heating up drastically due to major sunspot activity. You see apparently sunspots can alter the chemical makeup of the crust and make it, actually I really don’t remember (or care about) the weird reasoning, the Earth is in trouble is really all that matters. The Earths leaders (led by US President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover), of course) devise a mysterious plan and we fast forward to 2012.
This film stars John Cusak as Jackson Curtis (as much as a movie like this has human stars) as a niche author and part time limo driver who just happens to stumble upon events crucial to the thin story of the movie. Curtis is estranged from his wife and is attempting to bond with his kids over a camping trip. Stumbling upon a military team in an oddly barren and desolate Yellowstone Park Curtis suspects something is amiss.
The Military team led by scientific advisor Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is at Yellowstone Park gauging the progress of the inevitable end of the world. At the park Curtis meets a seemingly crazy hermit/radio personality named Charlie (Woody Harrelson). Charlie knows the truth you see, he knows that the world is ending and the government has a plan, the plan involves spaceships. Completely ridiculous remember?
A series of events follow this encounter and Curtis eventually escapes a wave of deepening disasters generated by earthquakes as the fault lines and crust weaken. At this point the movie becomes even more ridiculous. The production team must have went to (and enjoyed) a number of disaster theme park rides because they constantly arranged awkward looking ramps for Curtis to jump over, not once, not twice, but three times. As each ramp became more and more incredulous I was forced to just chuckle and shake my head.
Over the course of the film Curtis’ travels are intertwined with a number of characters that are really just there for quick expressions of panic and shock then the special effects continue again. He is reunited with his ex-wife Kate (Amanda Peet) and her new boyfriend Gordon Silberman (Tom McCarthy) as well as their kids. They join forces and eventually discover the government’s plan, a secret base that holds the key to mankind’s survival.
On the remainder of their journey Curtis and his companions escape near death over and over again, and guess what? There is another ramp that he jumps a burning and bisected Winnebago across. The crew must have had a break at that theme park again I think. The
Movie, in the end, holds no real surprises, but then that is not why we watch these types of films. There are monstrous explosions, hair raising escapes and epic scenes of destruction, a literal laundry list of disaster movie clichés.
The acting, when the actors are allowed to, is competent and despite the improbable scenarios all the actors carry their roles well. The effects however alternate between stunningly brilliant to incredibly cheesy and fake looking (ramps anyone). The true shame is that even when the effects look brilliant sometimes they are completely wasted because of the sheer chaos evolving on the screen.
2012 is far from a masterpiece, it is an overly cheesy, overly predictable and extremely overdone disaster movie. They attempted to make the scenes epic beyond compare and in doing so push the film past ridiculous to something you shake your head at. There are some moments that are truly enjoyable in 2012, but these are overshadowed by the shallow and overly contrived scenarios.
Presented in a 1080p AVC encoded transfer with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio 2012 definitely looks great, but some minor issues prevent it from being reference quality. The image is incredibly sharp and textures are presented in crisp clarity, creases and folds actually look touchable at times. The colour depth and black levels are outstanding lending realism to the image that is amazing to watch.
The digital effects for the most part are as perfect as they come. Because the movie was filmed using a digital camera the many digital effects are seamlessly integrated. The CG effects are so good, in fact, that the action seems to look fake when real sets are used which is truly disconcerting at times. The seamless integration of CG with the actors was essential to the film and it was handled extremely well.
This digital filming does not necessarily mean the image is flawless however. At times the image onscreen seems artificial and overly glossed. It does not happen often, but when it does you realize that most of what you are seeing is CG and it does pull you away from the scene at times. Having said that I need to reiterate that 2012 does look amazing and Sony should be commended for the excellent transfer
Featuring an amazing DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack 2012 is one of the best sounding movies I have experienced in a long time. Knowing this was billed as the ‘king of disaster movies’ I picked a time I was alone in the house and had the volume up quite high. I have to say I was blown away by the depth and quality of this soundtrack.
The audio mix was flawless, there was near constant and effective use of the rear channels to add depth and atmosphere to the experience. The dialogue was always identifiable and clear even when loud explosions where rocketing around my room. I swear I ducked a few times when I could hear hot metal flying over my shoulder.
Speaking of explosions my subwoofer finally had a great and productive workout. From low thrums of earthquakes to the deep sustained bass of an explosion the use of the sub was outstanding and never overdone. I have to give kudos as well the leveling used in this soundtrack. Often in movies like this the explosions are exponentially louder than the other audio, in this case they were louder, of course, but never to a jarring degree that has you messing with the volume.
This review is for the single disc version of the blu-ray so there are not a great deal of extras but the ones here are of decent quality but generally involve watching the film multiple times which is asking a lot. The supplements are very vanilla and do very little to add any attachment to the film.
- Commentary with Writer/Director Roland Emmerich and Co-Writer Harald Kloser – This seems like a completely phoned in audio commentary by Emmerrich and Kloser. Scene specific information, some science tidbits and behind the scenes details emerge, but both men seem bored, as was I.
- Picture-In-Picture: Roland's Vision – Slightly more interesting then the audio commentary these random popup interviews and insights fail to be overly interesting. There are a few neat moments during some of the larger scenes, but generally not very fun to enable.
- Alternate Ending – This four minute alternate ending looks at the survivors of one of the cruise ships, not very engaging and worse than the original ending.
- MovieIQ – Internet based feature that gives access to cast and crew bios as well as behind the scenes details and interviews.
- BD-Live – Sony’s normal BD-Live implementation, nothing of real interest aside from HD trailers.
The Final Word
I really did not enjoy 2012 as much as I had hoped I would. I can enjoy fluffy disaster films as much as anyone but this movie moved from outrageous to simply silly many times. The Video and especially the Audio transfers are outstanding but the extras are minimal and average at best. Put all these components together and 2012 on Blu-ray is simply a middle of the road release.