There’s trouble afoot when scientist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) discovers that the sun’s neutrinos are suddenly causing a physical reaction that is, by all accounts, impossible and has become a new type of nuclear particle that is heating up the Earth’s core, leading to impending doom, devastation and destruction on an unavoidable, global scale.
Intent on saving only a tiny proportion of the world’s population, the world’s governments work together to build arks in the Himalayas and save the world’s richest and most influential people, all without the general public knowing. From these survivors, they’ll rebuild the planet’s population once all the chaos has settled down and the world is liveable again. It’s a decent plan and they’ve got until 2012 to do it.
When 2012 finally arrives, it’s up to Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), writer and limousine driver, to save the day, with his family (two kids, ex-wife) and, Gordon, his ex-wife’s new partner in tow. Drifting into a militarised zone, Curtis scratches the surface of what is really happening, discovers the truth about the impending disaster thanks to Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson), a manic conspiracy theorist who knows all about the Mayan calendar, and realises what he must do to save his family. The Curtis clan find themselves heading to China where they’ll discover salvation, hope, the determination of human spirit and other aspirational, if somewhat clichéd, aims.
Famous monuments worldwide are destroyed, lives are lost in a bloodless, gore-free fashion and the world is torn asunder by the initial tremors and sea swells that rapidly move to devastating quakes and super tsunamis. We take to the air on a number of occasions, affording us a better view of the disasters and allowing our heroes to escape each impending disaster just in time to encounter the next. Thankfully, Gordon is able to fly a plane, otherwise they would have been well and truly stuck.
Plot threads are never fully explored, leaving the film with many plot holes that threaten to swallow your interest whole. The politics of the selection process, the construction of the arks and the betrayal of humanity through the machinations of politics are all dealt with in the briefest of brush strokes, usually by Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), the Chief of Staff who has a vested interest in the success of the project, particularly after the demise of the US Government. He’s the character whose only function appears to be ‘being evil’ and providing exposition for the humanitarians of the piece, Helmsley and Laura Wilson (a woefully underused Thandie Newton).
Whilst the plot may be moderately interesting, though far bigger than the scope of the film, it is the special effects sequences in which 2012 shines. The fantastic limousine chase and plane flight through the devastated streets of California is the start of a seemingly endless series of set pieces, each more extraordinary than the next! It’s a brilliant use of an immersive DTS soundtrack and exploits the sharpness of detail and high bitrate (in this case reaching 33Mpbs) of the HD format.
2012 is a flawed movie, but lives up to what you would expect from the creator of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. There’s no doubting that each SFX-laden moment is breathtaking dazzling to look at it, whilst the dialogue is breathtakingly brain-numbing to listen to. It’s not worth thinking of it as a moral story of things to come, as it isn’t. However, as with Independence Day, Emmerich has crafted a fine piece of purely popcorn cinema.
The audio commentary is provided by writer/director Roland Emmerich and co-writer Harold Kloser. They do seem to take the whole premise of the film a bit too seriously but still manage to be quite entertaining, even though Emmerich is a bit staccato and flat in his delivery.
Roland’s Vision offers picture-in-picture commentary and behind-the-scenes footage and production materials throughout the film. It’s more interesting than the commentary as it features comments from the cast and crew giving their input of the various aspects of filmmaking.
Movie IQ is like having the Internet Movie Database entry for the movie you’re watching on your BD Live Blu-ray player. It takes a few moments to sync with the server to get the details, but once it does, you’ve got information such as soundtrack, trivia, cast and crew details, all at the push of a button.
The Interactive Mayan Calendar includes a handful of features – Mysteries Of The Mayan Calendar is a four minute HD documentary that looks at the Mayan calendar and its importance and complexity; Mayan Personality Profile allows you to input your date of birth and get your profile back (I have, apparently, great powers and responsibilities); Mayan Horoscope allows you to get a prediction for any date that you enter; and Legend lists all the different symbols of the calendar and their meaning.
Designing The End Of The World is a 26 minute HD ‘making of’ featurette in which the cast talk about this ‘visual effects movie’ and how big, ambitious and awe inspiring the film was. Emmerich talking about the filmmaking process is interesting (more so than his commentary), especially when he discusses how breaking down the aspects made the unfilmable filmable, as is seeing how the blue screen and CGI aspects were achieved.
Roland Emmerich: Master Of The Modern Epic features cast members telling us how visionary, fantastic and extraordinary Roland Emmerich is, in HD, for just under ten minutes. It’s self-indulgent tosh of the highest degree and features more behind-the-scenes footage, interspersed with congratulatory comments aplenty. It would have been more interesting had it been a retrospective of his work.
The End Of The World: Actor’s Perspective is under eight minutes and explores the assembly of the cast.
Science Behind The Destruction runs at thirteen minutes and explores the various theories, in scant detail, of the various earth-ending prophecies and the very loose and theoretical science of the film.
There are five Deleted Scenes, presented in HD and seemingly effects complete, that could have been thrown back into the film. They’re not ground breaking in their content, and wouldn’t have distracted from the film itself.
The Alternate Ending is pretty much the same as the movie ending, except the sugary sweet revelation that a character survived despite all the evidence to the contrary.
2012 will be released on Blu-ray on March 29 and can be pre-ordered from the Den Of Geek Store.