There was little doubt in my mind that 2012 would be little else than a giant CGI wreck-fest for the senses. Oceans overflowing, ground splitting open, buildings tumbling down…it wasn’t a film that was going to skimp on the visual disaster that would be the world coming to an end. Which isn’t really all that surprising as director Roland Emmerich’s previous works, The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day, were equally as devastating to watch at times. But despite the so-so reviews about the film (mostly relating to it being light on script but long on run time), it had no trouble recouping the $200 million budget it was allotted—while it made most of that figure back in domestic sales, it was overseas where the film tore through box offices, bringing in over $750 million worldwide.
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.
I had my doubts going into 2012. It was, essentially, the equivalent of apocalypse/disaster porn, as it showed with explicit detail the toppling of buildings, the collapse of entire states into the sea and a whole handful of other ridiculous combinations of earthly destruction. It’s definitely a feast for the senses, and even though I knew all the film would consist of would be a whole myriad of world-ending visuals strung together in a row, I still couldn’t help but enjoy the sincere simplicity of the overall film. Yes, entire continents were destroyed and families torn apart. Yes there was a high death toll for a PG-13 movie. But in the end all that mattered was John Cusack get together with his ex-wife again, and by-golly we got it!
Strictly speaking this film is a lot harder to swallow than Emmerich’s other films, simply because of the level of destruction that takes place. In ID4, it was gradual and we were fighting back from the start. Lives were lost, but not on the scale here. In The Day After Tomorrow it, again, was more gradual. 2012 just belts out destruction scene after destruction scene and by the end it’s exhausting and also incredibly depressing to have to think about the number of deaths that the film packed in on the screen. I mean it’s quite ridiculous—how does a PG-13 film get away with so much death and focus entirely on one family which manages to include an inexperienced pilot that somehow navigates them through a collapsing city? None of it makes sense and truly it doesn’t have to. There’s no real logic behind this film and in the end I really just didn’t care.
So you can call the film careless with its seeming indifference to human life, but at the end of the day it’s just a popcorn blockbuster. Maybe because it’s not as far-fetched as his other films, but the idea of a destruction movie with a date set so close into the future likely was off-putting to some as well (although it will undoubtedly be the butt of Armageddon jokes for the next couple years), but in the end it was really hard to nail this film down as a drama or just an action piece. I ultimately decided I enjoyed the overabundance of CGI than anything else in the film, so I’ve decided to treat it as an action adventure film.
When the film isn’t pummeling you with CGI destruction, it’s the actors who take center stage and it’s quite an eclectic mix. Woody Harrelson pops up briefly in his third major role in a film for 2009 (and all three of the major films he was in did fairly well, which was a nice turn of events for him) and he really nails it as the “crazy conspiracy theorist who is actually right.” It’s really his character that forces our main cast of John Cusack and Amanda Peet to go to their eventual destination. It’s pretty hard to swallow at times how convenient everything lines up, but, again—popcorn bliss. If you think too hard the movie becomes a tedious mess.
Not that it wasn’t still that on occasion. The biggest problem it faced was the run time of over two and a half hours. Yeah, there was plenty of action to keep your eyes busy, but it got to be a bit much after awhile. You began to wish that there was more time spent on the characters than the action…then once that took place you wished for the opposite. It wasn’t a perfectly planned out film as you can probably tell, but it definitely was entertaining. Whether it was the actors or the action, there was (usually) always something to occupy your time with. And with that in mind this film comes Recommended for fans of the directors past works; if destruction en masse isn’t your thing, however, then you may want to just go for a Rental.
Oddly enough Sony opted to release two different versions of the Blu-ray—a single and a three-disc edition. I have the single disc to review which will probably be enough for most, although the three-disc is loaded with documentaries both about the film as well as the mythos behind the 2012 date itself. So depending on how much history you want to load yourself up with, that will depend on which edition you buy. The single disc set comes in a standard Elite Blu-ray case without any kind of slipcover or anything. What’s also kind of nice is Sony re-used the theatrical poster for the film, which was honestly one of the most jaw-dropping shots from the film itself anyway. As a side note, my review copy came with a copy of Worst-Case Scenario – Extreme Edition, which was a cool little bonus. Although sadly there’s no tips in there that I saw that covered what would happen if 2012 actually came true.
Video arrives in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer that…well, the movie is like 80% pure CGI, so it looks freaking fantastic for most of its duration. On occasion the green screen work will be a little more apparent than it should, but that’s to be expected with such an effects-laden film. There is the seemingly ever-present beast of banding on the transfer, but I don’t know if I can really fault the transfer for that as it is pretty much flawless in every other aspect but that. Colors are rich and deep (when necessary, of course), but there’s a varying level of color palettes in this film which only furthers the enjoyment one can get from watching this on a nice big screen. There’s little doubt in my mind that this will be one of the better demo discs for the Blu-ray format to come out this year; I know we’re only two months into it, but how many other big budget destruction films are we going to get on the format before the years up?
Of course a demo disc is only good if the audio matches the video, which it doesn’t for this film. No, in this case the audio surpasses the video with one of the most aurally aggressive mixes I’ve heard in some time. There’s so much action going on in any given channel that it’s hard to pin down where in the room it’s coming from. The chaos is simply unbelievable sounding and whether it’s crumbling buildings or the sound of a small plane engine sputtering up, it’s without a doubt one of the most entertaining audio tracks to come out in recent memory. Just about every channel is utilized here and the LFE is just unrelenting at times with the amount of bass it pours out into the room.
Extras, as previously mentioned, vary between editions. For this single disc edition we get:
BD Exclusive: MovieIQ – connects you to access real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie!
Picture-In-Picture: Roland’s Vision-Includes Pre-Visualization, storyboards and behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with filmmakers, cast and crew
Commentary with Writer/Director Roland Emmerich and Co-Writer Harald Kloser
You get another two discs worth of content on the three-disc edition (although the third disc is actually a standard DVD copy, so I guess it’s really just a two-disc edition…nice to see a company actually advertise it as that for once), but for only the casual fan of the film this package will be satisfactory. The commentary itself is the main focus, of course, but there’s a surprising lack of enthusiasm from either Emmerich or Kloser, but seeing as it’s a two and a half hour commentary, it does end up being quite an informative piece nonetheless. The Picture-in-Picture bit is a nice addition as well and gives us our only look at the production of this film in the single disc edition, so those interested in such a thing will no doubt be satisfied. The alternate ending is like all alternate endings in that it really isn’t all that impressive or anything…and in fact it was rather unrealistic, as Emmerich himself was quoted as saying awhile back.
Overall 2012 is a Highly Recommended Blu-ray outing, although those who are interested in watching the other mass of goodies that Sony cooked up for it should probably check out the dual disc edition instead.
2012 arrives on single disc DVD and Blu-ray and two-disc Blu-ray on March 2nd.