Sony // 2009 // 158 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // March 15th, 2010
We were warned.
Many of us chose not to listen, and saw 2012 anyway.
In case you've been living under a rock, a segment of the radical fringe is up-in-arms over the truth behind the end of the Mayan calendar -- 21 December 2012. Most people don't care...except for a small group of geo-physicists and climatologists who have been counseling world leaders on radical changes occurring within the Earth's core. Temps are rising, water tables are boiling, and the crust of our beloved planet is about to cut loose from its moorings and shift, wreaking holy hell for everyone living on dry land. So it's up to President Wilson (Danny Glover, Lethal Weapon), his chief of staff Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt, Ice Harvest), and White House scientific advisor Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Serenity) to activate the global doomsday protocols and save as many people and worldly treasures as they can...provided the people they're saving have enough money to pay for the privilege of being saved. That doesn't include struggling author and part-time limo driver Jackson Curtis (John Cusack, Better Off Dead) and his family, who despite all odds may just manage to repeatedly cheat death and earn a place in whatever new world remains when the one we know comes to its glittering end.
George Lucas got us hook, line, and sinker to inhabit a galaxy far far away. We were right there where Richard Donner made us believe a man could fly. And JJ Abrams picked up the torch from Gene Roddenberry to take us where no man (or woman) had gone before. However, there is not a brain on this planet able to suspend enough disbelief to take 2012 for anything other than ridiculous disaster porn.
From everything we see, Roland Emmerich is a kind, loving, and passionate man who loves to wreak havoc on film -- Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 B.C.. He's Michael Bay, minus the self-importance, painting on a much more intriguing canvas. Whereas many directors within the sci-fi, fantasy, disaster genre strive for realism, Emmerich throws all pretense out the window in pursuit of insane fun. Preposterous action set pieces, wildly stereotypical characters, wacky off-the-cuff dialogue, and exploited cliches galore; they're all on display, front and center in Roland's films. Check your brain at the door, strap yourself in, and enjoy the ride.
That said, 158 minutes of 2012 is too much of a good thing, by almost an hour. There's only so many times you can watch John Cusack and company be a hair's breath away from being swallowed by mother earth only to escape nearly injury free. Oliver Platt is a wonderful actor, but two and a half hours of him as a complete prick only makes us hate Emmerich and co-writer Harald Kloser for arming him with a character that has no range. Chiwetel Ejiofor can run circles around 90% of the cast with his eyes closed, and yet playing a doormat is not in his or our best interest. Yes, Virginia, it is possible to overdose on Emmerich. By the time we reach the 2-hour mark, we're begging for two Tylenol, a stiff drink, and Joel and the 'bots to step in with MST3K commentary.
Look, 2012 is eye candy in its purest form. We get to witness epic disasters at all too familiar locations in glorious 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen and full 5.1 Dolby surround. Who doesn't want to have a front row seat as the White House is crushed by an aircraft carrier, Yellowstone National Park goes full scale volcanic, the dome of St. Peter's Basilica crushes a packed crowd of devote Catholics, and a monster tidal wave wipes out the Buddhist temples of mountainous Tibet? This is live-action South Park on steroids. Just don't go into this looking for a serious take on how the world might end, or you're going to be seriously pissed off. The plot is weak, the characters are weaker, and the performances are the only thing holding together what amounts to a string of mind-boggling effects sequences; a beautiful blending of practical in-camera and CG wizardry. It's pointless to analyze anything beyond that.
2012 is adequate but somewhat flat on standard definition DVD. If you are a disaster genre or Emmerich aficionado, you'll want to experience this in Blu-ray high-def. The 5.1 Dolby mix is robust but falls short of duplicating the theatrical experience. You really need a rockin' home theatre system to appreciate this simulation of the film's full sound design spectrum. In terms of bonus features, Sony doesn't shortchange the DVD consumer. Commentary from Emmerich and Kloser will be a bit overwhelming to those not well-versed in the filmmaking process, but entertaining to those of us who cannot get enough. A 10 minute featurette entitled Roland Emmerich: Master of the Modern Epic is a love letter to the director from cast and crew who have enjoyed their time working with him. You can skip the alternate ending; they made the right choice sticking with what made it to screen, rather than this heavy-handed epilogue. The same goes for five minutes worth of deleted/extended scenes, adding little or nothing at all to the experience. And for the American Idol faithful, there is Adam Lambert's music video for the closing titles track "Time for Miracles." Not a bad tune for this type of popcorn flick, but watching Adam strut through disaster after disaster defeats the purpose. The two-disc Blu-ray, in addition to the features above, provides an in-movie experience with behind-the-scenes footage, pre-vis, storyboards, and more; four additional featurettes totaling about 70 min; an interactive Mayan calendar; and the BD-Live feature movieIQ, which simulates access to an IMDb wealth of production info. The single disc Blu-ray is limited to the commentary, in-movie experience, alternate ending, and movieIQ. If you're gonna go Blu, make it the two.
2012 is a movie that plays well to big groups of family or friends who want nothing more than to have a good time. It's perfect for home viewing, since you can provide your own commentary, carry on conversations, or visit the kitchen and bathroom between the slam-bang action scenes. Expectations set any higher than that will prove disastrous in their own right.
It's an Emmerich movie. Go with it.
Review content copyright © 2010 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French, Canadian)
* English (SDH)
* French (Canadian)
Running Time: 158 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Alternate Ending
* Deleted Scenes
* Music Video
* Official Site
* Survive 2012
* Cinema Verdict Review