More epic disaster porn from director Roland Emmerich, "2012" is the first major film about the subject (you know, how the world is going to end in 2012, like the Mayans predicted?), although I'm certainly expecting a few more to make it to theaters before then (Michael Bay's "2012: A War For Souls" is apparently still in development.)
"2012", one imagines, has to be Emmerich's final disaster flick, as I'm curious to know where he could possibly go in the subject matter after this. The film opens in 2009 with geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) being informed by foreign colleagues about troubling waves from the sun that, while previously harmless, have now grown to the point where they are microwaving the Earth itself and destabilizing the crust. He forces his findings into the hands of the President's chief-of-staff, Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), who gets the findings to the horrified President (Danny Glover). Soon after, preparations begin...
Fast-forward to 2012, and the serious problems start: writer Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) takes his kids to Yellowstone and wanders into a zone that the government has restricted in order to study. The area has become a "hot zone", with the temperature rising rapidly - and thee are other "hot zones" across the globe. While there have been a number of quakes in Los Angeles, when Jackson returns home, the end-all occurs: a massive quake that literally starts ripping the city apart as Jackson tries to navigate his way towards the airfield.
From there, it's a race to possible safety in China, with stops in Las Vegas, Italy, Hawaii, DC and elsewhere. The film's effects sequences are generally good-to-great and some of the major effects sequences (such as the Los Angeles sequence) are quite impressive. There are some moments here-and-there that show some mediocre blue screen, but overall, the film certainly shows off some terrific visuals.
The film is also assisted by the performances, as Glover, Ejiofor, Cusack, Amanda Peet and others at least make their characters feel a little more developed than other "disaster" genre films in recent years. The other plus in the film's favor is that, as absurd as the film is at times and despite some goofy moments, there's a little more of a solemn, grim tone to this film than Emmerich's prior films. It's certainly another popcorn film, but with a touch more drama than the director's prior efforts.
The film's main concern is length: this is a massive film at nearly 3 hours and it's just not necessary - parts and pieces here and there could have been dropped in order to bring this down to a much more reasonable 120-135 minutes.
This isn't a great film, but in some ways it's an improvement over Emmerich's prior films and it does offer what it promises - and then some.
VIDEO: "2012" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation isn't reference quality, but it's an otherwise above-average effort. Sharpness and detail are generally terrific, although a couple of FX scenes and a few dimly-lit moments looked somewhat softer by comparison.
Distractions included a few light instances of edge enhancement, as well as a couple of light traces of pixelation. No print flaws were spotted, as one might rightly expect from a movie that wasn't in theaters that long ago. Colors looked bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: It's a movie about the end of the world, and - not surprisingly - the film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a powerhouse presentation. Surrounds kick into high gear throughout the picture, with all manner of destruction heard coming from the rears. Audio quality was tremendously enjoyable, with powerful, punchy effects and clear, well-recorded dialogue.
EXTRAS: Commentary by director Roland Emmerich and writer Harald Klosser, deleted scenes, alternate ending, music video, previews for other titles from the studio and a featurette called "Roland Emmerich: Master of the Modern Epic" (which, as one might guess, is several minutes of people talking about how terrific Emmerich is.) The Blu-Ray edition offers a bunch of additional featurettes.
Final Thoughts: This isn't a great film, but in some ways it's an improvement over Emmerich's prior films and it does offer what it promises - and then some. The DVD presentation offers good audio/video quality, as well as a few extras.
The Film B