2012 [Single-Disc Blu-Ray]
There are some movies you watch to let yourself fully become the characters, to ride their roller coaster of emotions through the film and come out at the other end transformed as they have been transformed. And then there's 2012, Roland Emmerich's latest disaster porn CGI-fest, which exists for one reason, and one reason alone...to celebrate the end of the world. You won't find escape from the doldrums of your nine to five in the troubles of John Cusack and his family, but at least you'll be able to shut your brain off and watch a whole lot of stuff blow up real good.
In 2010, it's discovered that the sun is starting to push too many neutrinos in the Earth's direction, which is causing the core of our planet to overheat and basically melt from the inside out. Two years later, two story lines unfold, the first following the scientists and government agencies trying their best to preserve the human way of life, and shoehorned in between that is an utterly useless, overblown side plot about a family who is just trying to survive. Neither story is especially compelling, but at least the first one adds to the throughline of the film.
If you're looking for action just for the sake of action, 2012 might just be the perfect movie for you, followed closely by any of Roland Emmerich's other disasterpieces. 2012 is by a long shot the most utterly devoid of any real story out of his not-quite-extensive milieu. Your brain can take a two-and-a-half-hour coffee break, as long as you're left with the capacity to occasionally say, "Ooh, pretty!" You'll get just as much enjoyment out of it, possibly even more, than if you were to sit there and think about what it is you're watching. That's not to discredit the astounding effects, though. There are about 40 minutes of exposition (if you can call it that) before the first big 'splosion, and then you can forget that you're watching a movie and enjoy a flashy, really high-dollar effects demo reel. It follows a strict "movie on, mind off" philosophy, and as long as that's exactly what you need, 2012 is the right call.
But for those of us who require even the slightest bit of depth or relevance in our movie characters, the filmmakers couldn't have thrown a wider air-ball. The main draw of the film is obviously John Cusack, here to provide us with a lovable father figure. The only problem is, he and his family redefine the term "useless" as they slog their way through disaster after disaster, merely vehicles to show off just what Emmerich's effects team can do with a few mouse clicks. At least the family plot in The Day After Tomorrow served some purpose, but here they are shamelessly dumped into one contrived situation after another, narrowly escaping their doom each and every time.
Convenient isn't the right word to describe 2012, but it's the first one that comes to mind. At every down turn of events for Cusack and his offspring there seems to be some miraculous occurrence that aids them in their escapes. Pilot is dead? No worries, the boyfriend is a pilot. Plane going down? No worries, we can drive a car out of it and we'll be fine. Need to get on the ark? No worries, there's a family of Chinamen tooling by in their shitty pick up, we can hitch with them. Entire world has shifted? No worries, we crash landed about a mile from where the arks are parked. It's like when you put your winter coat on for the first time in December and you reach into your pocket and find 20 bucks you didn't know you had, except it happens every five minutes and no one seems to question where the money is coming from.
2012 is no doubt one of the prettiest effects films of 2009. No one will ever deny it that, and how it didn't get nominated for any awards is beyond me. But the long and short of it is that this movie has about as much substance as a rice cake and crumbles just as easily. If you need something to quench your thirst for world-ending action, grab Independence Day or The Day After Tomorrow, since 2012 is likely to cease your brain from functioning altogether.
2012 on Blu-Ray is just as pretty, if not even more pretty, than it was sitting in front of an 80-foot screen last fall. But is that enough to warrant spending $30 on the over-priced disk? Not really. The single-disc set isn't exactly packed to the brim with features, presumably because people would get bored watching animators model flying chunks of earth for more than 10 seconds, and that's about all this film has to offer.
The disc features a "Picture in Picture" option, which works decidedly better than when you tried to figure out your TVs PiP functionality back in 1996. Instead of including a full-length, interview-driven congruous featurette, they've decided to show snippets alongside the film so you can see what it is exactly they are talking about when they say, "We went through many iterations of this effect." The only problem is, you have to pick which you want to watch, the film or the picture in picture. Not that a huge problem, since you'll probably have seen the film at least once before, but if you're into a scene and the image of Roland Emmerich violently appears at the bottom of the screen, it's a bit of a shock. Also worth noting is that having the picture-in-picture enabled shuts off the in-film subtitles. Again, not a problem if you've already seen the film, but it's a hassle that should have been addressed.
The only other feature is a commentary from director Roland Emmerich and co-writer/producer Harold Kloser, who proceed to blow each other verbally in their heavy German accents. They give some interesting insights into the effects process, but mostly they just sit in a dark room talking about how awesome they are. What will really tickle you is at one point Kloser says to Emmerich, "Everything has to be real, just like in your movies." I got a hearty laugh out of this, since about 15% of 2012 is real and everything else was done with computers. They created something really nice to look at, but that's it. Hearing them try to convince you otherwise is obnoxious.
Ultimately, you should buy movies for the movie, and if you want a pretty effects film bursting at the seams with 'splosions and broken science, 2012 is for you. But if you were wondering whether or not to buy this based solely on the features, there's not nearly enough here to warrant a purchase.
Reviewed By: Will LeBlanc