Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: 2012 (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Richard Gallagher, Mar 1, 2010.

  1. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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    2012 (Two-Disc Special Edition)

    Studio: Sony/Columbia
    Year: 2009
    Rated: PG-13
    Program Length: 158 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p
    Languages: English, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA; English Audio Descriptive Track
    Subtitles: English SDH, English, French

    The Program

    I have a theory about big-budget films which are laden with special effects. I am convinced that in many cases the filmmakers build the script around the effects rather than building the effects around the script. An example of this is the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, three films which contain much that is enjoyable but which go on and on and on. The first of the Pirates films clocked in at 143 minutes and should have been at least a half hour shorter. The last of the Pirates films was dragged out to twelve minutes shy of three hours – it did not need 168 minutes to tell the story, but it required all of that time to fit in the special effects which had been created.

    This brings us to 2012, Roland Emmerich’s latest disaster film. It is a wonder to look at, with some truly dazzling, spectacular sequences which leave the viewer in total awe. Unfortunately, those jaw-dropping scenes are wrapped up in a pedestrian, predictable, cliché-ridden script (by Emmerich and Harald Kloser). In spite of the script, 2012 kept my interest for a while. Alas, at the two-hour mark I was ready for it to come to a conclusion, but I had to wait another thirty minutes for the credits to start rolling.

    There is a theory – largely debunked by experts – that the Mayans predicted that the world would come to an end in the year 2012. Although the supposed Mayan prediction is referenced in the film, it is not an essential part of the story. It opens with a United States government geologist, Dr. Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), visiting a colleague in India. The colleague has made a remarkable discovery – unusual and intense solar activity has led to a sharp increase in the temperature of the earth’s core, an increase which is increasing and shows no sign of abating. Dr. Helmsley rushes back to Washington, D.C. where he hands a devastating report to presidential aide Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt). Anheuser immediately recognizes the implications of the report and he takes Dr. Helmsley to the White House, where he meets President Wilson (Danny Glover) and the president’s daughter, Laura (Thandie Newton).

    President Wilson convenes a meeting of the world’s leaders, where he somberly announces that American scientists have concluded that a cataclysmic event is going to occur which will cause the world as we know it to end. Relying on Dr. Helmsley’s calculations about when the major event will occur, plans are made to try to save as much of the human race and its culture as possible. This of course must be done in utmost secrecy in order to avoid a worldwide panic of epic proportions.

    Unfortunately, Dr. Helmsley’s model proves to be inaccurate, and serious seismic activity begins sooner than expected. In the meantime we are introduced to Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), a divorced writer in Los Angeles whose only published novel has sold fewer than 500 copies. Unable to support himself with his writing, Jackson moonlights as a chauffeur for a Russian industrialist, Yuri Karpov (Zlatco Burik). Curtis’ ex-wife, Kate (Amanda Peet) has custody of their two children, and Jackson takes the kids on a weekend camping trip to Yellowstone Park. This leaves Kate at home with her plastic surgeon boyfriend, Gordon Silberman (Thomas McCarthy). While shopping at their local supermarket, Kate and Gordon are nearly killed when the earth opens up beneath the store, splitting it in half.

    Arriving in Yellowstone, Jackson discovers that his favorite spot there has been fenced in by the Federal government. Undeterred, he and the kids climb over the fence and make their way to a lake where strange activity is taking place. There they are taken into custody by the military, but they are released after Jackson meets Dr. Helmsley, who has flown to the site to take readings at the lake. In one of the film’s many fortuitous coincidences, Dr. Helmsley recognizes Jackson’s name because he is one of the few people to have purchased a copy of Jackson’s novel. While at Yellowstone, Jackson and the kids meet eccentric pirate radio broadcaster Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson). Charlie has been monitoring the government’s activities in the area and he is convinced that the end of the world is at hand.

    Jackson learns about the earthquake in L.A., and Kate calls and implores him to bring the kids home immediately. Jackson complies, but while driving Karpov and his family to the airport he gets hints that his boss is fleeing the area for a place which apparently offers safety. As seismic activity in the area increases, Jackson decides that he wants to collect his family and take them to wherever Karpov is going.

    The characters in 2012 are mostly one-dimensional and not very interesting. Dr. Helmsley is so noble and saintly that it is difficult to take him seriously. One of the film’s major dramatic deficiencies is that there are no real villains to root against. Presidential aide Anheuser is Helmsley’s principal antagonist, but Anheuser has no evil motives so it is difficult to fault his decisions. Jackson wants to win Kate back, but Gordon is a really nice guy who is well-liked by Jackson’s children, so how can you take sides? Minor characters include a stereotypical Buddhist monk who placidly accepts his fate. The one character who really comes to life is Woody Harrelson’s Charlie Frost – I would have liked to have seen more of him. Along the way there are some astonishing natural upheavals, but the story follows a mostly predictable arc to its conclusion – a conclusion which is delayed by thirty minutes or so because of an unnecessary contrivance which has an utterly unbelievable resolution.

    But 2012 really isn’t about the people. It’s about fissures, explosions, collapsing building, tidal waves and other catastrophic events which are depicted with great skill. On that level it works, and it is certainly at least the equal of Roland Emmerich’s other blockbuster films.

    The Video


    The 2.40:1 1080p transfer is exceptional. As our resident expert Robert Harris has noted, this is “a beautifully crafted Blu-ray. With an image captured via both Panavision Genesis as well as S35 film, and taken to a 2k digital intermediate, the final result on Blu looks as it should, a crisp, clean representation of down-rezzed data files.” The images are consistently sharp and detailed, and the special effects are both dazzling and realistic. If you are going to watch 2012 at home, high-definition is the only way to go.

    The Audio

    The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is at least the equal of the outstanding video. This is a loud, noisy film and it should be viewed with the volume cranked up. It will give your sound system a real workout, as all 5.1 channels are used extensively and effectively to produce the sounds of explosions, eruptions, crashes and tidal waves. Dialogue is mostly confined to the center channel and it is clear and understandable. In short, 2012 is an ideal Blu-ray disc with which to demonstrate the capabilities of lossless surround sound to friends and family.

    The Supplements


    Extras are plentiful on this two-disc special edition Blu-ray release. It includes a digital copy for use on a PC, Mac or iPod, and another disc which is entirely made up of extras. There are also a few supplemental materials on the main disc:

    1.    A commentary track by director Emmerich and co-writer Harald Kloser.

    2.    A schmaltzy alternate ending which goes beyond ludicrous. Cutting it was an excellent idea.

    3.    A picture-in-picture feature which can be played with the film includes storyboards, interviews with the cast and crew, and behind the scenes footage.

    4.    Sony’s movieIQ feature can be activated if you enjoy seeing factoids pop up on the screen while watching the movie.

    Disc 2 contains the following extras:

    1.    An interactive Mayan calendar allows the viewer to enter a date for a horoscope reading and a personality profile.

    2.    A featurette, “Mysteries of the Mayan Calendar.”

    3.    Another featurette, “Designing the End of the World.”

    4.    A profile of director Emmerich.

    5.    A featurette which discusses the “Science Behind the Destruction.”

    6.    A featurette which looks at the film from the perspective of some of the cast.

    7.    A number of deleted scenes. One thing this film did not need is more scenes.

    8.    Another featurette, “Countdown to the Future.”

    9.    A music video by Adam Lambert, “Time for Miracles.” And if that isn’t enough, there is a music video “making of” featurette.

    All of the special features are in high-definition and English stereo.

    The Packaging

    The two BD disc and digital copy come in a Blu-ray case which takes up approximately 50% more shelf space than a standard Blu-ray case.

    The Final Analysis

    2012 is not a great film, but it looks and sounds great. That alone will be sufficient for viewers who are content to be dazzled by the special effects and outstanding audio, and who will not be troubled by the clichéd and fairly predictable storyline.

    Equipment used for this review:

    Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
    Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specification by Gregg Loewen
    Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
    BIC Acoustech speakers
    Interconnects: Monster Cable

    Release Date: March 2, 2010











     
  2. Rhett_Y

    Rhett_Y Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the review. I am wanting to hear this on my system more then anything. I am hoping for some really deep bass and loud effects.
     
  3. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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    You won't be disappointed!
     
  4. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Richard: This will be a blind buy for me. Like Rhett, I'm just looking for a rollercoaster ride of an audio track.

    As I look at the Disc Two features, I'm not seeing what looks like it adds up to much. Is this particular feature all that interesting? Is it a detailed look at the CGI work?


    Otherwise, I might just go with the single-disc release for this title. That way I can keep that extra 1/2 of the case-width on my shelves! Every little bit helps!
     
  5. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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    Bought it today, watching tonight. I'm very excited.
     
  6. Yumbo

    Yumbo Cinematographer

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    Watched the single disc this morning.

    Something is really wrong with the audio during the first ten minutes.
    The BASS is cranked up by 5db.

    Ok, we get it.

    Liked the movie regardless.
     
  7. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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    Mike,

    It's a 26-minute featurette, probably the most interesting of the extras. Lots of blue screen, as you would expect. Lots of it is pretty cool, such as the way they created the supermarket scene.
     
  8. JediFonger

    JediFonger Producer

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    just so you guys know, Target has an exclusive 3-Disc edition of this. if you can't grab it, buy it on their website. i ordered it, it's shipped out. if i get the correct copy i'll let you know =).

    the 3rd disc contains i *think* a 1080i copy of the Discovery Channel episode of the 2012 Apocalypse Episode (40min. ish?)

    edit: received it. $23 in person, but $28 (w/S&H) from their site. i'm not home yet but they have a unique UPC:
    043396351103
     
  9. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Just watched and enjoyed it for the mindless summer action setpiece that it is.

    One thing I've decided though: I really hate that "HD Video" look (the one that Michael Mann used and popularized in Public Enemies and Collateral) that is used here in 2012 for apparently no artistic or stylistic reason. It just totally takes me out of the movie when it switches to that video-camera mode.
     
  10. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    I got to watch this the other night. I had a lot of expectations. For the most part they were met (it is a loud movie with lots of the expected sfx).

    But while I had very low expectations for the plot and storyline...the film didn't even meet the level I expected. Pretty much a stinker.

    I was ready to just go along for the ride...but every moment seemed to require our heroes "just" being out of reach of danger. It wasn't enough for the world to be ending...but our heroes had to "just" narrowly escape certain death every few minutes.

    Can anyone who saw this film in the theater tell me how the audience responded to the resolution of the storyline involving the character of Cusack's daughter which was revealed in the final scene? The inanity of that entire thread--especially the big "reveal" in the closing moments--seemed especially ridiculous in the context of this film. I'm figuring there had to be some mock applause or jeering at that particular point. There was in my living room.
     
  11. JediFonger

    JediFonger Producer

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    erk... Mike, we do not watch it for plot or ryhme or reason. we watch it for explosions and turning up the audio knob to '11' ;)
     
  12. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Originally Posted by JediFonger
     

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