Director Roland Emmerich's 2012 is an exhilarating, often overwhelming experience, about the global cataclysm that will bring about the end of civilization as we know it. Long predicted by the Mayan calendar, the film's explanation for this catastrophic death of our planet is that solar storms have generated enough radiation to affect the meltdown of the earth's core, thereby triggering the utter collapse of most of its tectonic plates. Mass earthquakes and tsunamis ensue, wiping out 3/4 of the world's population.
On a more personal note, the film stars John Cusak as Jackson Curtis, a one time, not terribly successful author who is determined to save his family; estranged wife Kate (Amanda Peet), son Noah (Liam James) and daughter, Lily (Morgan Lily) from the pending disaster after accidentally learning from his employer, Yuri Karpov (Zlatko Buric) that the end of the world is imminent.
Meanwhile, U.S. geologist, Dr. Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has been diligently working with a worldwide geophysical team on a timeline leading up to the end of days that will hopefully ensure at least part of the population is saved from annihilation. Adrian warns U.S. President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover) of the looming carnage and Wilson elects to put a plan of evacuation into action. He also chooses to stay behind with those doomed to extinction, sending his daughter, Laura (Thandie Newton) on to safety in his stead.
The rest of the plot really boils down to brief interactions between the principal cast as they face one harrowing escape from doomsday after the next. Jackson, together with his wife's new boyfriend, Dr. Gordon Silberman (Tom McCarthy) manages to fly the family to safety after the entire California coastline plummets into the ocean.
Escaping to Vegas, Jackson and his family meet up with Yuri and his girlfriend, Tamara (Beatrice Rosen) - the group boarding Yuri's private plane stockpiled with expensive cars and piloted by Tamara's true love, Sasha (Johann Urb). Intercontinental shift works in their favor and the plane crash lands in the Himalayan mountains after running out of fuel with everyone except Sasha surviving to make the trek to a secret bunker where Chinese workers have been constructing three massive arks to save humanity for future generations.
Unhappy circumstance that the ark containing Jackson and company has a failure in its hydraulic watertight door - the ark's lower levels filling with gushing waters unless Jackson and Noah can dive into the bowels of the ship and manually release the mechanism.
2012 isn't perfect entertainment and certainly, it is not Roland Emmerich's best work. That remains Independence Day (1996). But it's solid entertainment, expertly crafted. One of the aspects of Emmerich's filmmaking in general that this reviewer has always greatly admired is that the director does not go for the cheap, quick and jerky hand held camera movements to express a sense of panic, but rather, he sets up master shots - as the old masters of yesteryear did. Emmerich holds his camera relatively stationary - allowing the viewer to take in and soak up the epic quality of the images put forth.
Overall, the acting in 2012 is competent, rescuing the film from becoming just another rank digital special effects laden mishmash. John Cusak is a great actor. He's given precious little to do here except run like hell, but he's credible and that's half the battle. Looking as though he hasn't bathed in easily a decade, Woody Harrelson does crazy pretty well as Charlie Frost - a fringe kook ham radio broadcaster who celebrates the final moments of decimation with almost ecclesiastical joy.
Roland Emmerich is the Irwin Allen of his generation and he proves it with this grand disaster epic. The script by Emmerich and Harold Kloser veers dangerously close to cliché, and frankly, this reviewer thought the whole last act rescue of 'ark #3' a bit overdone, but on the whole, there is compelling cohesion to the narrative that moves the story along at breakneck speed.
Sony Home Entertainment's Blu-Ray disc delivers a superb visual presentation. The image retains its stylized color palette with steely gray blues and warm reds and oranges - depending on the scene. Contrast is bang on. Digital effects are well integrated into the live action footage and plausibly rendered. Fine details are evident throughout for an image that will surely satisfy. The overall quality of the image is smooth and satisfying. The audio is 7.1 Tru HD, delivering an aggressive sonic experience that really rocks the house with deep base resonance.
2012 comes as both a single Blu-Ray and 2 disc SE. Only the single disc is reviewed herein. It contains an audio commentary from Emmerich and alternate ending. Recommended.
FILM RATING (out of 5- 5 being the best)