Disaster movies have traditionally not found much love with critics, their perennial gripe that such flicks tend to be no more than shallow stories bloated with CGI to mask their inherent superficiality. So too have critics withheld their love for director Roland Emmerich, whose forte in disaster movies such as “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow”, haven’t exactly gone down well with critics.
Audiences however have responded with more than polite enthusiasm to Emmerich’s works, and they are the reason why Columbia Pictures readily gave him $200 million to make this end-of-the-world disaster flick. “2012” is to date the most expensive film of its genre to be made, which is not to be taken lightly, because it is thanks to this astronomous budget that one gets to see destruction on such a grand scale. Indeed, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to proclaim “2012” the mother, father and godfather of all disaster movies out there.
Coming five years after Emmerich decided to bring his reign of chaos to New York and its assorted landmarks, “2012” sets a record on the number of landmarks and places it obliterates. Starting off with Los Angeles, it moves to Yellowstone National Park, Las Vegas, and then to China- not forgetting the footage it shows of London, Spain, Hawaii and Africa. Thanks to his ambitious goal of global cataclysm, Emmerich has here created a truly global movie, one that people of different continents and countries can appreciate.
And what a breathtaking sight it is- Emmerich has here seamlessly combined live-action shots with state-of-the-art CGI to create awesome sights of how the world would end in a series of earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters. Here is a master at work, expertly choreographing some of the most thrilling scenes and sequences of destruction ever seen on film. Thanks to his expert sense of pacing, none of the scenes appear repetitive, each of them as gripping and exhilarating as the last.
Of course, one expects no less from Emmerich given his repertoire and experience with the genre over the years. The real surprise here is the intelligent story that Emmerich and co-writer Harald Kloser has crafted. Within their story is a dilemma that is worthy of long, hard thought- if the world does end, who would be saved? And also, who should be? How do we determine who gets the right to live and who doesn’t? While their premise of government secrecy does require a certain suspension of disbelief, the issue of “natural selection” which “2012” raises is without a doubt a pertinent and relevant one to consider.
Aiding Emmerich on his quest of world destruction is an ensemble cast led by the ever-reliable John Cusack. Cusack here is an understated delight who gives his role of a dad fighting for the safety of his family much emotional depth. Just as outstanding is Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays lead advisor Dr Adrian Helmsley, the government official struggling to overcome his own moral quandary as he watches the egotistical behaviour of the administration. Cusack, Ejiofor, and the rest of the superb cast go a long way in making their characters believable- which is much more than one can say for the usual disaster movie.
But, as we have well established, “2012” is not just another run-of-the-mill disaster flick. It is a crowning achievement from the master of the genre, Roland Emmerich, a film that is not only intensely and immensely entertaining but also good food for thought for an eventuality that may come at a time when we least expect. After all, when that day of reckoning truly comes, how many of us would have the luxury of watching the spectacle unfold? Hardly- and thus the raison d’être of Emmerich’s blockbuster epic.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
Though the extras are packed into the same disc as the feature film, there’s still a generous load of supplements for your pleasure. Begin with Interactive Mayan Calendar which comes with three separate options. The first, Mysteries of the Mayan Calendar is a brief look at the workings of the Mayan calendar system, leading up to the significance of the date 12-21-2012. The second, Mayan Personality Profile lets you enter your birth-date to learn about the person you’re supposed to be. The last, Mayan Horoscope tells you what your future will be like based on your birth-date as well.
More substantially, there are four featurettes that go into greater depth on different aspects of the film. Designing the End of the World is a very interesting look at what it was like to shoot this special-effects laden film, in particular, the challenge of working on a blue screen set where the actors had to rely on their imagination most of the time. Roland Emmerich: The Master of the Modern Epic plays like a homage to director Roland Emmerich where the cast and crew take turns to praise this master of the disaster movie genre. Science behind the Destruction offers a more in-depth exploration on the significance of the year 2012, and how such an end of the world scenario could indeed come true. Finally, The End of the World: The Actor’s Perspective recognises the individual contributions of the ensemble cast and the considerations behind Emmerich’s casting in their respective roles.
Emmerich and co-writer Harald Kloser also do due duty in an Audio Commentary that is good for their insights into the considerations that went into making this multi-national film- e.g. the Chinese censors who wanted their army portrayed more amicably. If you don’t want to sit through the entire two and half hours, skip to the parts where the action is- Emmerich and Kloser’s sharing on how they shot the sequences is a good listen.
There are also 5 Deleted Scenes which are pretty pointless and were rightly trimmed down in the theatrical cut. Also included is an Alternate Ending which wraps up some of the subplots that were conveniently left hanging in the original.
Presented in full 1080p in 2.39:1 widescreen, this Blu-ray disc delivers incredibly rich and detailed images that one can’t help but be amazed. Contrasts are solid throughout, but what’s really breathtaking are the consistently vivid colours on display that compliments the excellent CGI work of the production team. The accompanying 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is just as excellent- the thundering bass is strong, the surround effect is fully immersive and the dialogue is crisp and distinct. Given the impressive sound design of the film, this is one audio track that fully preserves the superiority of the soundtrack.
by Gabriel Chong
Posted on 24 February 2010