Back in the ‘70s, when disaster movies hit their prime, science used to be explained. That giant asteroid that was going to wipe us out? The audience knew what it was, where it came from, and why it was going to wipe us out. Sure, maybe 3% of it was actually true, but at least they tried.

Now 40 years after the genre gained steam, those previous expectations are gone. Roland Emmerich’s 2012 briefly explains what is happening. For instance, the poles of the Earth are shifting, and the planet is going off-axis. No one ever asks what exactly that will do. The sun is experiencing heavy solar storms, yet nowhere in the script is there a conversation about the potential.

There is a lot of chatter about how evacuation plans need to be made, conspiracy theories are tossed around, and the governments of the world begin to take action. All of those are essential to a disaster movie, yet those scientific explanations are absent.

Instead, being a mega-budget summer blockbuster, 2012 is just going to show you what happens. Why waste time talking about how California will be engulfed in the San Andreas fault when you can throw $20 million on the screen to show it? No one is going to be disappointed by the visual flair this movie is capable of producing. The jaw dropping sight of skyscrapers collapsing into the ground, bodies flailing into pits of lava, and Yellowstone lighting up are flawless, even if John Cusak somehow manages to avoid all of it.

Emmerich is back to his old tricks following Day After Tomorrow where Dennis Quaid somehow managed to trek across multiple states in frigid temperatures to save his son. In the spirit of making things even bigger, 2012 has John Cusak playing mere failed writer, yet saving his entire family across multiple continents. Impressive.

Someway, somehow, Cusak and crew are always one step ahead of doom, escaping the pyroclastic flow of volcanoes, sinking cities, crashing planes, and tidal waves. And audiences rolled their eyes when Bill Paxton strung a belt onto a pipe in Twister… pff. He’s got nothin’ on Cusak.

2012 is par for the course, which is undoubtedly what makes its strenuous 158-minute runtime such a bother. These characters are entirely predictable, you know who will survive (the good guys) and you know who will just fall short (the jerks). Everyone has their emotional attachment, those goodbyes are said, and more CG destruction happens.

When it is all over, humanity is saved, although it is never very clear how. This is where you realize the science was avoided for a reason, because everything you have ever read in a textbook is thrown out the window. Had they explained what would happen to Earth after these disasters, that final sunset would never have been visible. Better to show destruction and move on before anyone realizes they’re being duped. Then again, maybe the super-powered John Cusak changed the course of nature. That wouldn’t be much of a stretch coming from this movie. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]

Emmerich shot 2012 digitally on the Panavision Genesis. Most of the traits carried by that camera are present here. Black levels, when strong, are superb. They can provide immense depth with no intrusive crush. When weak, as is the case with many of the scenes done in low lighting, a murky, unnatural quality is obtained.

Colors have a slightly elevated level of saturation, providing an expected level of hi-def pop. Close-ups generally deliver in terms of high-fidelity detail, producing defined pores cleanly. Anything else can appear flat, taking on a digital quality that is unnatural but clean and inoffensive to most. Noise is a rare issue, and generally left to a mild background annoyance. Some banding can creep into the frame, first notable early in space as the camera pans down to the sun.

Sharpness is typically firm (except for some of those darker sequences), and the reason why the monumental special effects scenes are reference quality. As California sinks, the pan shots are remarkable, with defined computer generated people falling to their death, glass shattering, cars tumbling, and debris everywhere. All of this is incredibly well handled despite the speed and amount of things occurring at once. Some limited aliasing tends to go by quick enough to only be a problem for die-hard videophiles. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

It is hard to say whether or not another disc on the market screams “reference quality audio” as loudly as this one. This is a masterpiece of a DTS-HD track, one that might have something happening in a positional channel at all times. Thunder and rain dominate the opening shots, and the echo of a mine as Chiwetel Ejiofor descends is great. The animal calls and bird chirps of Yellowstone are superb. The cargo hold of a plane rumbles and shakes as the character sit inside, a wonderfully immersive effect.

All of that is great, surely enough to keep the audio guys busy, but of course it is the disaster scenes that are the highlight. Bass is deep, various explosions and buildings toppling over hitting the subwoofer with a vicious effect, if not as powerful as say, Transformers 2. One would think entire cities falling would provide the largest “boom” ever. Screams of the populace being wiped out are clear amidst the absolute destruction, and the inane dialogue being spouted off remains audible. The clarity of glass shattering and debris whipping around is outstanding.

Aggressive does not even begin to cover how well this track utilizes each available channel, splitting the fronts wide, and tracking the action regardless of what direction it needs to go. You will struggle to find someone who does not believe this is one of the best available audio tracks released on Blu-ray to date. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Audio]

This is a two-disc set, the first containing a commentary from Roland Emmerich and co-writer Harold Kloser. Emmerich also takes center stage in a picture-in-picture track that lets him reveal his methods. A ridiculous alternate ending actually stretches credibility further, and was deleted much to the praise of moviegoers everywhere. Movie IQ and BD-Live support are included here as well.

Disc two provides an Interactive Mayan Calendar that will interest a few who may believe in the various theories. Designing the End of the World is a nearly half hour look at the visual effects, and how they were created. Science Behind the Destruction offers some thoughts on how this was all possible, but it is a stretch regardless. Another featurette is purely about Emmerich titled Master of the Modern Epic, a fluff piece on the director.

Countdown to Destruction is a debate on the possibilities of 2012 actually bringing an end to humanity. End of the World: An Actor’s Perspective is a collection of interviews with the cast about their roles. This runs for about eight minutes. A featurette on a music video (and the video itself) is included as the finale piece. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Extras]

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