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It seems only yesterday that my eyes widened at the trailer for ‘Independence Day' in '96, and along with fellow 90s alumni, ‘Jurassic Park' and ‘Twister' the possibilities of the kinds of films we might look forward to, heading into a new century, seemed a very exciting prospect indeed. Anything seemed possible after the digital revolution.

Now, almost a decade and a half later, the effects have improved ten-fold but a saddening realization has arrived with the visual feasts that now choke our multiplexes year after year (for the most part, anyway)—storytelling comes a distant second in these times.

Roland Emmerich will deservedly go down in film history as one of the pioneers of digital age spectacle cinema. The man has repeatedly proved that no matter how large the canvass, he can fill it with some of the most memorable sights ever conceived. What he also continues to prove, sadly, is that his shortcomings with characterization or delivering relatable characters are always going to come with his offerings...

2012The master of disaster the 21 Century's answer to Irving Allen has unleashed his biggest apocalyptic vision yet in ‘2012'. Like most of his pictures, a large ensemble cast, representing many (in fact nearly every, in this film's case) a social layer of our race, face the end of the world—this time care of solar flares heating our planet's core to the point where our continents play dodgem cars with each other and sink into the sea. There is the faulted everyman (John Cusack); his estranged wife (Amanda Peet), kids, the ex's new beau; the President (Danny Glover) his daughter (Thandi Newton); the bright and humanitarian genius (Chiwetel Ejiofor); the crack conspiracy theorist who's right(Woody Harrelson); the cynical political rival (Oliver Platt) and I could truly keep typing for pages... and this is the story's first problem:

With so many characters and I haven't mentioned them all there is not time to give any of them a fair chance at depth. Broad brushstrokes of brief archetypes, many of whom have appeared in all of Emmerich's films before, is all that can be managed when telling the story of dozens. What boggles the mind is that this impressive director of mayhem never seems to grasp that you can tell a story on a large scale, but without one character's eyes to see it through the story will never connect emotionally. Paramount to this lesson should be the casting of John Cusack, an actor who could make a character out of grass growing, failing to be anything more than an echo of previous patriarchal Emmerich characters. Any attempt to tug at the heartstrings, and there are many, fail dismally because the best these character's offer are clichéd and repetitious moments we've all seen a million times before—only the face of the actor has changed.

Also failing this time is the pacing and tone. I have to say that when the carnage arrives it does so with gut-churning scale. But an uneven narrative, poorly conceived moments of comedy (felt like a Michael Bay film at times), and a far too slow beginning with no sense of foreboding hurt this film dramatically.

The good: enough has been said about the effects, and all one needs to do is watch the trailer to realize Emmerich is at the top of his game here; there is some, albeit brief and convenient, exploration of humanity coming together to propagate our species; the music by composer Harold Kloser (who also co-wrote this flick) is affecting and quite beautiful in spots; and the actors make cardboard thin characters at the very least watchable.

Emmerich puts such passion and effort in giving us a show each and every time, and this film is no different. The amount of work to pull off these visuals must have been exhausting. What a great pity that, time after time, no character or story in his spectacle ever holds the power of watching him destroy a landmark or landscape. Emmerich is not alone in this profound flaw of modern tentpoles, but if he could finally accomplish that feat what a movie it would be.

Component Grades
1 Star
1 Star
DVD Experience
1 Star


Blu-ray Details:

Sony Home Entertainment has on offer both a 3 disc and a single disc version of the flick, but since we received the single, I'm not going into the special features on the ‘special edition' (read: gouge folks who want special features edition). Being that Blu Ray discs can hold more info than a city library, there really is no other reason to offer the film in this way.

The picture is, unsurprisingly for a modern release, pretty darn spectacular. It is as a crisp as a potato chip, with impressive depth of field, especially in the multiple panoramic moments of carnage. Why, if there is an extra scratching their butt in the background, you will surely see it. The sound is equally immersive, with terrific balance between the front and rear speakers, natural base and delineation.

There is an audio commentary by Emmerich and co-writer/composer Harold Kloser, and some trailers for other flicks.

This version, happily, is also region free. Definitely a great one for the home cinema to show off your toys and big screen, but the whole premium price for what should come standard (like most titles on Blu Ray) on a mass-storage product is inexcusable. Bare Bones Blu Rays be gone!

Screen Formats: 2.40:1

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French English, English SDH, French (less)

Language and Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English: Audio Descriptive Service French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; Blu-ray exclusive features; director's commentary; behind-the-scenes featurette; alternate ending.



  • Feature-length commentary track with Emmerich and co-writer/composer Harold Kloser.

Previews - for Armored, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Did You Hear About the Morgans?, Angels & Demons, and Planet 51.

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging