When it comes to cinema there are two things I love; visual effects and disaster movies. They pretty much go hand-in-hand these days, but even looking back to movies such as The Towering Inferno (1974), The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and even the more recent Titanic (1997) you know what is going to happen, but it's ultimately it's mankinds struggle to stay alive in the face of adversity that captures my imagination. With that in mind any time a new disaster movie comes along I'll keenly check it out, no matter how cheesy or made-for-TV it is. Last year saw the release of Roland Emmerich's latest movie, 2012 which was a box office juggernaut.
In recent years Roland Emmerich has become one of the biggest directors in the genre with hits such as Godzilla ($US379 million), The Day After Tomorrow ($US544 million) and Independence Day ($US817 million) filling cinemas around the globe. In 2009 his latest movie hit cinemas, 2012 and it showed destruction on a scale never witnessed before and amassed a whopping $US769 million at the worldwide box office. Was there ever any doubt that the home release (DVD and Blu-Ray) would be equally massive?
In terms of the actual storyline this really is end of the world stuff and while the science is stretching believability in many regards, it's a little different from your usual "asteroid is about to hit earth" storyline. Of course the movie covers multiple aspects; the scientists, the government, and the public. Now we're not calling this the most detailed storyline ever, and there is certainly some pretty corny dialogue in places, but it's one massive roller coaster ride. Having said that, the movie has too many moments with the same sort of escape be it a car, a plane, a van and so on. Oh, we also have to point out that if you thought the dog escaping in the tunnel in Independence Day was over the top, wait till you see the escape in this movie!
The real star of this show though is the visual effects. Forget about a few minutes of footage here and there. This is a rollercoaster ride from the 45 minute mark right through to the closing credits. Not only is it action packed, but it's the scale of the disasters that can't help but impress from the total destruction of cities, to monster volcanic explosions and crowds to tidal waves the likes of which we have never seen before. It's jaw dropping stuff.
While James Cameron may be "King of the World" when it comes to Box Office dollars, there is little doubt that Roland Emmerich is "King of the Mindless Popcorn Flick". Turn off your brain cells for a couple of hours and sit back to enjoy this roller coaster ride of a movie. It's way over the top in places, but the visual effects are jaw dropping (how this didn't get nominated for best visual effects for the Academy Awards I will never know) and it ticks all the right boxes for a disaster movie.
Ever since I saw 2012 at cinemas on opening weekend the prospect of seeing this on Blu-Ray was very much drool-worthy. Sure we don’t have a massive screen like cinemas, but being able to re-watch some of the most jaw-dropping visuals over and over was a very exciting prospect. Fortunately Sony's AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer is quite spectacular. Given that the movie has a runtime of around 147 minutes, and that there are some extras also on the disc we were impressed with the final result.
There are, however a couple of minor issues which we noticed. There was some very occasional colour banding, some very light black crush, and seemingly a little difference in the grain and detail levels in some scenes. Having said that for the amount of CG in this movie (some sequences are completely CG, it looks stunning and is certainly demo material through and through.
One aspect of the audio on this release that I found somewhat strange/puzzling/questionable, is to do with the sub woofer. Just before I watched this movie I disassembled my entire theatre setup to clean the carpets in the room. When I put it all back though, and watched this movie I had to do a double check to ensure the sub-woofer was working, and at the right levels. When the major disaster sequence kicks in around the 44 minute mark the simply doesn't seem to be as much bass as one would expect from such a major, city-destroying earthquake. Alas the room wasn't shaking as much as I expected.
Subtitles for the feature film are provided in English, English SDH, French, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, and Swedish. Subtitles for the commentary are provided in English, French and Dutch. We sampled the English subtitles briefly which seemed fairly accurate to the dialogue on-screen and in the commentary.
Picture-In-Picture: Roland's Vision: This featurette provides a small window which shows off pre-viz, storyboards, interviews with the cast and crew from the film and behind the scenes footage. What's present is very good with some interesting moments however this isn't a continual PIP commentary with some gaps between segments. Not the best we've seen, but it's worth checking out.
Commentary with Writer/Director Roland Emmerich and Co-Writer Harald Kloser: Despite this pair thinking a little too highly of this as great cinema, this is a fairly interesting commentary which details much of the production and the extensive visual effects used throughout the movie.
Designing The End Of The World (26:03/HD): This was probably the pick of the extras for me as it focuses on the massive action sequences and visual effects in this movie from concept to production, and it truly is a visual tour de force. Plenty of interviews and on-set footage make this certainly worth a watch.
Roland Emmerich: The Master of the Modern Epic (9:31/HD): A look at the director of the movie, his vision with creating disaster movies. There's way too much love and praise from the various actors and filmmakers from 2012.
The End Of The World: The Actor's Perspective (7:34/HD): Only marginally better then an EPK featurette this looks at the actors that appeared in 2012 and what the felt being in such an epic disaster movie.
Science Behind The Destruction (13:19/HD): This featurette looks at the "Science" behind the movie and the potential that the destruction seen in the movie could happen in real life. It seems that they stretched believability a very long way. Still, this is mildly interesting.
Deleted Scenes (4:55/HD): Five deleted scenes are presented here but don't really add anything much to the story and won't be missed. Video is in HD, but the audio is only Dolby Digital 2 channel 192kbps.
MovieIQ (HD): MovieIQ is a fairly new feature on Sony Blu-Ray discs which, though an internet connection, allows you to get more information (we believe sourced from IMDB) about actors in the film. It's an interesting concept that works quite well (in fact we could see this in future being used to sell 'products' seen in films).
Review By: Dave Warner