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2012 (film)

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2012 Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Produced by Harald Kloser
Mark Gordon
Larry J. Franco
Written by Harald Kloser
Roland Emmerich
Music by Harald Kloser
Thomas Wander
Cinematography Dean Semler
Edited by David Brenner
Peter Elliott
Distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing
Release dates
  • November 13, 2009 (2009-11-13)
Running time
158 minutes
Country United States[1]
Language English
Budget $200 million[2]
Box office $769.7 million[3]

2012 is a 2009 American science fiction disaster adventure film directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich. It stars John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, and Woody Harrelson. It was produced by Sony Pictures and distributed by Columbia Pictures.[1] Filming began in August 2008 in Vancouver, although it was originally planned to be filmed in Los Angeles.[4]

The plot follows Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) as he attempts to bring his family to refuge, amidst the events of a geological and meteorological super-disaster. The film includes references to Mayanism, the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, and the 2012 phenomenon in its portrayal of cataclysmic events unfolding in the year 2012.

After a prolonged marketing campaign comprising the creation of a website from the point of view of the main character,[5] and a viral marketing website on which filmgoers could register for a lottery number to save them from the ensuing disaster,[6] the film was released internationally on November 13, 2009. Critics gave 2012 mostly mixed reviews, praising its special effects but criticizing its plot elements and length (158 minutes). Despite this, the film, budgeted at $200 million, earned a worldwide box office of nearly $770 million.[7]


In 2009, American geologist Adrian Helmsley visits astrophysicist Satnam Tsurutani in India and learns that neutrinos from a massive solar flare are causing the temperature of the Earth's core to rapidly increase. Arriving at a party in Washington, D.C, Helmsley presents his information to White House Chief of Staff Carl Anheuser, who takes him to meet the President.

In 2010, U.S. President Thomas Wilson and other international leaders begin a secret project to ensure humanity's survival. The G8 nations, plus China, are building nine enormous arks, capable of carrying 100,000 people each, near Cho Ming, Tibet, in the Himalayas, China. A Buddhist monk named Nima leaves the area while his brother Tenzin joins the ark construction project. Critical funding is raised by selling tickets for 1 billion per person for a handful of seats. By 2011, valuable items are moved to the arks with the help of art expert and First Daughter Dr. Laura Wilson.

In 2012, science fiction writer Jackson Curtis is a chauffeur in Los Angeles for Russian billionaire Yuri Karpov. Jackson's former wife Kate, and their children Noah and Lilly, live with Kate's boyfriend, plastic surgeon Gordon Silberman. Jackson takes Noah and Lilly camping in Yellowstone National Park. When they find an area fenced off with "Danger" signage by the U.S. Army, Jackson takes his kids over the fence into apparent danger, where they are caught and taken to see Helmsley. After they are released from military custody, they meet Charlie Frost, who hosts a radio show from the park.

That night, after the military evacuates from Yellowstone, Jackson watches Charlie's video of Charles Hapgood's theory that polar shifts and the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar have predicted that the 2012 phenomenon will occur. Charlie also tells Jackson that those who discovered this and plotted to inform the public were killed in various accidents. Meanwhile, numerous large 10.9 earthquakes begin affecting California and Jackson quickly returns home to save his family. They are able to escape from Los Angeles in a private plane as the cataclysmic Earth crust displacement begins and watch on in horror as California collapses into the Pacific Ocean.

Despite worldwide earthquakes that are decimating the planet's population, the group is able to fly to a placid Yellowstone to retrieve a map from Charlie that displays the location of the arks in Tibet. They escape as the Yellowstone Caldera suddenly erupts, though Charlie stays behind to broadcast the eruption for his remaining surviving listeners and is killed. The group lands in Las Vegas to find a larger plane, finding Yuri, his twin sons, girlfriend Tamara and pilot Sasha.

Helmsley, Anheuser, and Laura Wilson are flying on Air Force One to the arks. President Wilson remains in Washington, D.C. to address what's left of the nation, wanting to tell them the truth and give families a chance to "hold each other and say goodbye". With the entire presidential line of succession gone, Anheuser takes on leadership of the American contingent. In Las Vegas, Jackson's group find Yuri's, where Sasha and Gordon fly them out in an available Antonov An-500 aircraft. They depart for Tibet as the Yellowstone ash cloud engulfs the city, while megatsunamis inundate coastal areas, including Washington, D.C.

The Antonov, out of fuel, crashes in Tibet killing Sasha. The others are found by helicopters from the Chinese army. Yuri and his sons, possessing tickets, are taken to the arks, leaving the rest of the group. The group are picked up by Nima and taken to the arks with his grandparents. They find Tenzin, who helps them stow away on Ark 4, the American ark. With a megatsunami less than 15 minutes from the site, Helmsley convinces the three available arks to risk everything and reopen their ships to board the hundreds of thousands of local shipbuilders and passengers from the five damaged or incomplete arks, even though Anheuser points out that this will deplete the limited resources of the three arks and finish humankind. Yuri, Gordon and Tamara are killed in the chaos. Jackson's ten person group cause an impact driver tool they are using to become lodged in the gears of Ark 4's hydraulic doors, preventing a boarding gate from closing and causing an untold number of passengers to be slaughtered when the wave hits. Jackson and Noah dislodge the tool and the crew regains control of the ark before it smashes into Mount Everest.

27 days later, as flood waters slowly recede, the three arks are seen approaching the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, where the Drakensberg mountain range has now emerged. Helmsley starts a relationship with Laura while Jackson and Kate rekindle their relationship.

Alternate ending[edit]

An alternate ending is featured on the DVD release of the film. After Captain Michaels, the captain of Ark 4, announces that they are heading to the Cape of Good Hope, he tells Dr. Helmsley that he has a phone call waiting for him. Dr. Helmsley discovers that his dad Harry is still alive. Harry tells his son that he, Tony (whose arm is in a sling), and some of the passengers and crew survived the megatsunami that struck the Genesis. Captain Michaels states that they should have a visual on the ocean-liner shortly. After Kate thanks Laura for taking care of Lily, Laura tells Jackson that she liked his book. Jackson then gives Noah his cell phone back which he recovered during Ark 4's flooding. Lily then announces that she sees an island. The Arks arrive at the shipwrecked Genesis and the survivors on the beach.[8][9]



The credits cite the bestselling book Fingerprints of the Gods by author Graham Hancock as inspiration for the film,[14] and in an interview with the London magazine Time Out, Emmerich states: "I always wanted to do a biblical flood movie, but I never felt I had the hook. I first read about the Earth's Crust Displacement Theory in Graham Hancock's Fingerprints of the Gods."[15]

Director Emmerich and composer-producer Harald Kloser had an extremely close relationship and also co-wrote a spec script entitled 2012, which was marketed to major studios in February 2008. Nearly all studios met with Emmerich and his representatives to hear the director's budget projection and story plans, a process that the director had previously gone through with the films Independence Day (1996) and The Day After Tomorrow (2004).[16] Later that month, Sony Pictures Entertainment won the rights for the spec script, planning to distribute it under Columbia Pictures[17] and was produced for less than budgeted. According to Emmerich, the film was eventually produced for about $200 million.[2]

Filming was originally scheduled to begin in Los Angeles, California, in July 2008[4] but instead commenced in Kamloops, Savona, Cache Creek and Ashcroft in British Columbia, Canada.[18] Due to the possible 2008 Screen Actors Guild strike, filmmakers set up a contingency plan for salvaging the film.[19] Uncharted Territory, Digital Domain, Double Negative, Scanline, Sony Pictures Imageworks and others were hired to create computer animated visual effects for 2012.

Although the film depicts the destruction of several major cultural and historical icons around the world, Emmerich stated that the Kaaba was also considered for selection. Kloser opposed the idea out of fear that a fatwā might be issued against him.[20][21]


The film was promoted in a marketing campaign by a fictional organization, the "Institute for Human Continuity"; this entailed a fictitious book written by Jackson Curtis entitled Farewell Atlantis,[5] and streaming media, blog updates and radio broadcasts from the apocalyptic zealot Charlie Frost on his website This Is The End.[5]

On November 12, 2008, the new studio released the first teaser trailer for 2012 that showed a tsunami surging over the Himalayas and interlaced a purportedly scientific message suggesting that the world would end in 2012, and that the world's governments were not preparing its population for the event. The trailer ended with a message to viewers to "find out the truth" by searching "2012" on search engines. The Guardian criticized the marketing effectiveness as "deeply flawed" and associated it with "websites that make even more spurious claims about 2012".[22]

The studio also launched a viral marketing website operated by the fictional Institute for Human Continuity, where filmgoers could register for a lottery number to be part of a small population that would be rescued from the global destruction.[6] David Morrison of NASA received over 1000 inquiries from people who thought the website was genuine, and condemned it. "I've even had cases of teenagers writing to me saying they are contemplating suicide because they don't want to see the world end," he said. "I think when you lie on the internet and scare children to make a buck, that is ethically wrong."[23] Another viral marketing website promotes Farewell Atlantis, a fictional suspense novel about the events of 2012.[5]

Comcast had also organized a "roadblock campaign" to promote the film, where a two-minute scene from the film was broadcast across 450 American commercial television networks, local English-language and Spanish-language stations, and 89 cable outlets within a ten-minute window between 10:50 PM EDT/PDT and 11:00 PM EDT/PDT on October 1, 2009.[24] The scene featured the destruction of Los Angeles and ended with a cliffhanger, with the entire 5-minute-38-second clip made available on Comcast's Fancast web site. The trade newspaper Variety estimated that, "The stunt will put the footage in front of 90% of all households watching ad-supported TV, or nearly 110 million viewers. When combined with online and mobile streams, that could increase to more than 140 million".[24]


2012: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Harald Kloser and Thomas Wander
Released November 10, 2009
Length 57:48
Label RCA Victor
Singles from 2012: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  1. "Time for Miracles"
    Released: October 18, 2009 (2009-10-18)

The original score for the film was composed by Harald Kloser and Thomas Wanker. Singer Adam Lambert contributed a song for the film titled "Time for Miracles" and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity in an interview with MTV.[25]

The film's soundtrack consists of 24 tracks, and it includes the songs "Fades Like a Photograph" by Filter and "It Ain't the End of the World", performed by George Segal and Blu Mankuma, which were featured in the film.[26] The trailer music was Master of Shadows by Two Steps From Hell.


2012 was originally scheduled to be released on July 10, 2009. The release date was changed to November 2009 to move out of the busy summer schedule into a time frame that the studio considered to have more potential for financial success. According to the studio, the film could have been completed for the summer release date, but the date change would give more time to the production. The film was released on November 13, 2009 in Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Mexico, India and the United States, and was released on November 21, 2009 in Japan.[27]

The DVD and Blu-ray for 2012 were released on March 2, 2010. The 2-Disc Blu-ray Edition includes over 90 minutes of special features, including Adam Lambert's music video "Time for Miracles", and a Digital Copy for PSP, PC, Mac & iPod.[28] The European release date of 2012 on DVD was March 26, 2010; it includes the same special features as the North American version.

A limited 3D version was re-released exclusively in select Cinemex theaters in Mexico in February 2013.[29]


Box office[edit]

2012 earned $166,112,167 in North America and $603,567,306 in other territories for a worldwide total of $769,679,473. Worldwide it is the 50th highest-grossing film, the fifth highest-grossing 2009 film[7] and the fifth highest-grossing film distributed by Sony/Columbia, behind Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy and Skyfall.[30] It is also the second highest grossing film directed by Emmerich, behind Independence Day.[31] On its worldwide opening weekend it made $230.5 million, marking the fourth-largest opening of 2009 and the fourth-largest for Sony/Columbia.[32]

In North America, it grossed $65,237,614 on its first weekend, ranking number one. Its opening is the fourth largest for a disaster film.[33] The film grossed $166,112,167 in total.[3]

Outside North America, it is the 28th highest-grossing film, the fourth highest-grossing 2009 film[34] and the second highest-grossing film distributed by Sony/Columbia, after Skyfall. It earned $165.2 million on its opening weekend, which ranks as the 14th largest opening.[35] Its largest opening was recorded in France and the Maghreb region ($18.0 million). In total earnings, its three highest-grossing territories after North America are France and the Maghreb region ($44.0 million), Japan ($42.6 million), and Germany ($37.7 million).[36]

Critical response[edit]

The film received mixed reviews from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes shows that only 39% of 219 critics (31% of the top 45 critics) gave the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5 out of 10.[37] The site's consensus is that "Roland Emmerich's 2012 provides plenty of visual thrills, but lacks a strong enough script to support its massive scope and inflated length."[38] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 1–100 reviews from film critics, gives a rating score of 49 based on 34 reviews.[39]

Roger Ebert was enthusiastic about the film, giving it 3½ stars out of 4, saying it "delivers what it promises, and since no sentient being will buy a ticket expecting anything else, it will be, for its audiences, one of the most satisfactory films of the year".[40] Both Ebert and Claudia Puig of USA Today called the film the "mother of all disaster movies".[40][41] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone criticized the film by comparing it to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: "Beware 2012, which works the dubious miracle of almost matching Transformers 2 for sheer, cynical, mind-numbing, time-wasting, money-draining, soul-sucking stupidity."[42]


Danny Glover was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for his role in the film.[43]
Award Category Recipients and nominees Outcome
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards[44] Best Visual Effects Volker Engel, Marc Weigert, Mike Vézina Nominated
NAACP Image Award[43] Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Chiwetel Ejiofor Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Danny Glover Nominated
Motion Picture Sound Editors[45] Best Sound Editing – Music in a Feature Film Fernand Bos, Ronald J. Webb Nominated
Best Sound Editing – Sound Effects and Foley in a Feature Film Fernand Bos, Ronald J. Webb Nominated
Satellite Awards[46] Best Sound (Mixing and Editing) Paul N.J. Ottosson, Michael McGee, Rick Kline, Jeffrey J. Haboush, Michael Keller Won
Best Visual Effects Volker Engel, Marc Weigert, Mike Vézina Won
Best Art Direction and Production Design Barry Chusid, Elizabeth Wilcox Nominated
Best Film Editing David Brenner, Peter S. Elliot Nominated
Saturn Awards[47] Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film 2012 Nominated
Best Special Effects Volker Engel, Marc Weigert, Mike Vézina Nominated

North Korean ban[edit]

North Korea has reportedly banned possession or viewing of the film. The year 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of the nation's founder, Kim Il-sung, and has been designated by the North Korean government as "the year for opening the grand gates to becoming a rising superpower". Thus a movie depicting the year in a negative light was found to be offensive by the North Korean government. Several people in North Korea have reportedly been arrested for possessing or viewing pirated copies of the movie and charged with "grave provocation against the development of the state."[48][49]

Canceled television spin-off[edit]

In 2010, Entertainment Weekly announced that there had been a plan for a spin-off television series entitled 2013 that would have served as a follow-up to the film.[50] Executive producer of 2012 Mark Gordon told EW that "ABC will have an opening in their disaster-related programming after Lost ends, so people would be interested in this topic on a weekly basis. There's hope for the world despite the magnitude of the 2012 disaster as seen in the film. After the movie, there are some people who survive, and the question is how will these survivors build a new world and what will it look like. That might make an interesting TV series."[50] However, plans were later scrapped due to future budget concerns.[50] This would have been Emmerich's third film to get a spinoff, the first being Stargate (with its TV series Stargate SG-1, Stargate Infinity, Stargate Atlantis, Stargate Universe), and the second being Godzilla (with its cartoon spin-off Godzilla: The Series).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "2012". American Film Institute. Retrieved May 6, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Blair, Ian (November 6, 2009). "'2012's Roland Emmerich: Grilled". The Wrap. Archived from the original on 14 November 2009. Retrieved December 9, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "2012 (2009)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Siegel, Tatiana (May 19, 2008). "John Cusack set for 2012". Variety. Archived from the original on 9 July 2008. Retrieved July 14, 2008. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Farewell Atlantis by Jackson Curtis – Fake website". Sony Pictures. Archived from the original on 10 July 2011. Retrieved June 30, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Billington, Alex (November 15, 2008). "Roland Emmerich's 2012 Viral — Institute for Human Continuity". Archived from the original on 20 December 2008. Retrieved December 10, 2008. 
  7. ^ a b "2009 Worldwide Grosses". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 21 January 2010. Retrieved January 20, 2010. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Foy, Scott (October 2, 2009). "Five Hilariously Disaster-ffic Minutes of 2012". Dread Central. Retrieved June 30, 2011. 
  11. ^ Simmons, Leslie (May 19, 2008). "John Cusack ponders disaster flick". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on May 25, 2008. Retrieved July 14, 2008. 
  12. ^ Simmons, Leslie; Borys Kit (June 13, 2008). "Amanda Peet is 2012 lead". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from [:// the original] on July 5, 2008. Retrieved July 14, 2008. 
  13. ^ Kit, Borys (July 1, 2008). "Thomas McCarthy joins 2012". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on July 3, 2008. Retrieved July 14, 2008. 
  14. ^ "2012 (2009) – Credit List". Retrieved November 25, 2009. 
  15. ^ Jenkins, David (November 16, 2009). "Roland Emmerich's guide to disaster movies". Time Out. Archived from the original on 16 November 2009. Retrieved November 25, 2009. 
  16. ^ Fleming, Michael (February 19, 2008). "Studios vie for Emmerich's 2012". Variety. Retrieved July 14, 2008. 
  17. ^ Fleming, Michael (February 21, 2008). "Sony buys Emmerich's 2012". Variety. Retrieved July 14, 2008. 
  18. ^ "2012 Filmed in Thompson Region!". December 14, 2009. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved June 30, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Big Hollywood films shooting despite strike threat". Reuters. August 1, 2008. Retrieved August 5, 2008. 
  20. ^ Ben Child (November 3, 2009). "Emmerich reveals fear of fatwa axed 2012 scene". The Guardian (London). 
  21. ^ Jonathan Crow (November 3, 2009). "The One Place on Earth Not Destroyed in '2012'". Yahoo! Movies. 
  22. ^ Pickard, Anna (November 25, 2008). "2012: a cautionary tale about marketing". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 22 January 2009. Retrieved December 10, 2008. 
  23. ^ Connor, Steve (October 17, 2009). "Relax, the end isn't nigh". The Independent (London). Archived from the original on 20 October 2009. Retrieved October 20, 2009. 
  24. ^ a b Graser, Mark (September 23, 2009). "Sony readies 'roadblock' for 2012". Variety. Archived from the original on 11 October 2009. Retrieved September 29, 2009. 
  25. ^ Vena, Jocelyn (November 4, 2009). "Adam Lambert Feels 'Honored' To Be On '2012' Soundtrack". MTV Movie News. Archived from the original on 28 January 2010. Retrieved January 18, 2010. 
  26. ^ "2012: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack". Retrieved April 3, 2011.
  27. ^ "2012 Worldwide Release Dates". Retrieved November 12, 2009. 
  28. ^ "Early Art and Specs: 2012 Rocking on to DVD and Blu-ray". DreadCentral. Retrieved July 3, 2011. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ All Time Worldwide Box Office Grosses
  31. ^ Rolan Emmerich Movie Box Office Results
  32. ^ Worldwide Openings
  33. ^ "Disaster Movies at the Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 25, 2014. 
  34. ^ "Overseas Total Yearly Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  35. ^ "Overseas Total All Time Openings". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 23 June 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  36. ^ 2012 (2009) – International Box Office Results
  37. ^ "2012 (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Archived from the original on 11 January 2010. Retrieved January 20, 2010. 
  38. ^ "2012 (Cream of the Crop)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved December 25, 2009. 
  39. ^ "2012". Metacritic. CNET Networks. Archived from the original on 17 January 2010. Retrieved December 25, 2009. 
  40. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (November 12, 2009). "2012 ::". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 15 November 2009. Retrieved November 14, 2009. 
  41. ^ Puig, Claudia (November 13, 2009). "'2012': Now that's Armageddon!". USA Today. Retrieved November 20, 2009. 
  42. ^ Travers, Peter (November 12, 2009). "2012: Review". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 15 November 2009. Retrieved November 12, 2009. 
  43. ^ a b "The 41st NAACP Image Awards". NAACP Image Award. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved June 30, 2011. 
  44. ^ "The 15th Annual Critics Choice Movie Awards". Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards. Retrieved June 30, 2011. 
  45. ^ "2010 Golden Reel Award Nominees: Feature Films". Motion Picture Sound Editors. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved June 30, 2011. 
  46. ^ "Satellite Awards Announce 2009 Nominations". November 29, 2009. Retrieved June 30, 2011. 
  47. ^ Miller, Ross (February 19, 2010). "Avatar Leads 2010 Saturn Awards Nominations". Archived from the original on 3 July 2011. Retrieved June 30, 2011. 
  48. ^ Nishimura, Daisuke (March 26, 2010). "Watching '2012' a no-no in N. Korea". (The Asahi Shimbun Company). Archived from the original on 29 March 2010. Retrieved April 25, 2010. 
  49. ^ "North Korea fears 2012 disaster film will thwart rise as superpower". The Telegraph. March 26, 2010. Retrieved July 18, 2011. 
  50. ^ a b c Rice, Lynette (March 2, 2010). "ABC passes on '2012' TV show". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 3, 2011. 

External links[edit]