2012 (film)


Theatrical poster
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Produced by Roland Emmerich
Mark Gordon
Harald Kloser
Larry J. Franco
Ute Emmerich
Written by Harald Kloser
Roland Emmerich
Starring John Cusack
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Amanda Peet
Thandie Newton
Oliver Platt
with Danny Glover
and Woody Harrelson
Music by Harald Kloser
Thomas Wander
James Seymour Brett (additional score)
Cinematography Dean Semler
Editing by David Brenner
Peter S. Elliott
Studio Centropolis Entertainment
The Mark Gordon Company
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) November 11, 2009[1][2] (World premiere)
November 13, 2009[1] (Canada & US)
November 21, 2009[1] (Japan)
Running time 158 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $260 million[3]

2012 is a 2009 disaster film directed by Roland Emmerich. The film has an ensemble cast, including John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Woody Harrelson. The film will be distributed by Columbia Pictures. Filming began in August 2008 in Vancouver.


  • 1 Plot
  • 2 Production
  • 3 Cast
  • 4 Soundtrack
  • 5 Marketing
  • 6 Release
  • 7 Reception
  • 8 Television spin-off



Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) is a divorced father who works as a limousine driver and writer, while ex-wife Kate Curtis (Amanda Peet) and children Noah (Liam James) and Lily (Morgan Lily) live with Kate’s new boyfriend, Gordon (Thomas McCarthy).

In the Mayan city of Tikal in Guatemala, the victims of a mass suicide adhere to the Mayan Long Count Calendar, which predicts the end of the world will occur at the end of the current cycle on or around December 21, 2012, which also coincides with the Galactic Alignment of December 21, 2012 (the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice). The Institute for Human Continuity, a covert organization aware of the situation, begins building huge arks beneath the Himalayan Mountains designed to withstand natural disasters, in order to save humanity, significant species, and mankind’s greatest treasures. There are debates about how and when the world’s governments will alert their citizens, and how to select those who will survive Armageddon. Meanwhile, on a trip to Yellowstone with his children, Jackson meets Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson), who hosts a radio segment on the Mayans’ predictions.

Vast cracks soon develop in the San Andreas Fault, California. Despite government assurance that all is fine, Jackson isn’t convinced. Hiring a private plane and gathering supplies, he drives to Kate’s home to save his family and Gordon from the impending earthquakes of the Earth’s crust displacement. Jackson quickly collects his family, and after a dangerous drive through collapsing streets to the airport, Gordon then uses his pilot skills to fly them out. The crumbling city of Los Angeles collapses into the Pacific Ocean. When the plane runs low on fuel, they are forced to land in Wyoming. Jackson uses this chance to contact Charlie. Against Kate’s will, Jackson and Lily go to look for Charlie, though discover his van empty. Via the radio, they learn that Charlie has gone to the mountains to watch the nearing catastrophe. Jackson takes the van to save Charlie, though Charlie refuses to leave. As Jackson and Lily escape from the now-erupting Yellowstone Supervolcano, Charlie mentions a map in the van that shows an escape route. Jackson and Lily drive back to the plane through a fiery maelstrom of lava, which kills Charlie. Upon arriving, Lily runs to the plane, while Jackson searches for the map, but takes too long to find it. As the earth opens up, the van falls into a crevasse. The family is horrified, but must leave. Jackson grabs onto a ledge, and runs to the plane as the ground collapses. He is just fast enough to enter the plane.

Huge earthquakes occur in South America; Washington D.C. has a tsunami in which the USS John F. Kennedy crushes the White House; St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City crumbles, killing thousands. The U.S. Government finally admits that it is the end of the world. Jackson’s group must find their way to China to board the arks, though the small plane is insufficient for the journey. Upon finding a much larger plane, they discover that it is already filled. However, Gordon stumbles upon an old client, Tamara (Beatrice Rosen). She is with Russian millionaire Yuri Karpov (Zlatko Buric), who owns the plane. Jackson pleads with Yuri to allow them aboard, but Yuri refuses. Yuri’s pilot, Sasha (Johann Urb), then states that he requires a co-pilot, whereupon Jackson replies that Gordon is an experienced pilot. The group eventually boards the plane as the airport is destroyed by earthquakes.

While in the air, Sasha finds the plane does not have enough fuel to reach China. He informs Gordon, and they agree to ditch the plane. Sasha then discovers that they are no longer above the ocean: the Earth’s crust has shifted thousands of miles and they are heading towards the Himalayas. Knowing the risks of landing the plane upon the snow, Sasha suggests that the passengers go to the cargo bay where many cars are held, while he and Gordon maintain the controls and open the cargo door from the cockpit. They plan for the group to drive the cars from the cargo bay. Gordon must abandon Sasha and runs to the car just in time. Sasha lands the plane upon a cliff, but dies when it collapses. The remaining members land safely. Before they have time, Chinese helicopters carrying animals fly above. One helicopter descends, though the group finds that they will need to pay to get aboard. Yuri pays for himself and his sons, but refuses to pay for the others. Before boarding, Yuri tells Tamara that he knew of her relationship with Sasha.

The group has no choice but to walk through the mountains to find others. A car soon drives by, and Jackson throws a rock at it. The car backs up, and the occupants allow the group to join them. In the car are a Buddhist monk, Nima (Osric Chau), and his grandmother (Lisa Lu). They are driving to meet Nima’s brother Tenzin (Chin Han), who has a plan to sneak into an ark. Upon the group’s arrival, Tenzin is infuriated. He tells Nima that his plan could not accommodate so many people, and that the others are unable to come. Jackson and Kate insist that Tenzin take the children. After further discussion, Tenzin allows the entire group to join.

The continental shift now causes massive tsunamis, flooding much of the world, including India and even the Himalayan mountains. The tsunamis now travel towards the arks. Jackson’s group manages to sneak aboard an ark with the help of Tenzin. Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), the President’s Chief of Staff, now Commander In Chief since Thomas Wilson, the President of the United States (Danny Glover) died when he stayed back in America, orders that the gates be closed, as supplies are insufficient. During the closing of the gates, Tenzin’s leg is crushed and Gordon is killed. Yuri sacrifices himself to put his two sons on the ark. Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), American scientist and the other world leaders order the gates be re-opened for remaining survivors. The gears of a gate on the group’s ark become stuck and grind to a halt, leaving the gate partly-open. Tamara drowns when she is trapped in a chamber with rising waters. The engines of the ark cannot be started unless the gates are closed. As a tsunami hits the ark, a main supporting structure breaks, and the ark floats towards Mount Everest. Jackson and Noah manage to fix the ark’s gear and the gate closes. The engines are re-activated to avoid an impact with the mountains. The ark hits Mount Everest, but sustains little damage. When the flood eventually recedes, the captains of the arks decide upon the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa as a suitable new land.


Director Roland Emmerich and composer-producer Harald Kloser co-wrote a spec script titled 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).[4] The film was shopped around with a production budget of $260 million.[3] Later that month, Sony Pictures Entertainment won the rights for the spec script, planning to distribute it under Columbia Pictures.[5] The studio planned to make the film for less than the estimated budget.[6]

Filming was originally scheduled to begin in Los Angeles, California, in July 2008,[7] but instead commenced in Vancouver in August 2008 and concluded in January 2009.[8] Due to the possible 2008 Screen Actors Guild strike, filmmakers set up a contingency plan for salvaging the film.[9] Uncharted Territory, Digital Domain, Double Negative, Scanline, Sony Pictures Imageworks and others were hired to create visual effects for 2012.[10] Thomas Wander co-wrote the score with Harald Kloser.

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 had reservations over including Mecca, saying he did not want a fatwā issued against him.[11]


  • John Cusack as Jackson Curtis, a science fiction book writer who occasionally works as a limousine driver[12]
  • Amanda Peet as Kate Curtis, Jackson’s ex-wife[13]
  • Liam James as Noah Curtis, Jackson and Kate’s son
  • Morgan Lily as Lilly Curtis, Jackson and Kate’s daughter[14]
  • Thomas McCarthy as Gordon, Kate’s current boyfriend and a plastic surgeon.[15]
  • Danny Glover as Thomas Wilson, the 45th President of the United States[6]
  • Thandie Newton as Laura Wilson, the First Daughter[6]
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor as Adrian Helmsley, scientific advisor to the President[16]
  • Oliver Platt as Carl Anheuser, the President’s Chief of Staff[6]
  • Woody Harrelson as Charlie Frost,[17] a man who prophesies the end of the world and is considered crazy by others. Alex Jones has claimed Harrelson told him that Frost’s character was based on him.[citation needed] It is more likely that this character was based upon Art Bell. Harrelson compared his character to the mythological Greek figure Cassandra, whose predictions were dismissed[18]
  • Ng Chin Han as Lin Pang, a worker in Tibet[8]
  • Zlatko Burić as Yuri Karpov, A Russian millionare


The original score for the film was composed by Harald Kloser and Thomas Wander. Singer Adam Lambert from American Idol contributed a song for the film called “Time for Miracles” and expressed his gratitude for the oppurtunity in an interview with MTV.[19] The film’s soundtracks conisists of 24 tracks, which also includes the song “Fades Like a Photograph” by Filter and another song called “It’s Not The End of The World”, written by Kloser and Wander.[20]


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”.[21]

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.[22] David Morrison of NASA has received over 1000 inquiries from people who thought the website was genuine and has condemned it, saying “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. I think when you lie on the internet and scare children in order to make a buck, that is ethically wrong.”[23] Another viral marketing website promotes Farewell Atlantis, a fictional suspense novel by the film’s lead protagonist, about the events of 2012.[24]

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 and Spanish language stations, and 89 cable outlets within a 10-minute window between 10:50 PM EDT/PDT and 11:00 PM EDT/PDT on October 1, 2009.[25] The scene featured the destruction of Los Angeles and ended with a cliffhanger, with the entire five-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”.[25] Sony also plans on replicating this promotion in other regions.[25]


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 will give more time to the production.[26] The film was released on November 11, 2009.[27][2] It will be released on Friday November 13, 2009 in Canada and the United States, and on November 21, 2009 in Japan.[1] It was given a wide release in India on November 13, 2009. In the United Kingdom, some theatres, such as the Vue Cinemas Islington, have a screening time of 8:12pm (20:12 on a 24 hour clock) to coincide with the film’s title.[28]


The film has been met with mixed reviews with 34% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 88 reviews, citing the numerous scientific inaccuracies, lazy script and heavy reliance on the CG visuals. On its top ‘critics’ section it currently has 22%. [29] In comparison, the film also has a ‘mixed’ score of 56 on Metacritic, based on 7 reviews.[30]

Roger Ebert was enthusiastic about the film, giving it 3.5 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.”

Television spin-off

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Emmerich confirmed that a television series based upon the film is in the works. The series will serve as a sequel to the film and is planned to focus on a group of survivors in 2013.


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