Massive global destruction -- not for worriers.
  • Review Date: October 30, 2009
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 158 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Despite the relentlessly depressing, gruesome subject matter and millions (billions?) of deaths, the film's main point is that family is ultimately the most important thing in life. Several characters risk their lives or well-being for family members, and one character tries (tragically) to contact his family too late. Certain selfish characters are redeemed by saving family members, and the movie makes a point of mentioning that the most selfish character of all has no family. Aside from that, a few characters look beyond family to try to rescue total strangers as well.

Positive role models

The characters aren't very deep, but some of them still demonstrate marked heroism and selflessness. Hero Jackson Curtis previously ignored his family in favor of his career, but he returns to them during the disaster, learning how to connect with,  love, and forgive them. Later, he risks his life to save thousands of people. Other characters clash over methods by which to choose who's rescued, with some seeing only the bottom line, but others arguing that everyone has a right to live. The president shows heroism and self sacrifice.


Not much blood and gore (one character gets his leg gouged in a giant gear), but the massive destruction results in countless anonymous deaths. The movie does focus dramatically on certain known faces as they meet their terrible fates, but it rarely stops to linger on them. Two children watch as their father falls to his death and another character is ground up in some machinery. Smaller moments of hostility at a boxing match, and a character punches another character in the face. A mass suicide is mentioned on a news report.


One character is a plastic surgeon who does breast implants. He meets one of his patients, and they mention her surgery several times. Gordon and Kate briefly discuss "making a baby" of their own. Kate and Jackson kiss once, and there's a near-kiss between Adrien and the president's daughter.


Fairly light use of strong language, although there's at least one "f--k," a few uses of "s--t," and other words like "damn," "ass," "hell," "goddamn," and "oh my God." One character flips another one off.


A wealthy character brags about his fancy new Bentley. Pull-Ups diapers are discussed and shown.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Two minor adult characters are shown drinking. One takes his first drink in 25 years when he discovers that the world is going to end.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that director Roland Emmerich's 2012 is an intense, violent disaster movie, with billions of anonymous characters getting killed during massive scenes of destruction (earthquakes, tsunamis, and more). Although the tone is mainly exciting, the relentless devastation could terrify or depress many viewers (both kids and grown-ups), especially those who've been through natural disasters themselves. In other words, this is no movie for kids anxious about the state of the world. Fans of the genre will find some of the effects truly impressive, but there's not much in the way of character or plot depth. Expect a little bit of kissing, drinking, and swearing (including "s--t"). All that and it's almost three hours long. ...

What's the story?

When the sun suddenly begins bombarding Earth with a higher neutrino count, heating up the planet's core, it all-too-quickly leads to massive natural disasters -- from earthquakes to tsunamis -- and even shifting of the north and south poles. A secret project is underway in Tibet to build "arks" to rescue a certain number of people, but most of the seats have been reserved for the world's richest and most important people. While scientist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) collects data and fights against greed and corruption, small-time Los Angeles author Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) tries to rescue his ex-wife (Amanda Peet) and their two kids, get them to Tibet, and secure them seats on one of the arks. But can he do this impossible task in time?

Is it any good?


Disaster movies are usually very popular and have long managed to thrill plenty of people with their huge scale and awesome special effects. Since 2012 (which is tied to a much-debated Mayan prophecy that supposedly names that year as the one in which the world will end) is one of the biggest and most spectacular to date, it will no doubt follow suit -- and, in terms of visual effects and clear, exciting filmmaking, it is well done. And the impressive, appealing cast does its level best to read through the third-rate dialogue without too much eye-rolling.

But anyone looking for character depth, powerful emotional content, intelligence, poetic images, or personal expression of any kind is advised to look elsewhere. At best, it's a nearly three-hour film packed with several tons of clichés whose best features are explosions and general destruction. At worst, it's a gruesome, depressing subject as viewed from the seat of a passing roller coaster.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's destruction and violence. Much of it is of a sci-fi/fantasy nature, but if you stop to think about it, the enormity and frequency of it can be overwhelming. Is this kind of violence more or less upsetting than gory horror movies?

  • One of the movie's major themes is the importance of family. Does that come through amid the chaos and destruction? Did the movie make you feel closer to your own family?

  • Why do you think the wealthiest and most important people were chosen for seats on the arks? Should other people have gotten a chance? What would have been a better way to go about the process?

  • Do you think a disaster like this could occur? If so, is it better to try and prepare or better not to worry about something we can't control?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 13, 2009
DVD release date:March 2, 2010
Cast:Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Cusack
Director:Roland Emmerich
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Genre:Science Fiction
Run time:158 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:intense disaster sequences and some language.

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Written byAnonymous September 20, 2014
age 12+

2012 review

========================================================= Sex/Nudity: Laura shows a little cleavage. With Jackson wanting to show his kids a special place in Yellowstone for him and Kate in the past, Noah sarcastically states he doesn't want to know "where you and mom had sex." While hugging her close from behind in the grocery store, Gordon playfully tells Kate, "Why don't we make a baby?" She replies that they're not making a baby in the supermarket and then playfully tells him, "Hands off the merchandise" (meaning her body). He then playfully replies that women pay him thousands to handle their "boobs" (as a breast enhancement surgeon) and that she's getting such groping for free. Tamara shows some cleavage. We see two shirtless male boxers in the ring. Tamara holds up a sexy bustier in front of her clothed chest. Tamara chats with Kate and says that it was Yuri who wanted her to get her breasts done. We see some miscellaneous cleavage. From a distance, we see nudity in the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, including that of "The Creation of Adam" that shows male full frontal nudity, though it isn't graphic. We hear that Tamara had a fling with Sasha while she was dating Yuri. Adrian and Laura briefly kiss. 3.5/10. ========================================================= Violence: We see TV footage of rioting, including a windshield being smashed. We see a large explosion on a mountain (that's from construction blasting). We see a TV news report of mass suicides showing a body falling from a long distance, and then various dead bodies on the ground (no blood but may be disturbing). Jackson accidentally breaks a lamp while hurrying out of bed. A car explodes and flips while traveling through a tunnel in Paris (we later learn this was a murder). There's some crudely drawn animation showing Charlie's depiction of the apocalypse (played for comedy), including a person being hit by a lava flow and a T-Rex from the past biting someone (no blood, all very cartoonish). A boxer punches his distracted opponent in the face, sending him to the canvas. Yuri's sons have a bad/condescending attitude toward Jackson, their limo driver. In response, he purposefully drops some luggage on one boy's foot. A sudden earthquake jolt hits Kate's house, sending her and the kids scurrying for cover as the bad quake continues. Jackson arrives and yells at all of them to come with him, so they rush out to his limo and he speeds down the street that rips and splits open in a dramatic fashion, almost as if chasing them (as houses, vehicles and trees, etc. are damaged or destroyed and he drives through or into things, such as Gordon's sports car). They end up stuck behind a car with two old ladies (that ends up crashing into a raised section of street), while the limo continues on its escape route, along which greater destruction occurs (including a truck crashing into a gas station, resulting in a huge explosion). During this, they nearly drive/slide into a huge fissure (made more dangerous due to a door of the limo being gone, thus meaning Kate and the kids could fall out). As this continues, they barely drive under a bridge as it collapses, and then drive through a building as it does the same. With Gordon marginally being qualified as a pilot, he barely lifts off with Jackson and his family, all as the runway breaks open and falls away into a huge fissure that seems to be chasing them. Once airborne, they fly through and barely above all sorts of massive city destruction. During that, we see a car hit a person (viewed from a distance), a subway train flying out through the air and then exploding upon impact with the ground, people hanging from the side of a sheared away office building, and Gordon's plane flying between that and another building as both collapse toward each other. We then see a distant aerial view of huge tracts of Los Angeles now angled out of the ground and sliding into the ocean (presumably killing thousands if not millions of people). Jackson drives down a mountain in Charlie's RV (with Lilly in tow) as volcanic eruptions start in the valleys, followed by a massive, nuclear bomb style eruption that blows Charlie off his feet. That results in fireballs and massive burning pieces of Earth flying through the air and slamming into the ground. One of them hits Charlie, while Jackson tries to drive the RV through them, but one hits the back of the vehicle, shearing it away and causing the damaged back end to be on fire. A volcanic eruption cloud races across the land, hitting and destroying an airport, all as Sasha and Gordon try to get a huge Russian plane off the runway as that crumbles away below them. Once in flight, the plane ends up scraping the Eiffel Tower replica, tearing off the landing gear. We see Nima's grandmother holding down a chicken to a block where she intends to behead it, including holding the hatchet to its neck. We then hear but don't see the blow. While not seen, it's implied that billions of people worldwide die in the calamity. The Sistine Chapel ceiling collapses on those inside the building, while the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica's then collapses down on those below and beside it. As a tidal wave approaches, a cruise ship starts to list, sending those inside sliding to one side. The wave then hits, turning the ship completely over (and presumably killing everyone onboard). A massive tidal wave hits Washington, D.C., including carrying an aircraft carrier that crashes down on President Wilson and many others as the wave destroys the White House. A plane slides toward a ravine and barely stops at the edge. It then slowly tips over the edge, falls a long way, and explodes upon impact far below (presumably killing the pilot). A massive tsunami sweeps over many people, including a family that Adrian knows. Yuri punches a guard in the face. Throngs of people crowd the edge of a platform near the arks, with some falling over the edge and plummeting a long distance. Jackson, Gordon and Tenzin end up dangling above some large door gears, with Tenzin's leg being injured, while Gordon slips down into the gears and presumably is killed, and Jackson and Tenzin then barely avoid being crushed by something large that's closing. A massive wave washes a monastery from the top of a mountain. A man throws his son up to a huge closing door on an ark, but ends up falling a long distance to his presumed death. A woman presumably drowns as floodwaters rise to the top of the compartment in which she's trapped. Carried by the tidal wave, an ark slams into a mountain, causing some damage and tossing around those inside. 7/10. ========================================================= Blood/Gore: We see a TV news report of mass suicides including that showing a body falling from a long distance, and then various dead bodies on the ground (no blood, though quite disturbing). We see a dead and partially decomposed deer (with the sound of flies buzzing about) near a drained lake. We see several brief views of an injured or dead man who's quite bloody, along with a small pool of blood on the ground next to him. We see a few people with slightly bloody wounds. Tamara reacts to the bad smell onboard the ark and realizes that's from the wild animals located above her. Tenzin's leg is bloody after being wounded. Carl has a few slightly bloody scrapes on his face. 5/10. ========================================================= Profanity: At least 1 "f" word (and another mouthed one), 6 "s" words, 1 slang term for breasts ("boobs"), 11 hells, 4 asses, 4 damns, and 6 uses of "G-damn," 3 each of "My God," "Oh God" and "Oh my God," 2 uses of "God" and "Jesus," and 1 use each of "For Christ's sakes," "For God's sakes," "Holy Mother of God," "Christ" and "Jesus Christ" as exclamations. 5.5/10. ========================================================= Alcohol/Drugs: Various people have champagne at a reception. Charlie and Jackson have beer, with Charlie having another, but Jackson takes that from him before leaving. People have drinks on a cruise ship. Tony has a drink. Harry drinks several times. 4/10. ========================================================= Smoking: None. ========================================================= 2012 is a great disaster film, and is definitely worth watching. If you like disaster movies, you'll probably enjoy this. I give it 7/10. =========================================================
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written byBlueBalloon November 11, 2009
age 14+
I'll just say, even though we all know that the mayan prophecy is just a bundle of crap, this does look like an incredibly intense and epic movie. :)
Teen, 14 years old Written bySilbixia November 15, 2009
age 11+

Great movie, but not for younger kids

I personally love disaster movies like this one, as long as they're well made; and believe me, this one is very well made. This movie is similar to The Day After Tomorrow, but on a much more massive scale (if you can imagine that). This could easily scare younger kids, so don't let your 7-year old watch it, but it's great for fans of events of epic proportions. LA is torn apart and basically turned upside-down, China and India are flooded by giant tsunamis (as well as DC in a scene involving the USS John Kennedy), and Yellowstone erupts (epically). Finally the movie is wrapped up with slight Christian overtones and everyone lives happily ever after. That is, the less than one billion people still alive. And this guys leg get torn off. Oh no. Besides the mass death and violence, there are strong family messages and good role models. So yeah.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great role models
Kid, 10 years old February 19, 2014
age 10+

The movie is really good, there is not really any blood and gore.

The language is not very bad, and the sexual content is only when a man is telling his girlfriend/wife that she should get breast implants, that can probably go into a category between sex and profanity. The violence is not shooting gun and stabbing people, it's the crashes and explosions that makes this a slightly violent movie. The worst part I'd say isn't even that bad. It's probably when a guy's leg is torn off in a gear (very little gore). So if your kids are science-fiction fans, you should definitely let them see it if they want to.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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