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"When they tell you not to panic — that's when you run!"
Jackson Curtis

2012 is a 2009 Disaster Movie based on the prediction that the world would end on December 21st, 2012. This prediction is itself based on the fact that the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar rolls over somewhere in the vicinity of 2012-12-21, in much the same way that the Gregorian calendar rolled over on 2000-01-01. It mainly follows Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), a struggling, divorced chauffeur, attempting to survive the apocalypse with his family. The one thing that keeps him and his family alive are rumors of 'Arks' built by the world governments to keep what they can safe.

This movie is by the same guy who did Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. (There's probably a pattern here.) At the time of the film's release, Word of God stated that this was to be his final disaster flick,note  so he tried as best as he could to pack enough Stuff Blowing Up and Monumental Damage into it to last a lifetime.

A Spin-Off TV series, tentatively called 2013 and focusing on a group of survivors, was planned. However, as ABC decided to not finance it, not to mention that the actual year 2013 is already in the past, it's unlikely it will ever be made.

Not to be confused with Twenty Twelve, a BBC sitcom about the committee preparing for the 2012 Olympic Games; 2010: The Year We Make Contact, or Rush's album 2112.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Acrophobic Bird:
    • Justified in that Gordon just got his pilot's license and can barely fly. Barely fly upward, that is. He does amazingly well at dodging buildings and debris, something even an experienced pilot would have trouble with.
    • It happens in two instances, the second one has Gordon pair up with an experienced Russian pilot, flying a giant Antonov plane. In all of these instances, the runway is disintegrating, but with the Antonov, they actually run out of runway before reaching liftoff speed.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Multiple, particularly the scene in Air Force One between Adrian and Laura, what's left of Washington DC and the President, and the scenes involving Jackson and his family in Yuri's plane.
  • Anyone Can Die: As befitting a movie about the end of the world, but even by disaster movie standards this one is pretty ruthless. Don't get attached to anyone who's not John Cusack's immediate family.
  • Apathetic Citizens: When Tony calls his estranged son, his family is shown to have been sound asleep even though the world is literally collapsing around them.
  • Apocalypse How: If humanity hadn't had their arks (which notably prioritize saving several species of animals as well as a chunk of humanity), the devastation would've likely been a Class 4 for the Earth's biosphere and a Class 3b for the human race (probably actually just a Class 2 in that scenario since it's suggested at the film's end that the megatsunamis never even flooded South Africa). As it stands, a large chunk of humanity including world leaders from several nations survive aboard the arks, putting the likely actual fallout at a Class 1 or at worst a Class 2 — the vast majority of humans are dead, but civilization perseveres.
  • Apocalypse Wow: ...Pretty much the whole point of the film.
  • Apocalyptic Gag Order: The governments of the world do their best to keep the impending apocalypse secret to both maintain public order and ensure that the Arks remain secret.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The apocalyptic seismic and volcanic activity seen throughout the film is caused by the heating of the Earth's core, caused by excess neutrinos being emitted by the Sun. However, since neutrinos almost never interact with matter, these are neutrinos that are "mutating into some other subatomic particle," presumably ones that can interact with matter more often. Why these new particles don't interact with the Earth's surface is unclear. Lampshaded when Adrian, listening about the neutrinos, simply declares "That's impossible". He's right.
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: An early scene shows a Saudi prince buying seats on The Ark for himself and his family even though they cost 100,000,000 euros apiece.
  • The Ark: Nine of them, in fact. Though only four of them were completed in time, and one was critically damaged before it could be launched.
  • Artistic License: Up to its neck in this, as per Roland Emmerich convention.
    • Animal Care: Amongst the animals being airlifted to the Arks include a rhinoceros and a giraffe. Due to a mixture of the high altitude, low temperatures and the frigid winds being blown over them, both of those animals - as well as any other African animals - would die of either hypothermia or oxygen deprivation.
    • Engineering: Architects and construction engineers everywhere were cringing in their seats when the earthquakes hit Italy and the Vatican Basilica topples sideways in one piece, then proceeds to roll across the whole of St Peter's Square like a giant flipper ball. A building like this (or any building at all, really) would've simply collapsed like a house of cards when subjected to such unimaginable forces. The same goes for how the destruction of most of LA's skyscrapers is depicted.
    • Geography:
      • The film suggests that a journey between Yellowstone National Park and Los Angeles can be driven in a few hours. The two are 1000 miles apart. The same issue happens when they go from Yellowstone to Las Vegas. Somehow, the ground-based pyroclastic flow from the super-eruption made it all those miles without its momentum getting killed off.
      • If a plane needs to be refueled during a flight between Las Vegas and China, it would save around 1100 miles if you did so in Alaska or Siberia rather than Hawaii.
      • If the highest point in the world was in South Africa, it would not look anything like it does now.
      • If a cruise ship starts its voyage in San Francisco and travels westwards, within two days it would be a third or so of the distance between California and Hawaii, NOT in the middle of the Sea of Japan.
      • In 2012, as it had been since 2008, the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) was berthed at NISMF Philadelphia. For a wave to scoop it up from Philly, haul it out to the ocean, then bring it back in on its collision course with Danny Glover is an extreme stretch.
    • Geology:
      • Most of the film operates under this, particularly the depiction the eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano. Except for Gordon, who raises his hand very calmly to his eyes in reaction to the brightness, the other protagonist's barely react to the eruption and come out completely unscathed. No-one goes deaf from the sound of the eruption, while the shockwave throws Charlie a couple of feet backwards, despite the trees all around him being uprooted in their thousands. Finally the pyroclastic flow slows down to let the plane time to escape unharmed, while ignoring convection not to boil them alive and after emerging from the ash cloud, the plane isn't even dirty.
      • According to most, if not all, geologists and volcanologists, anything within 100 miles of Yellowstone is screwed, though the rest of the world isn't any safer from the Ashes and more than likely imminent volcanic winter and possibly the next ice age.
      • Much of the eruption itself is highly inaccurate. First of all, before the main eruption even takes place, there would be a series of monstrous volcanic eruptions that take place all around the caldera; the most we get to see of this is a geyser blowing its top a few minutes before Yellowstone erupts. Second of all, there were no warning signs. There are specific warning signs that scientists look out for, such as increased gas levels within geothermal structures. There would also be swarms of earthquakes that would become more and more aggressive. Temperature changes within the geysers would also result. The topography of Yellowstone would also change months before the eruption, as rising magma would bring the surface up with it, creating visible bulges - again, we don't see this happen until the eruption itself is almost upon us. During the final minutes before the eruption, new cracks in the ground would have formed and geysers release superheated water. The terror doesn't stop there either. Volcanic lava begins oozing from cracks beneath the surface. This is the perfect time to shit yourself if you haven't already. Then, boom! But there are still multiple eruptions that takes place before the main event.
      • The sinking of California by a 10.9 earthquake causing the Earth crust displacement has so much wrong written all over it that it doesn't even try to stray away from this trope.
      • There are no active volcanoes in Honolulu.note 
      • Modern scientists studying the caldera at Yellowstone indicate that an eruption there would send enough ash into the atmosphere to bring about a miniature ice age. Combine that ash with the amount pouring from the Hawaiian island chain that has erupted, and the Earth would stay cool for a very long time. The end of the movie indicates that a mere 27 days after the event, the seas are calm and the sky is clear and warm.
      • On a related note, while the ash cloud would easily reach and probably thickly blanket Las Vegas, the pyroclastic flow would not; it would have slowed, cooled, and collapsed long before then. So, while Vegas would've definitely had a lot of ashfall, the apocalyptic, control-tower-obliterating flow shown is completely unreasonable.
    • History:
      • The scientific paper on the shifting of the Earth's crust is said to have been published in 1958, and Albert Einstein is said to have agreed with it. How somebody who died in 1955 can agree with a paper written after their death is anybody's guess.
      • The trailers called the Mayans "Mankind's Earliest Civilization". It's certainly old, with roots stretching back to 2000 BCE, but Egypt, Sumer, and the Indus Valley Civilization date back to at least 1,000 years prior to that. The Classic Period coincides with the decline of the Roman Empire.
    • Military: The US Navy doesn't paint the name and pennant number of a carrier on the flight deck in the method shown. The number is painted on the island and bow of the flight deck (quite prominently) and name on the stern per maritime convention, but that's it.
    • Physics:
      • The Yellowstone eruption. It manages an explosion probably measured in gigatons without any significant blast overpressure. Trees are flattened, but it abates within a mere mile or two - helpfully before obliterating all the major characters. Geologists say that in an eruption of that magnitude, anyone close enough to see it with the naked eye would not survive. First of all, any right minded person who knows about the eruptive history of Yellowstone, would know that there would be multiple monstrous eruptions before the main eruption even takes place. Yellowstone just doesn't erupt with a massive explosion like a nuclear bomb. There are several eruptions that occur, according to most volcanologists and geologists, mainly because of the fact the entire supervolcano is a tightly sealed can. Secondly, there would be pyroclastic surges that rampage.
      • The megatsunamis.
      • A huge and incredibly heavy Tsunami is able to climb up a steep hill without changing its trajectory.
      • Another tsunami is also able to carry an aircraft carrier on its side without the ship breaking up.
      • The Earth is ripping itself a new one because solar neutrinos are "mutating" into a form that heats the interior of the Earth like a microwave oven. In reality, solar neutrinos do mutate — they change between electron, muon, and tau flavors during their travels in a process called neutrino oscillation. However, none of these neutrino flavors is capable of interacting with the Earth's interior. Or any form of normal matter.
        Dara O' Briain: [Neutrinos] can't mutate. Their structure is fundamental to the structure of the universe. Right? They can't just change. He might as well have gone, "The electrons are angry!" Or "The light from the sun, it's gone off!"
      • Now, it could be possible for neutrinos to be energized to the point that they become functionally larger and can interact with matter more easily. However, not only would this take something like a supernova to actually occur, but the resulting wave of hyper-energized neutrinos would either vaporize or lethally irradiate everything on the surface of the planet, making the consequences of them heating up the Earth's core a moot point.
      • Two courtesy of the Little Prop Plane that Could:
      • Takeoff speeds are not negotiable. When Gordon points out a specific speed of 85 knots he needs to take off (unsurprisingly reading his airspeed indicator's markings wrong), Cusack essentially tells him to go anyway, the fool agrees, and it works. note 
      • The plane apparently had a warp drive. When the Yellowstone caldera decides it's time to party, among other things it sends out a pyroclastic flow. This is to be expected should Yellowstone erupt again. The problem is that the average speed of a pyroclastic flow is between 300 and 450 MPH, and the top speed of a Cessna 340 is 279MPH. It is physically incapable of remaining in stable flight at greater speed. note 
      • All scientists - even American ones - use metric units, so Satnam should have referred to the mine as being about 3,300 meters rather than 11,000 feet deep.
      • It's not possible for a ship's engines not to function when there is one door or gate open.
      • It's not possible for water to flow into a watertight room when all access routes are closed.
    • Politics:
      • The US President requests to speak to his fellow heads of state at the G8 Summit. If this was to happen, he'd only be speaking to the French and Russian presidents - the restnote  send their head of government (who actually exercise executive power).
      • Arnold Schwarzenegger's term as Governor of California ended in 2011, as the state has a two-term limit.
      • With the Vice President and Speaker of the House nowhere to be found, Anheuser takes charge as acting commander-in-chief as the President refuses to leave. However, the next in line of succession is the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. After them, it passes through members of the cabinet. The only way Anheuser could take charge is if none of them made it, as the chief of staff isn't even part of the line of succession.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: When the Russian president whispers to his interpreter, he is doing so in Serbo-Croatian rather than Russian.
  • Award-Bait Song: 2012 has Adam Lambert's Time For Miracles and Filter's Fades Like A Photograph.
  • Belly-Scraping Flight: Escaping Las Vegas, Yuri's plane knocks the top off the Eiffel Tower Experience at the Paris casino.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The world as we knew it is gone and billions are dead, but Jackson and his family survive and the Arks are functional, ensuring humanity's future.
  • Black Comedy: In Charlie's video, there is a scene where he holds up the Earth (metaphorically represented as an orange). A knife appears and slices through the Earth, cutting Charlie's fingers off in the process. The real Charlie hints he included it to draw his audience in.
  • Blatant Lies: This bit during the Yellowstone Caldera eruption...
    [the Yellowstone volcano literally blows up]
    Jackson: [looks in rear-view mirror with epic Oh, Crap! look]
    Lily: Daddy, what was that?!
    Jackson: Nothing! Nothing!
  • Bratty Half-Pint:
    • Yuri's twins, but living through the disaster hammers that out of them.
    • Noah initially, due to resenting Jackson for being a Disappeared Dad.
  • Bribe Backfire: Implied. After the Chinese take Yuri and his sons to the helicopter while leaving the rest of Jackson's group behind, Kate asks if any of them has money, thinking they could bribe the Chinese into taking them to the Arks. Gordon says he has some and begins looking into what looks like a wallet. The response:
    Jackson: Anyone got €1,000,000,000?
  • California Collapse: Massive earthquakes tear up the California coastline, open up a giant canyon, then send the remains slipping down into the sea.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: Noah does this to his father Jackson at least twice, which is meant to signal the strained relationship they have at the beginning. Each time it happens, Jackson expresses his annoyance with this.
  • Cassandra Truth: Jackson. He buys into Charlie's theories after seeing Yuri's preparations for the Ark, and when trying to convince Kate, she does not believe him until California begins breaking up beneath her feet.
  • Character Filibuster: Adrian takes the world's leaders to school on the meaning of humanity.
  • Cheating with the Milkman: Tamara with Yuri's pilot Sasha. Yuri, who had discovered the affair some time before, gets his revenge by dumping both Tamara and Sasha behind to fend for themselves.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The cars in the Russian plane.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Adrian's father Harry is shown boarding a cruise ship early in the film, and he mentions that he has a son he stays in touch with. It isn't clear until later in the film that Adrian is his son.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Gordon's flying lessons.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Yuri Karpov easily knocks out a guard in one punch. Anyone remember him telling Jackson that he, in his younger days, was a boxer in Murmansk?
  • Chekhov's Volcano: Guess where.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Sasha makes the sign of the cross in the Catholic way (forehead - chest - left shoulder - right shoulder), instead of the Orthodox way (forehead - chest - right shoulder - left shoulder) — 97% of Russian Christians are Orthodox.
  • Church of Saint Genericus: In the White House.
  • Closest Thing We Got: Gordon is only an amateur pilot, but he's the only person in Jackson's social circle who's remotely qualified to fly them to safety. Later Jackson is able to get his family a seat on Yuri Karpov's plane because Yuri needed a second pilot, even though Gordon was even less qualified to fly the much larger plane he'd be helping control.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Charlie Frost. Needless to say, he actually is right.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Charlie Frost again. Of course, he is right about what's happening, and sets into motion the race to get to the Ark. He is wrong on one thing: the Arks aren't spaceships to get completely off the planet, just super-armored carriers. He references several other theories he has, including some about Marilyn Monroe that he doesn't go into.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • The various ways in which Jackson and his family meet up with the other groups in the story and manage to get on the Arks. It's lampshaded when the geological expert sees Jackson's family get aboard the Ark — he wonders how they managed to get on...
    • Also of note are the sheer number of situations where the characters "just barely" escape death, such as a building "nearly" falling onto their plane.
    • The scientist who helped Jackson with his book just so happened to be one of the people involved in the conspiracy and he was killed when he tried to come forward. Oh, and he just so happened to give Charlie a map to the ark ships.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: The movie seems to forget that in pyroclastic flows, the heat kills people long before the ash cloud touches them. Of course, they do stay barely ahead of the flow itself. While that's already testing of the Suspension of Disbelief, if they were all the way in the cloud, they'd be dead. They do very briefly get caught inside of the flow in an airplane, which makes even less sense, since airplanes generally don't run well in clouds of superheated ash. Bizarrely, the film then starts paying attention to the laws of physics again, just in time for said pyroclastic flow to utterly disintegrate Las Vegas airport (and the city itself).
  • Cool Boat: The Arkships, absolutely gigantic, heavily armored super-carriers designed to comfortably harbor 100,000 passengers apiece until the apocalypse blows over.
  • Cool Plane: The Antonov An-225, dubbed "Antonov 500" in the film
    Noah: Now that's a big plane.
    Yuri: (smiling proudly) It's Russian. note 
  • Cool Old Guy: Harry Helmsley and Tony Delgatto, the two slick elderly jazz singers.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Anheuser shows signs of this, being quick to assume command on the possibility that other important members of government may be dead and only saved world leaders or the rich social elite, who were said to be determined by "genetic tests done by top scientists".
  • Crazy-Prepared: The governments of the world knew the end was coming three years in advance, and they let the Chinese build ships to take those who could be saved away from danger.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Charlie and his prediction of the Yellowstone Caldera erupting.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Jackson has his moments:
      Charlie: (after Jackson asked what the map he had indicated) They're building spaceships, man!
      Jackson: Err, I've got to go, because I've gotta get back to Earth.
    • Also:
      Jackson: (after he and his children have been detained by the military) This is a National Park! There's not supposed to be posted fences. What's going on?
      Adrian: We're geologists.
      Jackson: Do you usually go digging with machine guns?
    • Anheuser also has his moment:
      Adrian: (after hearing about the tickets to the Arks) What about these workers? Do they get tickets?
      Anheuser: What, life isn't fair?
  • Death Course: From Kate's home to the Santa Monica Airport. And that was just the beginning.
  • Death of a Child: Casualties include children from Tony and Satnam's families, along with a lot of other off-screen child deaths.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Poor Gordon.
  • Diabolus ex Machina:
    • The deaths of Gordon and Tamara come across as gratuitously cruel. Tamara's death is an odd case, as her compartment was the only one to flood to that level. Note that the main characters are in the next two compartments over (with Tamara in the middle) and the water level does not reach the same height. Tamara must have been in the overflow section. At least she saved one of the kids and her dog first.
    • Sasha's death. He manages to successfully land the plane, a few inches away from falling... and the cliff crumbles.
    • George Segal's son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
    • The cataclysm serves as this to most of the human race.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: The supposedly Mayan Doomsday is on December 21, 2012, which is almost around the time of Christmas. However for unknown reasons, there were no Christmas decorations set up in different areas. However, it is implied that the cataclysm is happening "too early" to be around Christmas, which would explain the lack of decorations (and the London Summer Olympics being called off). It would also explain why the global disaster appears to start on a Saturday even though December 21, 2012 was a Friday.
  • Disappeared Dad: Several examples.
    • Jackson is the "present in physicality only" sort who remarks with dismay that his 7-year-old daughter still has a bedwetting problem.
    • Harry and Tony are both estranged from their children (and in one case, grandchildren).
  • Disaster Movie: From start to finish, with very little of the Earth coming away unscathed by the end.
  • Disney Death:
    • Jackson has one in Yellowstone when the RV he's in falls into a fissure. And this is just after he has found the map to the Arks.
    • He gets a second one near the end when he frees the hydraulic gear as it's flooding and it appears that he has drowned. After several tense seconds, he reappears much to everyone's joy and relief.
  • Disney Villain Death: Yuri, with a low threshold for villainy.
  • Disposable Fiancé: Gordon.
  • Disposable Pilot: Sasha stays behind on the plane while everyone else bails out. He safely lands, but an ice shelf gives way under him.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Double Subverted. Looks like they're going to play it straight as Kate and Gordon seem to be drifting apart then, then subverted as it looks like they're going to work things out, then cruelly forced back into played straight as Gordon is killed in the gears of the Ark while Jackson looks on, unable to save him.
  • Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud: Well, the Yellowstone pyroclastic cloud.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir": Dr. Helmsley prefers to be called "Adrian".
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Immediately after scenes of wanton destruction, the cruise ship musicians Harry and Tony sing a song with the lyrics "It's not the end of the world/It's only the end of this song."
    • The earthquakes have a nice sense of this too. One strikes just after the Governor of California says "the worst is over." Even better, Gordon says to Kate that 'there is something pulling us apart'... and a fissure promptly opens between them.
    • There's also a massive example at the end: It's stated that the African continent has risen after the crust displacement, and that it likely never flooded. This means that the world's poorest continent was the one to receive the least devastation, since it only got hit by the earthquakes. The Captain even remarks that's why that region has a place called Cape of Good Hope, where all Arks head to after the tidal waves subside.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Jackson Curtis. In a limo and RV of all things.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Gordon, Sasha, literally for Yuri, though it's not what kills him.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Charlie Frost gleefully enjoys one last scenery-feast before the Yellowstone Caldera erupts and kills him.
  • Earthquakes Cause Fissures: Good Lord, do they ever. The entire Pacific plate basically turns into one great big fissure by the time the movie's even halfway through...
  • Embarrassing Damp Sheets: Jackson remarks with dismay that his 7-year-old daughter still has a bedwetting problem.
  • Epic Movie: Hell, yeah!
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Overlaps with Oh, Crap! with Jackson Curtis. After taking Karpov's kids to the airport, one of them tells our hero that he will die while they will survive the imminent apocalypse in a ship. That, and the fact that Charlie was right.
  • The Everyman: Jackson Curtis, a down-on-his-luck divorced writer working as a limo driver to pay the bills.
  • Exact Time to Failure:
    • The scientists' estimates about when the tidal waves are expected to reach the location of the Ark ships. Semi-justified in that you can calculate the time it'll take for a wave to reach the Ark, but as it's flowing over a massive landmass, it should be an estimate.
    • Subverted and Lampshaded with the actual planetary meltdown, which jumps itself up by six months and causes all the precise survival plans to collapse.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: More Jerkass than evil, but Yuri sacrifices his life so his sons can survive, throwing one of them onto the Ark's walkway and hurling himself off a cliff with the momentum.
    • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Played with for Anheuser, who loves his mother and tearfully tells her goodbye, but feels she's too old to be worth saving.
  • Expy:
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • Satnam and his family, knowing full well that they don't stand a chance in hell of escaping the oncoming tsunami, spend their final moments embracing each other as the others around them panic. Various other examples are also seen, combined with some of the facing the bullets one liners mentioned below.
    • Lama Rinpoche gets an epic one as the tsunami sweeps away his monastery (note, at the very top of a mountain in the Himalaya). He simply stands and rings the giant bell at the top of the building as the wave approaches.
    • Thomas Wilson, the President who did not abandon his post.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner:
  • Failed Future Forecast: Obviously.
  • Fat Bastard: Carl Anheuser after his introduction.
  • First Father Wins: And lives.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the beginning of the movie, a child has an accident with a toy boat in a puddle. That toy boat is a scale model of the SS United States
    • During the destruction of Los Angeles, Gordon's Porsche Cayman falls into the Earth after getting pushed by Jackson's limo upon fleeing from the Curtis residence. This foreshadows Gordon's own death, as he falls into the gears later in the film.
  • Genre Savvy: As a has-been sci-fi novelist, Jackson has a couple of moments.
    Jackson: (after his ex-wife mentions that the news are saying the earthquake that preludes the "sinking of L.A." sequence is no cause for panic) When they tell you not to panic — that's when you run!
  • The Glasses Come Off: Played for Laughs as Noah tries on a pair of oversized sunglasses, then whips them off dramatically to share a message from Kate with Jackson: "She wants us to come home!"
  • Government Conspiracy: The governments of the world knew beforehand, but didn't tell anyone even after it started, assassinating everyone who tried to tell people the truth, except for obvious nutjobs like Charlie Frost. Explained as being the only way they could build any Arks without the place being swarmed by refugees, terrorists, renegade army units, etc. that would jeopardize any humans surviving.
  • The Great Flood: And that's after the land-shattering earthquakes and volcanoes.
  • Ground by Gears: Gordon ends up caught in the gears of the Ark's door mechanism and is brutally (though not explicitly) crushed to death. A minor Chinese character also ends up getting a leg caught in the machinery.
  • Harmless Luminescence: When the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, it emits a powerfully bright glow that many of the characters stare into.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Yuri throws one of his children to safety, the momentum of which hurtles him to his death. and Sasha stays in the plane in order to give the others a chance to escape. Heck, even Tamara ensures her dog and Lilly are safe but is fatally trapped herself.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Harry and Tony.
  • Hollywood Science: Even given some Lampshade Hanging at the beginning.
  • Homage: To famous disaster movies, with numerous references.
  • Horrible Camping Trip: Downplayed. While there is no volcanic eruption (yet) and it does not form the majority of the plot, the military presence at Yellowstone is taken as something out of the ordinary, while the Curtis kids are bitten by mosquitoes because Jackson apparently forgot to spray the tent. One of them seems to consider the mosquitoes to be the low-point.
    Noah: (text message) Hi Gordon, camping sucks! (emoji)
  • Ignored Expert: Played straight for about ten seconds as Anheuser blows a frantic Adrian off, then subverted as he grudgingly stops to flip through Adrian's manuscript, and immediately starts taking the findings seriously.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Upon learning that the world is about to end Harry orders a double. Tony and a waiter are both shocked, as he hasn't touched alcohol in 25 years.
  • Informed Flaw: Gordon is an amateur pilot and claims to have had only a few flying lessons, but performs impressive feats of stunt piloting during the escape from California. He is, of course, improvising and is helped along by an actual pilot on the Russian plane.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: The governor of California confidently announces at a press conference that the worst is over. Cue the the super-quake which caves in the roof on him and then destroys Los Angeles.
  • It's All About Me: As Carl Anheuser gradually gains more political power over the course of the film's story, he lets the authority get to his head while rationalizing his selfish, reprehensible actions with an I Did What I Had to Do attitude. As the Chief of Staff, he arranged the death of the director of the Louvre who tried to go public with the disaster and deliberately abandoned many of the scientists who worked under him in order to keep their findings secret from the general public. He also designed the Arks with comfortable luxury suites, neglecting to accommodate as many people as possible. As the de-facto President of the USA, Anheuser argued for allowing millions of stranded passengers to die in order for the rest to survive, despite the possibility of saving those passengers. While Anheuser makes a reasonable point or two for what he does, his selfishness and expediency has resulted in many avoidable deaths.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Gordon, who at first appears to just be a toolish plastic surgeon. The kids love him (so we know he can't be all bad) but what really shows his better side is finding out he tried to talk Tamara out of getting plastic surgery. Also Yuri. While Yuri's still a asshole for leaving Tamara, he does manage to get his children on board Ark 4 before dying a horrible death.
  • Just Before the End: The film begins three years before the apocalypse, with scientists discovering that the Earth's core is heating up. The bulk of the main story takes place as the Earth's crust is beginning to shift and disasters begin to pile up.
  • Karma Houdini: Carl Anheuser. When the wave reaches the Arks, he orders them to abandon the people who paid to be on the Arks and the builders to die in the tsunami, not to mention the majority of the human race. He also planned only to save world leaders along with the wealthy social elite while leaving everyone else to die, including THE WORKERS WHO BUILT THE ARK. Adrian and Laura call him out on a few things, but he doesn't even get a Shut Up, Hannibal!.note 
  • Kill the Cutie: Poor Tamara.
  • Last of His Kind:
    • Lampshaded by Thomas Wilson, who dies during the apocalypse as the last President of the United States of America.
    • After the apocalypse is over, the only continent on Earth that still remains intact is Africa.
  • Large Ham: Woody Harrelson ("BRING IT ON!") That Chewing the Scenery bit on the Yellowstone caldera puts him up here for sure.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Hawaii gets turned into this. Complete with Scenery Gorn of the ruined Honolulu skyline.
  • Love Triangle: Two of them. Gordon, Kate, and Jackson. Yuri, Tamara and Sasha.
  • Machine Empathy: Sasha, when trying to clear the ruined skyline in the giant Antonov.
    Sasha: Come on baby, lift your big ass for Sasha!
  • Made of Iron: Literally of course in case of the Arks, but even then these things are ludicrously durable for something so huge, to the point that even head-on collisions with the Air Force One and the flippin' Mount Everest barely make a dent.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: The people who The Conspiracy killed to cover up their crazy preparedness had some of the deaths reported in the obituaries as 'accidents'. One example is particularly noted: that of the NASA scientist who told Charlie about the Arks.
  • Mayan Doomsday: The whole premise.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The kid is named Noah and is the reason Ark 04 didn't sink.
    • His father's initials are JC
    • Boorish President-by-Default Carl Anheuser, who is first seen in the movie partying and ignoring warning signs of dangerous happenings-to-be.
  • Men Act, Women Are: The female characters don't really do a whole lot. They comfort the children, sometimes. And the President's daughter exists solely to be Adrian's Love Interest. Notable especially in the plane sequences, where only Yuri and Jackson ever go up to see what's happening.
  • Missing Mom: First Lady Dorothy Wilson, Laura's mother, died prior to the main events of the film. President Wilson mentions that she suggested they hold a lottery for the Arks (instead of what actually transpired).
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Anheuser, who points out they can't save everybody. He attempts to abandon the passengers of Ark 4 due to this and another trope.
  • Monumental Damage: The film gives us the destruction of the following landmarks:
    • The Cristo Redentor statue (aka Christ The Redeemer) in Rio de Janeiro.
    • St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in Rome, the latter complete with a crack opening up between Adam and God on the fresco ceiling. And the dome rolling away like it was a massive ball.
    • The Las Vegas Strip, including its fake Eiffel Tower, gets torn apart by an Earthquake AND a Pyroclastic cloud, to add even more insult to injury to the fake tower, it's antenna taken out by Sasha's plane during takeoff as the tower sinks.
    • The Washington Monument.
    • The White House, which gets crushed by an aircraft carrier. By the carrier named after John F. Kennedy, no less.
    • Yellowstone National Park balloons then explodes as the caldera erupts.
    • The entire city of Los Angeles. You could probably pick out both the Capital Records Building and the U.S Bank Tower getting it again if you look closely.
    • Subverted during the movie's planning stages with the Kaaba in Mecca. One of the scriptwriters outright said that he didn't want a fatwa issued against him, thus it was ultimately not included.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Albeit unsuccessful ones. Jackson tries to pimp his book a lot.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Sasha, the most fit and well-groomed of the group of survivors with Jackson.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Scantily clad blonde bombshell Tamara gets little characterization beyond being Yuri's somewhat reluctant arm candy, which makes her this both In-Universe and out.
  • Natural Disaster Cascade: Heating of the Earth's core from the sun causes a global chain of truly apocalyptic natural disasters to rock the world in the lead-up to 21 December, 2012: all the Earth's tectonic plates destabilizing causes Readings Are Off the Scale level earthquakes to basically tear the Earth's crust apart at the boundaries, Yellowstone unleashes an all-destroying ash cloud, and for the grand finale, megatsunamis which literally rival the Himalayas in height flood the majority of the planet.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: All the women are pretty much defined by their roles as mothers, daughters, girlfriends and ex-wives except maybe the German Chancellor and President Wilson's secretary.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: Right in the title.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Ark 4 is almost doomed when equipment Jackson's family and the Tibetan family use to sneak aboard becomes jammed in the gate's hydraulics.
  • Noah's Story Arc: There are great disasters all around the world, particularly a giant flood. The small portion of the populace try to escape this fate by building giant arks in the Himalayas. In one shot, some animals are brought in such as giraffes and elephants. One of the protagonists is a young boy named Noah.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • The governor of California is never named, but has a strong Austrian accent, and apparently used to be an actor.
    • Also the President is black (instead of biracial) though considerably different in background.
    • And Germany's Chancellor is female.
    • Yuri Karpov looks suspiciously similar in appearance and hairstyle to Shabtay Kalmanovich, an oligarch murdered in 2009, who was known for his patronage of sporting events. Russian boxer Zultan seems to be a stand-in for Sultan Ibragimov. And, for some weird reason, the Russian president is a look-alike of geriatric Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, who died in 1982 already.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Subverted by the other characters, but Averted by Anheuser, who tries to leave thousands of refugees behind right at the doors of the Ark.
  • Notable Non Sequitur: Charlie tells Jackson that ordinary people like them have no chance of getting on the "spaceships," saying the only people guaranteed to do so are Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, or "some Russian billionaire." Turns out Jackson actually does work for a Russian billionaire.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: One of the few moments where this movie decides to be original is subverting this trope with Carl Anheuser. Initially he has all tell-tale signs of a stereotypical self-absorbed, short-sighted government official who is there to ignore Adrian's warning, but when Adrian's outburst prompts him to actually look into the latter's report, he recognizes instantly that this matter should not be red-taped.
  • Oh, Crap!: Every few minutes, as befits the end of the world
  • Our Presidents Are Different: President Wilson is both a President Personable and a President Minority, but knows he's not a President Action.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Or outrun the earthquake, supervolcano and tidal wave. Luckily the Earth is sufficiently polite to wait for the protagonists to reach a car, plane and ark to escape to catastrophe. Not so much for everyone else.
  • Pair the Spares: Subverted. It looks like Gordon and Tamara will get together but they both die instead.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Yuri is a massive Smug Snake throughout the entire film, abandoning the rest of the party, including his girlfriend and the surviving pilot who helped save his life, in the Himalayas, but selflessly gives his life to save his sons.
    • Anheuser is a flawed character, but he does have moments of sadness about how many people are dying, and genuinely compliments and encourages Adrian a few times, Even admitting that he was right to oppose him at the end in a deleted scene.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Get in the fucking car!"
  • Pre-Mortem Catchphrase: Charlie Frost has the Signing Off Catchphrase, "Folks, always remember, you heard it first from Charlie," which he repeats just before his death.
  • Prodigal Family: Subverted. Jackson is a Disappeared Dad who, despite being physically present, neglects his duties as a father. During the apocalypse, he tries his best to ensure his family survives. Unfortunately for him, Gordon, the would-be stepfather is a much better man and father to the kids than he ever was, so his kids and wife are initially not too thrilled at the idea. Yet, when Gordon dies, after saving everybody's asses twice, nobody mourns him.
  • Product Placement:
    • Vault, Bentley, Huggies (Goodnites), and many, many other things.
    • At the global conference near the start, every single person is using the same Sony Vaio laptop.
    • A Chevron gas station makes a brief appearance, only to be blown up by a careening cement truck.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right
  • Re-Cut: The Blu-Ray has an alternate ending where the ship Dr. Helmsley's father was travelling on survived the tsunami.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Yuri.
  • Red Herring:
    • The bonding between Gordon and Tamara initially looks like Pair the Spares, only for both to later die.
    • The continual references to "big ships" makes one think of spaceships that are going to leave Earth. They're really just boats.
  • Regional Redecoration: Hoo-boy, where do we begin? Southern California is torn to shreds by an enormous earthquake, one big enough to rip open a new canyon and causes the fragmented land to sink into the ocean; Yellowstone national park is wiped out when the supervolcano erupts, Las Vegas is split in two by a huge fissure, and Hawaii is buried under miles of lava. However, the crowning moment has to be when the Earth's crust shifts. According to Adrian, it moves about 23 degrees to the southwest, which puts Wisconsin at the center of the new magnetic south pole. Conveniently, it also pushes the Himalayas close to the main characters. And during the crust shift, the African continent somehow rises several thousand feet, which saves it from the floods.
  • The Remnant: The survivors on the Arks, along with all the animals and cultural treasures they managed to save, are all that remains of human civilization. Everyone and everything else on Earth has perished.
  • Rousing Speech: Adrian, to get the other world leaders to agree to open the doors and let the last group of refugees in, even though it could harm their ship.
  • Rule of Cool: The depiction of the various calamities, as well as the scene of the various species of animal being air-lifted to the arks.
    • When was the last time you saw a plane dodge a subway train by flying past beneath it?
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • At the beginning of the movie, after Jackson, Noah, and Lucy sneak into the restricted area of Yellowstone, Noah asks fairly randomly "Haven't you seen the signs?" It takes place just long enough after the signs have been shown that it seems out of place and almost like a warning.
    • The Cristo Redentor crumbles spectacularly. See the Sistine Chapel example below.
    • The Arks. They even carry animals.
    • The Sistine Chapel crumbles and is destroyed. Guess where the ceiling splits? The crack separates Adam's finger from God's finger.
    • Also, just afterwards, the masses praying there are crushed by the dome when it topples from St. Peter's Square.
    • Jackson Curtis' son is named "Noah," and he later rescues Ark 4 from disaster.
    • At the end the human race all goes back to Africa, where it started out in the first place.
    • The White House getting destroyed by the USS John F. Kennedy.
  • Running Gag:
    • Jackson: "I'm on my way toward you/hurtling toward you as we speak!"
    • Jackson's daughter and her obsession with fun hats.
    • Played tragically by all the desperate farewell phone calls cut short by impacting disasters.
    • The various references to Wisconsin throughout the film; first from an old lady at the beginning who regrets moving from there, it becoming the new location of the South Pole at the end of the film, as well as being mentioned in the last sentence of Jackson's novel.
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: All Russian characters who are not children, dogs, or politicians bite the dust sooner or later.
  • Say My Name: Kate, when she realizes that Noah has snuck off to help Jackson free the hydraulic gears, though it comes out sounding more like a Big "NO!".
  • Say Your Prayers: The President of Italy remains behind at the Vatican, taking part in a prayer circle led by the Pope, rather than evacuate himself.
  • Scenery Gorn:
    • Most of the planet. As seen at the top of the page, Emmerich pays particular attention to the destruction of Los Angeles. From all the downtown skyscrapers toppling, massive cracks opening, and chunks of landscape sliding into the sea as seen in the poster above and trailer.
    • A review said the only thing Emmerich did not destroy was the Columbia Pictures logo at the beginning, which was considered a missed opportunity.
  • Sex Signals Death: Both Sasha and Tamara die because they were having an affair.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Tamara in her first appearance.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Gordon tries his best to be a good stepfather to Jackson's children, as well as getting on well with Jackson himself, and he manages to use his minimal flying experience to pilot several drastically different aircraft, and is never anything less than cooperative with the other characters. His reward is death and Jackson's family later reuniting.
  • Shout-Out: The film contains various references to the The Bible.
    • During the destruction of the Sistine Chapel, the cracks forming on the roof directly between God and Adam in the Creation Of Adam symbolize two aspects related to the Bible: the transition between the first and second circles of life (specifically, breaking the connection between humans and God) and God's reversal of creation of humanity in Chapters 6-9 in the Book of Genesis.
    • The Biblical flood: Jackson's son is named Noah, the cruise ship (where Adrian's father Harry performs) is called Genesis (the book in the Bible in which the account appears), and humanity is saved by the use of "arks". At one point we also see animals being lifted aboard the arks.
    • Jackson Curtis' name is 50 Cent's (Curtis Jackson) name backwards. Reportedly, Emmerich is a fan of him.
  • Skewed Priorities:
    • When the Curtis family is frantically getting into the limo as Los Angeles is collapsing all around them, Lily looks back at the house in agony because she lost her hat collection. It takes her mother to snap her out of it and get in the limo.
    • When Adrian sees the luxurious accommodations on the Ark, he's obviously dismayed to realize how much priority Anheuser placed on creature comforts over saving more people.
  • Smug Snake: Yuri. He desmonstrates his lack of gratefulness for Sasha's sacrifice by bringing up that he knew he was Tamara's lover and giving a Large Ham, highly insincere "may God bless that poor bastard's soul!"
  • Spreading Disaster Map Graphic: Towards the end, on-screen graphics in the ark control room depict the massive waves closing in Asia and other continents.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Both of Jackson's kids appear to have perfected the art of teleportation. In two separate screens he explicitly tells them to stay put, and with no indication the kid have moved they abruptly appear next to him a few scenes later.
  • Stylistic Suck: Charlie’s video certainly has the vibes of the amateur video he says it is.
  • Super Cell Reception:
    • A review in Empire Magazine includes this response to Emmerich's "wilfully ignoring science to keep the plot boiling": "For future reference, sudden continental drift probably will affect your cellphone reception." And even if it doesn't, good luck getting through when literally the whole world is trying to call someone.
    • A cell phone that gets reception from inside a metal ship buried under the Himalayas off in an undeveloped, rural corner of Tibet. After it has been explicitly stated that the apocalypse has knocked out nearly all communications.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Played straight with Tamara, who gets sealed in a room rapidly filling with water.
  • Take My Hand!: About a dozen times but the most notable one is when Jackson attempts to pull Yenzin and Gordon out of the gear shaft. Gordon doesn't make it.
  • Take That!: A very lazy shot at Arnold Schwarzenegger ("He's an actor - he's reading from a script!"). There is a veritable myriad of take-thats in the film, but there's so many that it's kind of hard to pinpoint them all. Civilization? Religion? Rich people? Poor people?
  • Take That, Critics!: A subtle one can be found in the adoration Jackson's Sci-Fi book gets. In the movie, the book sells barely 432 copies because critics found its ridiculously Cosy Catastrophe view of the world to be insufferable and unrealistic, yet major characters (the president's science adviser included!) find it be a source of great inspiration. Director Roland Emmerich also made The Day After Tomorrow, which was criticized for being offensively preachy and silly in the levels of Cosy Catastrophe it brought to the screen.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Characters ramble on for minutes without any noticeable difference between the time they got started and the time they finished, usually minutes later. Standouts include Adrian's speech on the Ark and Jackson getting ready to unplug the gears.
  • Tempting Fate: Many times. See Dramatic Irony.
  • Teetering on the Edge: When the protagonists reach the China mountains, they have to make a rough landing due running out of fuel. Sasha stays on the plane to keep it level while everyone evacuates via the cars on the plane when it low enough to eject out the cargo hold safely. Sasha manages to land the plane safe enough that it skids to the edge of a mountain and stops. He himself chuckling at his good luck... then the plane proceeds to tilt over the edge, crash and explode; killing him.
  • Throwaway Country: Sometimes played straight, sometimes subverted - e.g., India and China are given considerable focus beyond being nature's Chew Toy. Canada possibly fits this trope too. The world leaders conference at the beginning is held in British Columbia, and Canada is mentioned as having survivors on board one of the Arks.
  • Title by Year: 2009 Disaster Movie based on the prediction that the world would end on December 21st, 2012
  • 25th Amendment: Floated, then immediately ripped up.
  • Uncertain Doom: Various characters who aren't evacuated to the Arks. It does seem like a stretch that the various disasters killed every single other person on earth besides The Africans, but it's doubtful that there were many left. This is lampshaded after Tony loses connection with his son and granddaughter as an earthquake hits Japan and Harry tells him to hold out hope that they might have evacuated somewhere. And then there's the Genesis itself when it's hit, but not explicitly destroyed, by a giant wave just minutes later.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Adrian accuses Anheuser of this after finding out that Satnam and his family, the ones who first discovered the danger in the first place and warned him, weren't evacuated, although there is some ambiguity over whose fault this was.
  • The Unmasqued World: The 2012 phenomenon and significance of the Mayan Long Count Calendar was considered a myth by everyone except world governments...until the apocalypse actually occurred.
  • Viewer-Friendly Interface: Both played straight (the computers on the arks with 3D, real-time representations of the gears for the doors) and averted (the scientist who discovers the end is near uses Vista, and everyone else who's not an Ark operator).
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Say what you like about Anheuser, but he genuinely wanted humanity and civilization to survive the planetary upset.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The president for some reason searches for a girl's father instead of seeing the full damage that happens to the capital. The girl's father gets forgotten a few minutes after he gets outside, not that it mattered with the wave.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Or an unnamed character.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Averted with Tamara.
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • Tenzin, a worker on the Ark who made arrangements for a secret passage that would save his family, accepts putting the plan at risk when confronted with Jackson and his family when his grandmother points out that they are all children of God, when he could have argued that his plan was too risky even with just them never mind with more people involved.
    • Yuri may have abandoned his cheating mistress, but he acts to save his children over himself in the final moments.
    • Adrian Helmsley quotes Jackson when he observes that "The moment we stop fighting for each other, that's when we lose our humanity", reinforcing that what matters in a crisis like this is humanity's compassion for each other rather than making purely pragmatic choices, which inspires all the other world leaders to open the gates of the Arks and try and let more people in even if it puts their current passengers at risk.
  • You Have to Believe Me!:
    Jackson: (having a phone conversation with Kate while speeding towards her home) Kate, stop what you're doing.
    Kate: (confused) Jackson?
    Jackson: Listen to me, I've rented a plane. Pack up the kids. I'll be there in five minutes.
    Kate: (dismissive) What are you talking about? We're going about our regular Saturday. Noah has music at 2, and Lily has karate.
    Jackson: Kate, California is going down! Pack up the kids, now!
    Kate: They just got back! God, you sound like a crazy person; the Governor just said we're fine now.
    Jackson: The guy's an actor; he's reading a script! When they tell you not to panic, that's when you run!
    Kate: Look, call me back when you calm down, huh? (hangs up)
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!:
    Laura: He's injured. Something must have gone wrong.
    Anheuser: Something must have gone wrong? Something must have gone wrong?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!! OF COURSE SOMETHING WENT WRONG!!
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Jackson, after finding out that the ships are in China.
    Jackson: We're gonna need a bigger plane.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Twenty Twelve



Lama Rinpoche hurries up the mountain to ring the bell, signaling the end of times.

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Main / TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt

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