Buy it... if you were awed by the simple, though magnificent orchestral and choral crescendos accompanying the striking vistas in the film's middle and final acts.
Avoid it... if you're tired of hearing director Roland Emmerich's composers of the 2000's write scores with restrained emotional depth and negligible complexity, music that is more appropriate for television documentaries than massive, feature disaster productions.
2012: (Harald Kloser/Thomas Wanker) Audiences go to disaster flicks to see chaos and disorder. They want to see landmarks destroyed, machines blow up, and thousand of people annihilated.
Sure, there was a writer's strike when this film was commencing production. But that likely had no impact on Kloser's involvement, an unfortunate circumstance given how limp the story and the score are. It makes one wonder if a person who stretches himself too thin in such a manner can't perform any of his roles on a film with any sense of direction or quality. Kloser's career has been littered with B-rate films and a plethora of television documentaries. His music is the kind of generic background noise, sometimes pleasant, in the ambience of bio-pics seen on cable television channels. It's truly unfortunate but perhaps not terribly surprising that the majority of his film scores have conveyed the same restraint in terms of depth and complexity in their recordings. Kloser's scores, both in and outside of the Emmerich collaboration, are average. Nothing more, nothing less. They are workmanlike, sufficient in their volume and accurate in their assessment of the basic emotional needs of every scene. If you've heard The Day After Tomorrow and 10,000 BC, then there will be nothing new in 2012. At least the man is consistent. It's constantly disappointing to hear a composer with all the right ingredients and a decent intuitive sense underwhelm when his ideas are performed. Everything in 2012 is process. None of it is art. The nuances of the musical language are absent from this music, despite its majesty and ruckus at times. Direct counterpoint is rare and secondary lines within the ensemble are basic. The electronic accents are bland. The employment of specialty instruments and vocals is commendable, but they make no difference if you decide to mix them so badly into the final version of the music that nobody can really hear them. The vocals and woodwinds in "Nampan Plateau," for instance, needed to be placed much closer to the forefront of the soundscape to have any impact. In a film that suggests that the peoples of the world need to work together to survive this unfathomable disaster, the lack of emphasis on the worldly instrumentation is inexcusable. The absence of truly compelling themes is deceptive in 2012, because Kloser actually does provide ideas representing wonderment, defiance, and love. These themes, however, are so poorly orchestrated and lackadaisically conveyed by the seemingly restrained Los Angeles performing group that they won't even register for many listeners. They do offer a blanket of harmony that is functionally pretty during human bonding moments and, more importantly, convey a fundamental sense of awe for the more fantastic vistas. Without strong enunciation, however, even at the climax, they fail to garner attention.
As with 10,000 BC, Kloser collaborated with fellow Austrian composer Thomas Wanker for 2012 (though Wanker is going by "Wander" for this credit, which is odd, given the negative connotations of both names in English). The two have worked together on several assignments, usually television related, over the course of the 2000's, and nothing in 2012 indicates tell-tale signs of disparate styles at battle within the score. Unfortunately, Wanker's music is apparently not any more memorable in its structures than Kloser's. The only truly interesting parts of 2012 are those in which they either sell out completely in the fantasy element, such as the magnificent choral-enhanced crescendos of wonder in "Open the Gates!" and "2012 The End of the World," or those in which they work their hardest to imitate the sounds of other popular, contemporary composers. The most obvious of the references, not surprisingly, points to David Arnold, who so memorably scored Independence Day and Godzilla before the original Emmerich/Devlin/Arnold team split apart at the end of the 1990's. The second half of 2012 clearly attempts to stir up action tones familiar to Arnold's style (even extending to his more recent James Bond material). Once again, though, Kloser and Wanker fail to achieve the same robust spirit. Their composition contains too little depth in activity, too little creativity in orchestration, and too little enthusiasm in even the most melodramatic portions. This music on paper obviously didn't inspire the musicians the way Arnold's did for Emmerich. Also aped in a few places, intriguingly, is Howard Shore's Gollum-related material from The Lord of the Rings, especially evident in the creepy bass string movements of "Ashes in D.C." Listeners already familiar with The Day After Tomorrow will hear a reprise of significant chunks of that score's non-descript moments as well, though the increase in the magnificence factor in 2012, summarized by "The End is Only the Beginning," gives the latter score the upper hand in terms of its album presentation. Overall, this music is still dull given the genre's expectations and potential. It makes rather mediocre disaster scores from great composers (like Alan Silvestri's Volcano) seem like triumphs of character. At least it's superior Tyler Bates' take on the same idea. The two rock songs and inconveniently placed jazz piece in the middle of the album presentation for 2012 add nothing to the score but sudden shocks of transition. For containing no offensive cues and basically sufficing in its purpose, this score barely achieves a third star. ***