Nostradamus 2012 is an interesting documentary that arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of The History Channel who previously released the title on DVD. Its focus is on predictions made by the world's most infamous prophet as they relate to the fast approaching year of 2012 - the year his writings seem to indicate in which it'll all hit the fan. French born Michael de Nostredame lived from 1503 to 1566 but during his short lifespan wrote numerous collections of prophecies. An apothecary and seer, his predications have an uncanny accuracy which lends a rather chilling credence to the whole 'it's gonna end in 2012' prediction. But how much of what his man predicted really came true, and how much of it has been made to look true by misinterpretation, coincidence and circumstance is really anyone's guess.
The film begins with a quick rundown of who Nostradamus is and how many of his predictions have supposedly come true before discussing some recently unearthed writings and illustrations that seem to indicate 2012 as the year in question. Interviews with scholarly types and experts in the fields of prophecy and 'seeing' are spliced in alongside clips of the worst that the world has seen - famine, war, natural disasters, political unrest - you name it, it's here.
One thing that continually plagues the interesting documentary, however, is that his predictions are pretty much always seen as accurate in hindsight. Had he accurately predicted the rise of Hitler or the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center buildings then obviously steps could have and would have been taken to prevent such occurrences from ever actually becoming manifest. So while it's all well and good for the various interviewees, authors and religious experts to go on and on about how much weight Nostradamus' words carry, if history teaches us anything, it's that we won't really know what he's talking about until after the fact - at which point it will be too late.
There are moments of rightful skepticism in here that keep the whole thing grounded in something close to sanity, and which do bring up the possibility that this whole phenomena is nothing more than circumstance twisted as an afterthought to fight the words that Nostradamus wrote hundreds of years ago, but the documentary definitely takes the 'be afraid, be very afraid' stance in its delivery. While this may not necessarily make for serious filmmaking, it does make for more interesting television and you can't really fault the filmmakers for taking this approach. After all, misery sells, and so does fear.
When it's all over and done with, this is worth watching, but how much stock you want to put into the prophecies discussed here will obviously depend on how much you actually believe in such things. There isn't anything here that'll convert the non-believers, though those who do latch onto such things will likely insist that there is. It's an interesting ninety minutes of discussion and dissection of some prophecies that are worthy of the time - even if much of this seems little more than superstition and supposition.
The documentary is presented in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition 1.78.1 widescreen transfer that is fairly erratic at spots but which is still a big improvement over the non-anamorphic standard definition release from a couple of years back. Detail varies from scene to scenes as this production was put together using a mix or archival footage, CGI renderings, reenactment footage, and talking head interview bits. The newly shot interviews and reenactments look nice and clean and show good detail while the CGI looks like CGI. The archival clips are where you'll notice the most fluctuating in terms of quality - obviously not ever clip looks as good as the next, so you have to expect that to a certain extent. Not a reference quality transfer by any means, but a perfectly acceptable one.
The feature is presented in fairly standard English language DTS-HD 2.0 mix. There are no alternate language dubs though English subtitles are provided. As far as the quality of the mix goes, it's fine for what is but keep in mind that there isn't much need for anything more than a two channel mix for this feature. The vast majority of it is made up of talking heads and standard interview clips, with background music thrown in to spice things up and only occasional sound effects creeping into the mix now and then. There's some minor channel separation in spots but this one isn't going to rock your socks off.
Aside from some animated menus and chapter selection sub-menus, the History Channel has provided a bonus documentary entitled The Lost Book Of Nostradamus which is actually a second feature length documentary. Presented in high definition with a DTS-HD 2.0 mix, it gives a more well rounded look at who Nostradamus was, why he matters in the current day and age, and the impact that he had on the modern world. The 'lost' aspect comes into play when the documentary covers a book he wrote which hadn't really been analyzed as thoroughly or frequently as some of his other writings. If you enjoyed the feature attraction you'll enjoy this one as well, it's made by the same production team and is very definitely in the same vein.
Take it with a grain of salt if you need to, but it's uncanny how, according to the people involved with this feature, how many of Nostradamus' predictions have at least partially come to happen. What'll occur in 2012 obviously remains to be seen, but this documentary makes an interesting case, purporting that things are going to get a whole lot worse in the years to come. The History Channel's Blu-ray release is a big improvement over the DVD release, offering the documentary up with a much improved HD transfer and a lossless audio track. This isn't likely a disc you'll go back to all that often, but it's worth seeing if you're curious about the subject matter. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.