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Filmmaker Roland Emmerich is at home in the 'disaster movie' genre with hit films like Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and Godzilla among his credits. Now, he ratchets his trademark mayhem up to a global scale, destroying landmarks the world over in his new action-adventure film. Here's a look at 2012.
Those events will unfold on December 21, 2012 …according to scholars and enthusiasts who have pored through the ancient texts. All that is needed to get the movie started is some cause for this worldwide catastrophe.
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Mix a little pseudo-science with an intriguing legend and Roland Emmerich says action is bound to happen.
"Whenever you have a myth out there, first of all it's a starting point, which makes people [think] it is real," Emmerich says. "It was interesting for me when I did some sort of research. I read, like, ten books …or at least flipped through them …and I realized that every book about 2012 says something different. You have a lot of freedom there and it's just a fact that so many people are fascinated. I think I know where this fascination comes from: it's because it is such an exact date."
Woody Harrelson plays a radio talk show host whose own extensive research leads him to the inescapable conclusion.
"He believes that the world is going to come to an end and he has an attitude about how it's going to happen. Of course, a lot of people think he's nuts, but he turns out to be not so far off," Harrelson explains.
John Cusack stars as a divorced father desperately trying to save his ex-wife and kids as Southern California falls down around them. Cusack thinks, like much science fiction, 2012 taps into a widespread concern - maybe even paranoia - about the future.
"I think in today's society this is something that probably gives voice to a lot of collective fears and paranoia …and also, I think, should probably entertain and distract from some of the woes that people are experiencing," Cusack says. "I think this is escapist entertainment with a little bit of a social conscience that, hopefully, gets people to react towards global warming and some of those things; but today, right now, I think people just want to have a good time at the movies because there are so many troubles going on in the world right now."
Chewitel Ejiofor co-stars as a scientist frantically trying to convince government authorities to save as many people as possible. 'Frantic' fits this role and the circumstances, according to the English actor.
"Yes sure. If the world is coming to an end and everything is getting destroyed, it's hard to take it lightly and do it in a very nuanced style," Ejiofor says. "You've just got to focus on the situation that the character is in. It does require a certain imaginative leap and you've just got to go for it and you hope that the audience is carried with you; but the circumstances are extraordinary and incredibly heightened and you kind of have to play to that and get on the ride and have a go at it."
2012 also includes plenty of melodrama - scenes of emotional, tearful goodbyes, for instance; but writer-director Emmerich says it's all part of the package.
"Some people call in melodramatic," Emmerich says. "I call it very heartfelt and true. I think when you make movies like this you have to make people laugh, you have to make people cry and you have to make people scared. I try to do that."
2012 is co-written by Austrian-born Harald Kloser, who also composed some of the soundtrack music. The international cast includes Danny Glover as the troubled US president with Thandie Newton as his headstrong daughter; and Jimi Mistry is the Indian scientist who first recognizes the phenomenon that is changing the world. But the real stars of the film may be the digital special effects wizards who create scenes of disaster ranging from California sliding into the sea to the eruption of a super-volcano under Yellowstone National Park and the collapse of the Vatican atop thousands of worshipers.