It's unfair to say that Roland Emmerich destroys the world in all of his movies ... he just destroys it in most of them.
The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that the German maestro of blockbuster destruction, the man who blew up every national monument in 'Independence Day,' froze over the northern hemisphere in 'The Day After Tomorrow' and killed just about every human being on the face of the planet in '2012,' will be making himself another alien invasion movie. But what makes 'The Zone,' the name of this top-secret new project, so special?
Maybe it has something to with the fact that 'The Zone' will be a "found footage" film in the vein of 'Cloverfield' and cost less than $5 million. Maybe. Just maybe.
A small-budgeted science fiction movie is nothing new (the upcoming 'Skyline' was made for similar dough), but seeing a filmmaker make a movie on a budget that would have amounted to pocket change on many of his previous productions is always interesting, especially since most directors cut corners and cry stress-fueled tears of blood over their micro-budgeted films so they can get more money on their next film. Isn't that the reason why the found footage genre is an indie favorite? Because they're cheap to make and allow a filmmaker to hint at things that would have otherwise cost them an arm and a leg and a hundred million dollars? Why would Emmerich step down from his throne of bulging box office receipts to make a "small film"? What speculation can we wring from an only-slightly-damp cloth of information?
There are two ways to look at this.
First, Emmerich is a wily businessman, a director who knows what the public wants and delivers it in spades, even if it doesn't always earn him glowing critical accolades. You've got to be a smart guy to make it in the film business and you've got to know when to ride a trend. With 'Cloverfield' and the 'Paranormal Activity' films riding high at the box office, the "found footage" genre is back in vogue. It's what people want to see and, quite simply, Emmerich makes movies that people want to see. Not to mention, creating an epic, expensive-looking film on a tiny budget has become a popular badge of honor for filmmakers in recent years. This is Emmerich's chance to earn the Hollywood version of street cred.
The less cynical way to look at this is that Emmerich is really ready to move on from his blockbuster days and is actually looking to challenge himself as a filmmaker. His latest film, 'Anonymous,' is already a massive departure for him: a political thriller about the true authorship of Shakespeare's plays in Elizabethan England. Maybe he's taking a small-budgeted film that will be filled with non-famous faces and improvised dialogue because he wants the freedom to explore himself as an artist, to stretch himself and prove that he has every right to be taken seriously.
Who knows how big or how small 'The Zone' will be. Who knows how far it will stray or close it will stick to Emmerich's regular sensibilities. Who knows how long the found footage wave will last and whether or not 'The Zone' will be too late or arrive just in time. The important thing right now is we're getting another alien invasion movie in a world that could always use more alien invasion movies. And if someone is going to unleash the aliens upon us, it might as well be the guy who blew up the White House so spectacularly in 'Independence Day.'