Love it or hate it, there’s no denying Independence Day was a big movie, with a place in cinematic history. Roland Emmerich has been the prince of diminishing returns since, but remains the current king of the global disaster movie. With next week’s 2012, he’s hoping to get his career back on track.

10,000 BC was universally panned, so he has decided to go back to what he does best. Namely, destroying contemporary landmarks, and killing a large percentage of the population. Emmerich loves himself a budget, and epic scale CGI, and judging from the trailer, he has used both liberally. There have been plenty of pre-release clips to encourage the hype. You can see a five minute clip in full HD here, some additional clips here, and some behind the scenes footage here.

As usual, however, there is a human story to be told. In this case, it’s the story of John Cusack’s failed novelist, divorcee Jackson Curtis, now a part-time 2012blimo driver. Whilst on a trip to Yellowstone park with his two children, he meets a crackpot who warns him of the coming apocalypse. When the warning signs begin to start, Curtis hires a plane, rescues his wife, and together they must make their way to China, where great arks have been built to carry the human population to safety. Cusack has played the ordinary Joe to great effect in films like High Fidelity, but has shown his action credentials in Con Air and Grosse Point Blank. The Randy Quaid crackpot role is played by Woody Harrelson this time, as trailer park DJ Charlie Frost, who predicts the imminent apocalypse.

With Danny Glover as President Thomas Wilson, and Oliver Platt as his advisor Carl Anheuser, there’s 2012dsome interesting casting here. Four actors who’s recent CV’s have been spotty at best. Good timing for Harrelson and the movie though, well positioned to capitalise on his performance in surprise hit Zombieland. Harrelson’s star looks to be ascending again. One actor already at the top of his game, the quietly brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor, plays another of the president’s aides, Adrian Helmsley. Brilliant in smaller masterpieces like Children of Men and Serenity, 2012 will be his biggest film to date.

The cause of the apocalypse this time round is the Mayan prediction of the 2012cend of days. Of course, this ‘prediction’ is an interpretation of an ambiguous belief. In actual fact, the Mayans didn’t predict anything. Rather, their calendar resets the date to zero every 1,872,000 days, which makes it next due on December 21st 2012. It’s not known the particular significance of this event to the ancient civilisation, but some have taken it to mean an evolution, some a revolution. Emmerich has used it to suggest a slate wiped clean, the annihilation of the human race and all it has created. It could simply have been a mathematical anomaly.

2012 features earthquakes, super volcanoes, mass suicides, floods and a giant tidal wave. Whilst the ‘weather gone wild’ part of the story is similar to Emmerichs previous The Day After Tomorrow, with the addition of the Earth’s crust displacement, and the vaguely supernantural element of the ‘prediction’ causing global panic, there should certainly be enough here to elevate 2012 beyond some of Emmerich’s previous work.

In a fairly quiet November movie-wise, with the shadow of Avatar yet to 2012loom, 2012 could easily be a box office big hitter. We are all suckers for a big popcorn disaster movie, and they’re obviously confident based on the news of a possible TV series (Read our story here). It’ll certainly need a landslide victory in the box office charts to recoup it’s $200 million budget. If 2012 flops, Emmerich could find his budget for his next movie, possibly the proposed Independence Day 2 (ID5?) reduced to rubble. And that would be a disaster.

You can find our story on the proposed sequel here.

You can try and win a 2012 poster here.

2012 is released this Friday 13th November in the US and UK. You can read our review next week.