Roland Emmerich is best known for his literally explosive, colossally budgeted action movies, with a CV including Godzilla, The Patriot, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. The Zone would have been a return to the alien invasion genre, an apocalyptic setting he last tackled in his masterpiece to date, the massively successful Independence Day (1996).
However, although production was well in to the rehearsal stage with shooting due to start next week, The Zone has been inexplicably shut down with just this enigmatic comment from a representative of the director: “This is not a project (Emmerich) is pursuing at this time.” Whilst there has been no official statement from the director’s camp regarding reasons for the shut down, hit the jump to see latest speculation from the rumour mill.
Emmerich, known for his high budgets, had been in line to change his approach. Instead of working with his usual fat wallet, The Zone was to be shot on a budget of just $5 million. Perhaps equally intriguingly, Heat Vision reports The Zone was to be cast with relative unknowns, actors Peter Mackenzie (It’s Complicated) and Brandon Scott, and would have been based in improvisation. Although not unusual for the genre, given that Emmerich most commonly works with A-listers the likes of John Cusack, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Mel Gibson, this seems to have been a clear change of tact.
So what’s the big deal with “found footage?” Since its revival, rooted in movies like The Blair Witch Project, in which footage emerges that supposedly details the horrific lead up to the demise of the camera operator, there have been a plethora of movies based on the conceit. Aside from the obvious older examples, most recently Gareth Edward’s low budget sci-fi invasion flick Monsters and Paranormal Activity 2, there are reports of a Warner Bros. movie Dark Moon that will also work within the style.
It’s possible there are two issues in play here, although none have been declared officially as the reason Emmerich’s project was terminated. Firstly, it seems probable that studios are wary of investing much more in the found footage approach. Whilst it has been massively successful in the past few years, scoring big box office numbers for Paranormal Activity 1 & 2 and Cloverfield, the market has become relatively saturated.
Additionally, last weekend’s reports that Weinstein and Co. have picked up Apollo 18, yet another found footage movie, were accompanied by an estimated March release date, seeing it invade just before The Zone.
Whether these are the real reasons or not, it’s clear Emmerich must be eying up another project. With the ending of The Zone’s tragic saga, maybe the director might return to more common ground. We’ll keep you posted.