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Culture

German Directors Open the Hollywood Blockbuster Season

Hollywood's silly season of summer blockbusters kicks of this month with two movies tipped as mega-buck earners leading the way. It sounds like business as usual until you discover that they're both directed by Germans.

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Roland Emmerich and Wolfgang Peterson aim to take Hollywood by storm.

Cinema audiences are preparing for the opening salvos in the annual battle of the summer blockbusters. Lavish posters boasting megastar actors and trailers promising epic set pieces have already got movie-goers salivating over the "money no object" offerings for this year's release schedule.

However, the first exchanges in the Hollywood season will not come from American directors but from two Germans who are ready to unleash films depicting global catastrophe and historical warfare onto effect junkies the world over.

Roland Emmerich, no stranger to big budgets and special effects, unleashes The Day after Tomorrow on a world more than a little aware of the prophetic nature of the Stuttgart-born director's latest apocalyptical vision. After bringing war-mongering aliens to earth in Independence Day and unleashing the radioactively-enhanced super lizard Godzilla on film fans, the "Swabian Spielberg" has harnessed the fears of the Kyoto generation to bring global warming to the silver screen for a cool €118.5 million. The German premiere is in Berlin on May 21.

What Emmerich attempted to do with aliens and monsters in the past, he now attempts with extreme weather with a film that has got the real-life powers-that-be sweating. By ignoring the threat of climate change brought on by irresponsible attitudes to environmental damage, the U.S. government portrayed in The Day after Tomorrow literally reaps a whirlwind. First extreme heat, then tidal waves and snow storms sweep through Manhattan and tornadoes destroy Los Angeles.

Emmerich calls for a change at the top

Roland Emmerich

Roland Emmerich.

Not content with attaching an environmental message to his latest film, Emmerich has even come out and criticized the current U.S. administration on its stance on global warming. "President Bush denies that there is global warming and that we cause this. I don’t understand him," the director said in a recent interview. "I hope the Americans make a more reasonable choice at the next election and elect Democrat candidate John Kerry."

Politicians on the left in the United States have spotted an opportunity and championed the film, which opens in the U.S. at the end of this month. Former presidential candidate Al Gore is already talking up the film, saying: “Millions of people will be coming out of movie theatres asking the question, ’Could this really happen?’” Meanwhile, voices on the other side of the political fence are offering their own opinions. A Bush spokesman has been quoted in reports as saying: “People know what they’re watching is entertainment, and not grounded in basic scientific fact.”

However, whether the same can be said about the other German-directed blockbuster is a matter for discussion. Wolfgang Peterson's Troy is based on widely accepted historical fact but as with all things Hollywood, there will be a certain amount of artistic license involved.

Das Boot director braves Achilles' heel

Peterson, born in Emden in north Germany, is probably best known for his claustrophobic World War II classic Das Boot and his "man against the elements" sea spectacular The Perfect Storm. This time, apart from the hugely impressive computer generated Greek armada scenes in Troy, the German director bases his latest epic on dry land -- Malta, to be precise.

The story follows events leading up to the legendary war circa 1200 B.C. which ignites when Paris, Prince of Troy, steals away Helen, the much younger wife of Menelaus, the King of Sparta. The tribes of Greece are then united to attack Troy which leads to massive battle scenes, Brad Pitt in a skirt and, of course, that wooden horse.

The film, boasting an impressive A-list cast and a budget of over €150 million, is expected to be the biggest film of the year. It premieres in Peterson's home country on May 9 with many of the stars expected to turn out for the showing in Berlin.

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