SYDNEY—If the epic Hollywood disaster movie 2012 is correct then we all have three years to live.
Director Roland Emmerich, the man behind catastrophe epics Independence Day and Day After Tomorrow, hasn't held back in his latest offering, showing the destruction of the earth in tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Los Angeles succumbs to massive earthquakes and falls into the ocean, waves crash over the Himalayas, glaciers collapse, while religious site the Sistine Chapel is ripped in half, and Rio De Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer statue collapses.
But more than being just a Hollywood fantasy, the timely movie has been inspired by ancient prophecies and modern day theories that predict an apocalypse doomsday or a major shift in the earth in 2012.
At the forefront is the Mayan calender, devised by an ancient pre-Columbian civilisation – which is set to end its 13th cycle on December 21, 2012.
The calendar began around 3000 BC but there is nothing beyond December 21, when the sun is supposed to align with the centre of the Milky Way, for the first time in 26,000 years.
Many around the world believe it will cause the earth's poles to shift, signalling the end of the world.
Another more recent web-based system called Web-Bot which was set up to predict the stock market, has forecast global devastation in late 2012, following a build-up from this year starting with small nuclear attacks.
Hundreds of books have been written about that date, and the Internet is flooded with theories, including that a fictional planet Nibiru will crash into Earth.
Director Emmerich says he doesn't himself believe the world will come to an end in 2012, but admits it's worrying.
"I really don't believe in it. I don't want to believe in it," Emmerich told AAP.
"I want to do so many more movies that I would say this for me would be really, really not good.
"But I have to admit there were a couple of books where I seriously got scared."
While millions around the world are preparing for the date, there are millions more who don't believe the theory.
Amid panic and thousands of questions, NASA has responded, labelling the theories lies. Many scientists have rubbished the idea and even a modern day Mayan elder has spoken out, saying it's a Western interpretation of their calendar, looking for apocalyptic signs.
Is Emmerich and his film fear-mongering and cashing in on people's concerns?
In a time when tsunamis have devastated communities, is the film insensitive?
No, says Emmerich, who believes it's a tale of survival.
"This movie glorifies survivors and it really shows you what's really important in life," Emmerich says.
"Just when it comes to the absolute end, all of a sudden things like what is human civilisation, what should survive, what should not becomes all of a sudden very clear."
Emmerich says at the heart of the movie is a story about a family and society that many will relate to.
Actor John Cusack plays science fiction writer Jackson Curtis, who is estranged from his family.
He stumbles on the government's knowledge of impending disaster and tries to save his family.
Co-written by Harald Kloser, 2012 also stars Danny Glover as the US president, Woody Harrelson as Charlie Frost, a man who predicts what is going to happen, and Thandie Newton as the president's daughter.
In a modern type of Noah's Ark story, the US government tries to use ships to save key people, and collections of art and specimens, while trying to hide impending disaster from the world's inhabitants.
Emmerich says the film is deeply political and philosophical, unlike many other disaster films.
"I'm deeply suspicious of governments. I just naturally am," he says.
"I was wondering with G8 and G20 meetings, why the press is not allowed in.
"In every parliament there are film cameras, well, why not in these G8 meetings? What is so secret?
"So I let that flow into the movie. It also asks the question if governments would know this was going to happen, what would they do?
"They would probably hide it from the people because they don't want to create certain disruption.
"Because they know the stock market would immediately crash, they know people would riot in the streets. Probably nothing would be done because you could not save everybody."
Despite the doom and gloom, Emmerich says he hopes people enjoy the movie, saying it's the film he's most proud of since the alien invasion film Independence Day in 1996.
2012 will be released in Australia on November 12.