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New York is a terror target in upcoming sci-fi thrillers

Ethan Sacks
New York Daily News (MCT)

New York City is no longer safe from being blown up - on the big screen.

Two new trailers for upcoming sci-fi movies - an untitled Paramount film from producer J.J. Abrams and Warner Bros.' "I am Legend" - have hit theaters featuring images of exploding New York landmarks.

For years before 9/11, filmmakers frequently used New York as the setting for movies like "Independence Day" (1996), "Armageddon" (1997) and "Godzilla" (1998). In the wake of the terrorist attacks, however, Hollywood sent their alien invasions elsewhere.

Until now.

"I think it actually shows we're strong enough now to accept movies that do trash a city as iconic as New York post-9/11," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers, a box office tracking firm.

"Nobody will ever forget 9/11, but I think the country and audiences are at a place where they can watch portrayals like that without evoking tensions - other than the ones intended by the filmmakers, of course."

Tension is exactly what Abrams, the co-creator of "Lost," intended for the cryptic trailer that debuted before "The Transformers." It starts with hand-held-camera footage of partying twentysomething New Yorkers, whose shindig abruptly ends with an explosion that sends the demolished head of the Statue of Liberty crashing into their street.

The movie's title is being kept under wraps, though it is generating chatter on the Web under the fake name of "Cloverfield." The official site (1-18-08.com) divulges just the release date. A Paramount representative declined to comment on what disfigured Lady Liberty.

In "I Am Legend," opening in theaters Dec. 14 and based on a 1954 vampire novel, Will Smith plays the last man on Earth. To stanch the calamity that is threatening the human race, military jets destroy the Brooklyn Bridge, as the trailer graphically shows.

The bridge was last destroyed on screen nine years ago in "Godzilla" - a movie that captured Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaidah reportedly told investigators inspired the terrorist group to add the span as a potential target.

In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Hollywood was so sensitive to moviegoers' anxieties that movies like 2002's "Spider-Man" were edited to cut footage where the World Trade Center was visible.

But judging by the mysterious roar in the "Cloverfield" trailer, studios may be ready to sic another giant monster on New York.

"I guess the huge scale of the city and its iconic nature may contribute," says Matt Aitken, the visual effects supervisor on the 2005 remake of the 1933 classic, "King Kong."

Former Mayor Ed Koch, who reviews movies for the Villager newspaper, said adult New Yorkers are smart enough to know these are just movies.

"I don't have a problem with (Hollywood) setting explosions and injuries in New York," said Koch. "As long as it's fictional and as long as it's well done."

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