The disaster genre has admittedly never been one of my favorites. A majority of these movies are just stock characters running away from generic CGI explosions with few surprises along the way. Greenland feels like an appropriate movie to end 2020 on, however. It’s hard to watch the film without thinking about the past nine months. In the early scenes, we see newscasters casually downplaying an impending disaster. When that disaster strikes, our characters must immediately shift into survivor mode.
The disaster itself is just one obstacle, as our heroes must also deal with looters and panicked mobs. There’s an especially ironic scene where a group of 20-somethings party on the roof as the world goes to hell. On top of all these real-world parallels, Florida is one of the first places to get hit. All that’s missing is California on fire. Instead, we spend most of the movie watching Georgia on fire because it’s cheaper to shoot there. Greenland, meanwhile, serves as the light at the end of the tunnel.
The events of 2020 aside, Greenland has plenty of familiar elements. The film possesses all of the usual suspects you’d expect from a disaster picture: Gerard Butler as our hunky hero, Morena Baccarin as his estranged wife, Roger Dale Floyd as their adorable son with diabetes, Scott Glenn as the old man who’s mainly there to be a marauder, and comet on a collision course for Earth. While these characters are nothing new, they do have something that the archetypes in most Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich movies don’t: charm.
Where the effects often overshadow the characters in disaster movies, the explosions are mere supporting players in Greenland. It might not be the deepest character study, but we do quickly come to empathize with our leads. Even the minor characters manage to strike an emotional chord. When a neighborhood of people is left behind, we genuinely feel for them. When a military officer can’t bend to the rules, we understand the difficult position that she’s in. When somebody goes out of their way to help a stranger, we’re reminded that there will always be good in the world.
Greenland is well-acted, well-made, and – for the most part – well-paced. There’s a subplot involving Roy from The Office that comes off as forced, but it thankfully doesn’t drag on for too long. Director Ric Roman Waugh and screenwriter Chris Sparling know how to create a sense of dread. Those expecting another Armageddon or Deep Impact are inclined to get something closer to 2005’s War of the Worlds. With that film, Steven Spielberg aimed to capture the chaos following the September 11th attacks. Greenland wasn’t made in response to 2020, seeing how principal photography wrapped in August 2019, but it eerily captures the atmosphere of this past year. It’s not a film that’ll change the world, but it will further encourage us to pick up the pieces as the dust clears. That’s more than can be said about Butler’s last disaster movie, Geostorm.
Greeland will be available on all premium on demand platforms starting Friday, December 18th.