James Jay Edwards reviews Greenland, a disaster film written by Chris Sparling, directed by Ric Roman Waugh, and stars Gerard Butler. (STX Films)
The summer of 1998 was the year of the Earth’s destruction. At least in Hollywood, as that was the summer of Armageddon and Deep Impact, two very different movies with a very similar concept. Twenty-some years later, there’s now a third very different movie with a very similar concept. That movie is Greenland.
Greenland is about a planet-killing comet blasting its way through space and headed straight for Earth. The government has selected certain families to be spared and placed into protective bunkers, and the family of John Garrity (Gerard Butler from 300) is one of them. John packs up his wife, Allison (Deadpool’s Morena Baccarin), and son, Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd, who played the young Danny in Doctor Sleep), and heads for the nearest military base to fly to a shelter in Greenland. They get separated along the way, so the family’s fight for survival becomes a struggle to find each other and stay together for what may be the end of the world.
(Greenland, theatrical release poster, STX Films)
Directed by Ric Roman Waugh (Angel Has Fallen) from a script by Chris Sparling (Buried), Greenland is a rare combination. It’s first and foremost a disaster movie, but it’s also an effective family drama. Sure, all disaster movies focus on humanity in some way or shape, but Greenland is different. The characters are three-dimensional, so the audience finds itself completely engrossed in their turmoil.
And that includes the instances where the characters are being selfish or malicious. Whether John is callously talking sense into his unlucky neighbors who weren’t selected for rescue or Allison is participating in apocalyptic looting to secure some insulin for her son, the viewer understands every emotion and decision, so, even when they’re being villains, the Garrity family is still seen as the heroes of the story.
(Greenland, STX Films)
But people come to see movies like Greenland for the explosions and destruction. While it never hits Michael Bay levels of obliteration, there is more than enough carnage in Greenland to satisfy the blast-hungry. The damage comes in waves, giving the characters—and the audience—a chance to catch their breath every so often. During times of crisis, the plot is nail-bitingly suspenseful, yet, in calmer moments, there’s a subtle peace simmering underneath the tension. And this results in a surprisingly well-paced action-drama.
Chaos is the best way to describe Greenland, and that’s not a complaint. It’s the best possible chaos. The world is ending, the population of the world is running around crazy, and the audience is fully invested in these three people who, whether together or apart, need to win this fight. As molten rock falls from the sky and shock waves pummel the buildings, there’s this one family that just wants to remain a family. It’s a lovely chaos.
(Greenland, STX Films)
This is not the summer of 1998. Greenland is not as corny as Armageddon, and it’s not as dry as Deep Impact. It’s better than both of those movies. Let’s hope it’s remembered as such twenty-some years from now.