“Greenland” stars Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, Scott Glenn, Andrew Bachelor, David Denman, and Hope Davis. Released on December 18, 2020, the film has a family attempting to reach shelter when a comet threatens to destroy humanity.
The film is directed by Ric Roman Waugh, who also directed films such as “Felon”, “Snitch”, and “Angel Has Fallen”. We never would’ve thought that a comet would actually crash-land on Earth and wipe out humanity. Boy, were we wrong. This next film I’ll be talking about this month sees Gerard Butler keeping his new reputation going after the success of his “Fallen” franchise. Instead of protecting the president from terrorists, he’s protecting his family from a planet-sized space rock. Too bad Bruce Willis isn’t here to stop it himself. While the film was able to make it into theaters internationally, it struggled to make its big screen debut in the United States due to the pandemic. It was originally scheduled for a summer release before it was delayed a few times and then removed from the schedule entirely. Later on, it was announced that it will instead be a “video on demand” release, becoming the latest victim of the “theatrical to VOD” trend that was caused by theater closures. This marks another collaboration between Gerard Butler and director Ric Roman Waugh after delivering another action-packed installment in the “Fallen” franchise together last year. Based on my experience with that film, my anticipation towards “Greenland” was somewhere between concerning (because I thought “Angel Has Fallen” was just okay) and tempting (because I’m always in the mood for some destruction). However, I immediately leaned towards the latter when I heard that it’s been getting some surprisingly good reviews, leading me to believe that Butler and Waugh actually improved themselves. Now that I finally got to see it, was it really something that’s worth the $20 price tag?
The story centers on John Garrity (Butler), a structural engineer, and his family, which consists of his estranged wife Allison (Baccarin) and their diabetic son Nathan (Floyd). They, along with millions of people, are preparing to watch the passing of a recently-discovered comet, which they nicknamed Clarke. During that time, John realized that the military are selecting people for emergency sheltering. It turns out that “Clarke the Giant Comet” is actually “Clarke the Giant Planet Killer”, and its multiple fragments are crash-landing on Earth instead of passing by. As the biggest fragment in existence heads its way towards the planet, John and his family race against all odds to get to the safe haven. Watching a disaster movie is somehow equivalent to watching a circus. Its spectacle is quite impressive to witness, even though that’s all they’re good for. Most of the films from this type of genre are usually known for its “visual style over substance” scenario, such as Michael Bay’s “Armageddon” and Roland Emmerich’s “2012”, which played a key part in their financial successes. Whether it’s tsunamis, hurricanes, asteroids, or even the end of days, people will pay money to see something be torn to shreds by natural or man-made disasters, even though their stories weren’t as amazingly stunning as the visuals. However, some of them did manage to succeed because of their focus on both the disaster element and the human element, including Peter Berg’s “Deepwater Horizon” back in 2016. So, where does “Greenland” land in my eyes in terms of these two types of disaster films? Well, it just so happens that, like the comet, it crash-landed on the “enjoyable disaster film” section. That’s right, everyone, we actually got ourselves a good mid-budget comet-destroys-Earth film. A good mid-budget comet-destroys-Earth film starring Gerard Butler, to be exact. Rather than focusing on showing off its effects-heavy destruction onscreen, the film placed most of its focus on the human drama during this impending predicament, especially how their actions are affected by mass hysteria, while the fiery devastation of the planet serves as a backdrop for its plot. It’s a pretty noticeable risk considering the fact that a lot of people are only seeing these types of films for the chaos, but thanks to Chris Sparling’s script and Waugh’s confidence behind the camera, that risk paid off quite well as it lead to a satisfying reward: An entertaining disaster film with actual depth. The story is obviously about a family’s quest for survival, but it is also about a husband who attempts to protect his loved ones despite the mistakes he made in the past. This showcases the fact that the love and support for others is the only tool we need to survive, which I think is something that we really need right now, especially during this time. There wasn’t anything too special about its storytelling, mostly because of its genre cliches, but it had enough tension in its scenario and enough heart in its characters to compensate, which is largely due to its decent cast, most notably Gerard Butler and Morena Baccarin. Butler stepped out of his action hero phase to deliver a surprisingly solid performance as John, while Baccarin from the “Deadpool” films made a suitable effort in portraying Allison, even though it’s far from her best performance. Scott Glenn also turned in a respectable performance as Allison’s father Dale despite his small amount of screen time, so if you’re a fan of the actor’s previous roles, here you go. I also thought that the destruction elements in the background were pretty impressive in terms of the visual effects and the lighting during a couple of scenes. The visuals weren’t exactly groundbreaking, but for a film that costs only $35 million to make, they’re actually not that bad either. The film did happen to have a couple of familiar elements that were from Roland Emmerich’s “2012” in my eyes, such as the estranged relationship between the husband and the wife and the people attempting to get to the safe haven with everybody else. While the elements in “2012” were bogged down by its generic story and its excessive runtime, “Greenland” managed to showcase them better by making them as realistic as possible and providing a story that’s actually worth caring about. So I applaud Ric Roman Waugh for not following in the footsteps of Emmerich.
Overall, “Greenland” has enough explosive flair and heart to rise above the generic films from the disaster genre. Its script has its share of familiar elements that kept it from being a masterpiece, but it was able to survive its impending doom thanks to its cast, Waugh’s direction, and its thrilling sequences. It’s an entertaining, yet simple, disaster film that should satisfy plenty of fans of the genre and maybe some other people that are outside of its target audience. It’s available to rent on demand for around $20 as of this writing, but if you’re not the type of person who wants to spend that kind of money, feel free to wait until it’s free to watch on television or on a streaming service. Otherwise, it’s money well spent.