*. Greenland is a bit of a headscratcher for me. Most of it follows the usual drill. A first act presents us with the players: burly, bearded dad John Gerrity (Gerard Butler), estranged but not divorced wife Alison (Morena Baccarin), and their too-cute-for-words tyke. A procession of chyrons and news reports tell us that a new comet named Clarke is about to pass close by the Earth. Then it’s going to hit the Earth. Then it’s going to hit the Earth in a very big way.
*. So the comet strikes and it’s Mars attacks. Or the zombie apocalypse. Or the Purge. Or an earthquake or a volcano or an asteroid Armageddon. The nuclear family unit is under attack, again. But who says Hollywood doesn’t believe in family values? Under pressure, they reunite.
*. As an aside, I wonder how often Hollywood thinks this really happens. In my experience, couples that break-up don’t usually get back together. They don’t want to. But so many American action movies and thrillers are based on this idea of protecting endangered families that it gets worked into nearly all of them. John even has to listen to a lecture from his father-in-law about how he’s gotta do right by his family, and he duly swears that from now on the only thing that matters to him is saving them. Then when he later apologizes to Alison about how it was all his fault she has to say no, it was her fault too, and I honestly felt like I might be sick.
*. Anyway, the comet breaks into pieces, with chunks of it landing all over the place. The big chunks take out cities, the little chunks take out cars. Then there’s a planetary-extinction size chunk that’s going to do what its name suggests. John and Alison and Nathan have to get all the way from Georgia to a bunker in Greenland in a couple of days if they’re going to survive. First step: get to Canada! Why? Don’t know. There aren’t any bunkers in the U.S. I guess.
*. What makes me scratch my head about Greenland is what the review aggregators describe as the “generally favourable” critical response. As an example, according to Chris Hewitt in Empire this is “Butler’s best star vehicle in years, what could have been a bombastic bunch of boulders is, instead, a refreshingly clear-eyed and compelling affair. One of the best disaster movies in years.” And Mark Kermode absolutely raved about it, saying he went to see it three times and was “genuinely knocked out by it,” thrilling to its “absolutely nail-biting tension.”
*. Really, Mark? What happened to Kermode? Maybe time has mellowed my views on it somewhat, but I’m pretty sure I’d rather watch Geostorm than Greenland again. This movie is pure sludge. Why did so many reviews make such a big deal about its “character-driven” plot? It’s just the usual family-survival story, with a family that is in no way more believable or relatable than any other. And indeed I’d single out the whiny and quite stupid Nathan, who is diabetic and so in need of all sorts of special care, as being particularly annoying. It seems to me as though Hollywood is trying very hard to get me to hate kids lately. Either that or I’m getting grumpier.
*. What thrills? What pacing? There’s the simplest of three-act structures — (1) the intro, (2) John and Alison are separated, (3) John and Alison get back together and escape to Greenland — helped along by non-stop improbabilities and clichéd encounters. And the effects are worthless, nothing we haven’t see hundreds of times before. CGI rocks falling from the sky and things blowing up on the ground.
*. The only flicker of interest I had was in the notion of there being a group of people — John is one — who are among the “selected,” which is a secular version of the saved in this retelling of Left Behind. But God only knows how they were chosen to be bunkerworthy, or by whom. John is an engineer but seems to have had no idea that he was on the List, or even that there was a List. Meanwhile, I love how the army grunts dutifully do their best to save this lucky 1%, when we’re told that literally 99% of the army are not to be saved. Nevertheless they help the elect on their way, sacrificing themselves so that the elite may have a chance to survive. What more can they do? Well, “I wish I could do more,” one nurse tells Alison. The world may be coming to the end but we can count on the underclass to be patient and helpful.
*. So on top of it being a lousy movie I despised its politics as well. It was directed by the delightfully named Ric Roman Waugh, who wrote and directed Angel Has Fallen. Presumably this was meant to be the launch of another Gerry Butler franchise, as the ending might as well say “To be continued . . .” But I want nothing to do with a sequel. Two hours of this crap was more than enough.