Another Clarke (the Comet) arrives for the Christmas movie season.
By Elias Savada.
Greenland, the latest comet disaster flick to smash into our planet, will be one easily forgotten.
Comets and meteors and asteroids, oh my! These bits of interstellar debris have been attacking our audio-visual senses for ages, fictionally of course, in numerous disaster movies. Many had such awe-inspiring titles (not) as Night of the Comet (1984), the 1987 tv movie Asteroid, or the star-studded (Sean Connery! Natalie Wood! Henry Fonda!) Meteor back in 1979. In 1998, fast-moving formations of rock and other detritus were on collision course with Earth, as Deep Impact and Armageddon crashed into theaters a bare two months apart. As for Greenland, the latest to smash into our planet – with a big, loud, clunky thud – it will be one easily forgotten. It’s about as satisfying as someone throwing a rock at your face.
If the movie’s going to be this bad, it’s obvious that Gerard Butler should be its star and Ric Roman Waugh the (stuntman turned) director. They teamed up last year on Angel Has Fallen, the latest fiasco film centered around the seemingly indestructible Secret Service agent Mike Banning (see also Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen, with more on the way). While not as bad as the truly laughable Geostorm, a disastrous clunker in which Butler plays a weather scientist, Greenland seems to border on the ridiculous, or at least ridiculous behavior. The awkward inspiration behind Butler’s John Garrity, a construction engineer on the ever-so-slightly outs with his wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), fails to impress because Chris Sparling’s screenplay never takes time to take a realistic approach to how one man can save his marriage and his family. Maybe I’m a curmudgeon in my observation that Garrity keeps making overwrought and seemingly misguided decisions as a weird means to an end, and how luck plays too many aces in a deck stacked with so many obstacles. Or I just never stopped to think that the people in this film are just the world’s normal folk caught on the edge of a cataclysmic series of events. Blame it on Clarke. Oh, I didn’t tell you, but that’s the comet’s name. At least this time Butler’s usual gruff, over-achiever role isn’t trying to save the planet as well.
It seems that the planet (or at least the United States) has created a lottery system that allows for picking an amply knowledgeable cross-sampling of the public to allow for a hazard-free life in the land of the green. So, scientists can’t predict where dozens upon dozens of comet pieces will destroy lots of cities (Tampa is the first to go), but they can suggest that one eponymous place on this planet looks like a good candidate for our planet’s safety zone. And that’s the issue I have with the film, that it’s not terribly well thought out, just pasting together one hurdle after another, with an occasional rest stop (cue Scott Glenn’s appearance as Allison’s somber rancher dad) along the highways to survival.
Then again, this is 2020, only a year removed from when President Trump seriously (well, to him, it was) floated the idea of buying Greenland.”
For the nuclear family at the heart of Greenland, the cascading problems, aside from the couple’s marital disruption, include a diabetic son, Nathan, wanly played by Roger Dale Floyd, who will find his condition problematic in numerous sequences, rioting/looting crowds, more than a few nut cases aching, at knife- or gun-point, to use the Garrity family’s free ride (via their simple, QR-coded wristbands, really?) to Xanadu, among them a conspiracy-tinged couple played by David Denman and Hope Davis. That nasty Clarke sending so many destructive fragments all around the globe makes for a mildly diverting game of whack-a-mole (comet edition), but, at least for the bumped-and-bruised Garrity clan, too many needles are found in their world’s haywire haystack to keep it plausible.
You know, if comets were made of farts, this might have been a fun film. Seriously, change the sound design from big, crashing booms to a rambunctious chorus of diverting flatulence. I’m laughing just thinking about it! Then again, this is 2020, only a year removed from when President Trump seriously (well, to him, it was) floated the idea of buying Greenland. And since many of the 75 million people who voted for him think this year’s election was rigged, those might be the same folks who’ll enjoy this movie, with a can of Bud Light, the official beer of Greenland, at their side.
Elias Savada is a movie copyright researcher, critic, craft beer geek, and avid genealogist based in Bethesda, Maryland. He helps program the Spooky Movie International Movie Film Festival, and previously reviewed for Film Threat and Nitrate Online. He is an executive producer of the horror film German Angst and the documentary Nuts! He co-authored, with David J. Skal, Dark Carnival: the Secret World of Tod Browning (a revised edition will be published by Centipede Press).