“Hey John, here it comes!”
Story: Big comet is headed our way y’all! And
Bruce Willis John Cusak Dwayne Johnson Gerard Butler’s John Garrity is doing what he can to save his estranged wife Allison and cute son Nathan from the coming “extinction level event”. Cue the CGI madness! Um, you can cue it any time now. Any… Time… *checks watch yet again*
Genre I’d put it in: Disaster Pr0n
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Based on every other disaster movie you’ve seen.
Gotta say: You know you’re in for a treat when the movie poster says “From the producers of…” rather than “From the directors of,…”? That means that they’ve got nothing else to recommend it by. And yep, that tracks with this film. Welcome to Disasterville! (Both literally and figuratively?) Okay it’s not that bad, and I actually love disaster movies. love me some FX, so unless the film is pure garbage I’ll most likely dig it. With that caveat in mind, what did I think of this film?
It’s okay. Yeah. It’s not fantastic, it’s not bad. It’s serviceable, then forgettable. Which is nice, because disaster films are a “comfort” rewatch for me, so I don’t mind not remembering stuff. Whenever I’m kinda bored and want something to watch but maybe not really focus on? Boom. Here it is.
But Greenland suffers from a lack of something my regulars are full of. Gratuitous boomage. There’s a lack of actual disaster in this disaster film. Like The Walking Dead, this story is more about people than the actual apocalypse. News footage of the damage to Tampa, and lights in the sky from comet shards are seen in brief bits; we understand what the problem must be, what the danger is, but we don’t see it until the last 35 minutes of the movie, and then it’s like ominous clouds till the Big Bang. I understand, they need to get to Greenland before the extinction level event… But unlike films like 2012, Volcano, or Independence Day, we don’t get that big tease in the beginning that really amps the excitement/anxiety. So we’re just watching them go from place to place, knowing what’s gonna happen with each new encounter. Because we’ve seen the same thing before.
The cast gives it their all though. Butler is Serious and Freaked Out, two of his best things. And it’s lovely to hear his actual speaking voice rather than a pretend American accent. Morena Baccarin is a great actress (please cast her more, Hollywood!), but as Allison, she’s not on screen at all the time (think The Stand, with the story cutting from character to character), and she’s not really given much to work with besides looking worried. Because again, there’s really not much going on but then heading to places. And Scott Glenn as Allison’s dad Dale is as incredible as he always is. He maybe makes things a bit too good, showing how average the rest of the film is. But it’s always good to see him on screen.
But back to what most folks come to disaster flicks for. The disaster. Well, instead of watching areas get devastated, we get flashes of John’s memories. Then it cuts to the results of said devastation. Or we get to watch the characters watch satellite footage of a meteor impact, shot from far away. It’s kind of a bummer, especially as the cinematography nicely tracks things, with an ominous darkness in the world, then a bright orange sky, as the comet gets closer and closer. I was looking forward to seeing what it its impact would bring. We don’t really get to see it, though there’s a nice bit of CGI after the climax to show what happened to the world. But I’ve got to admit the “driving through the vacant Canadian border check” scene was unsettling. I got chills. Same with the pharmacy scene, which is every chronically ill persons nightmare. Trying to get prescription meds in the middle of a freaking apocalypse? Now that’s terror.
Finally it’s the last 30 minutes, and they’re dodging meteors/asteroids/whatever the heck. Luckily the meteors are about as accurate as Stormtroopers. But it’s fun to see some action in this action flick. It’s obvious from the FX – or lack thereof – that this is a low-budget movie. To play Devil’s Advocate for a sec, it does feel more intimate and character-driven with fire and other assorted destruction coming in small doses surrounding the main characters. The camera is right on them, rather than the blazes. Even though the CGI fire looks rather fakey fake at times…which is probably why the focus is on the cast. And yes, as with most disaster films there is a (relatively) happy ending for the main characters. What? Greenland is boilerplate, I’m absolutely not spoiling anything you won’t figure out five minutes in. In fact, there’s a sweet message of hope as the director pulls back to the requisite Our Earth Is Still Here shot.
So, you like disaster movies? Me too. Should you watch Greenland? Sure, why not. Just grab your popcorn, leave your expectations at the door, and understand this is more about the characters and how people can react during devastation than the actual ticking time bomb. You’ll be entertained well enough.