There’s nothing like timing a disaster film to coincide with a similar real-life event – minus the devastating consequences of course.
Ric Roman Waugh’s Greenland has been released just as the comet Neowise is coursing through our skies. The astronomical phenomena was at its brightest on 22 July, becoming as bright as the North Star and visible without visual aids, creating a stir around the world. The comet in Greenland however, had a very different idea.
Dubbed ‘Clark’, the cosmic entity was announced to be a spectacular and harmless viewing event. Then it became that a rogue piece had entered the atmosphere, but would mostly burn itself out and land in the ocean. Everyone was thrilled, until the piece made landfall… in Central Florida.
Greenland follows the Garrity family as they make their way to safety. Gerald Butler and Morena Baccarin are estranged couple John and Allison, who work together to bring their son Clayton (Scott Glenn) to their ordained government shelter.
Replete with catastrophic events as the urgency builds up, the film’s visuals are worth looking out for, both for its terrifying scale yet surreal beauty. It is one of the highlights of the film, as small fragments land before the extinction-level rock makes its way, throughout the 48 hours from first impact.
Waugh’s focus is on the family and their tribulations, so don’t expect it to be all smooth sailing. But part of the film is also used to showcase a bitter side of humanity, as people disregard the greater good for the sake of self-preservation. Other than Neowise, the messaging also hits home with the current pandemic, as the world struggles to cope with errant behaviour from the public. It’s extremely disturbing to witness in that aspect.
That said, the way it is executed comes across a little trite at times. From a scene of some strangers partying (the hedonists), to a couple that hijacks a situation (the false samaritan), writer Chris Sparling’s vignettes are much too cliche for a seasoned audience. Waugh also directs these scenes with little depth, often over-delivering on the messaging as characters stir up their motives with lingering shots of suspicious looks. Trust me, it’s very clear who’s good or bad in this film.
When the family gets separated, these episodes get even more pronounced. And worse still, the situations they run into veer dangerously into caricatures themselves. There’s only that many stalled highways and hitchhikes you can take before getting bored, and the way people drop in and out of the main thread discourages any emotional investment from the viewer.
It’s not that Waugh doesn’t try, but the episodes are repetitive in formula and so after a while, you just know what to expect. And for a disaster movie, that’s not very exciting.
But while the side characters are bland, Greenland’s biggest lack comes from its main cast – they’re not very likeable at all.
Throughout the film, the family displays exceptional acts, ditching friends, emotionally-blackmailing officers, and at parts even endangering others the sake of saving their family. While this ode to family loyalty is admirable to a point, the situations start to make the Garritys seem entitled. And no one really wants to root for entitled folks.
From non-stop badgering for information from officers trying to do their job, to allowing exceptional waivers for their case, the family throw the greater good out into the wind without so much as a blink of an eye.
Waugh tries to negate this with some scenes of John doing good to a random stranger, but they are so random that you’ll be more puzzled than convinced that these are people you should be cheering for.
So while Greenland still wins for its premise and effects (minus the incredibly flat orange color grading), the lack of endearment to the characters leaves the title without much impact.
Eventful disaster film turns into a bumper car ride – full of intentional crashes but without any real purpose from the cast.
First published: www.movieXclusive.com