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Greenland

*1/2

by Matt Anderson

published December 17, 2020

Maybe now’s not the right time for a global disaster movie.

Clarke the Comet

There is absolutely nothing new in Greenland. (At least not in the movie. The country’s got some stuff going for it, though.)

The story is straight-up dirt simple: Earth and the vast majority of humanity are on a collision course with annihilation as a massive comet with a ginormous tail of material so long astronomers can’t even see the end of it makes its way through space.

As the first chunks — some the size of a football field — hit and Tampa becomes the first of many epicenters to come, broad shockwaves spreading across 1,500 miles devastate enormous portions of the planet. Scorched Earth.

The movie spends a few minutes establishing the Garrity family’s cozy Atlanta lifestyle, albeit one disrupted by a broken marriage. In short order, John (Gerard Butler, 300) receives a “presidential alert” on his phone — his is one of a small collection of families mysteriously selected for relocation to a secret shelter. That means John, his son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd, Doctor Sleep) and his semi-estranged wife, Allison (Morena Baccarin, Deadpool), basically won the survival lottery.

But, of course, there’s a flaw in the system. Nathan’s diabetic. Unfortunately, no chronic conditions are allowed; apparently it was a significant fact missed in the screening process.

Think about that, because there’s alarmingly little else to think about while watching Greenland. Nathan’s meds drama is one of several threads that could’ve been elevated to make the disaster more topical. Pre-existing conditions and health care. The shoddy treatment of refugees. Borders. The media. The state of communal devolution as disaster brings out the worst of people (okay, some people stay nice but a whole bunch of people really suck).

Planet Killer

Alas, Greenland sticks with the tried and true. Scenes of mass panic. Looting.

The highway? It’s a massive parking lot. Who knew? Who could’ve possibly seen that coming? Maybe anybody who’s ever seen any movie involving the wipe-out of humanity.

The media? It isn’t all that great in covering the disaster and calming the masses. There are these words of non-reassurance: avoid causing mass hysteria before “the inevitable collapse of our nation.”

Thanks for the update.

Being generous, it is a little fun simply watching the mayhem unfold. Perhaps the sole crumb of value Greenland offers during these pandemic times is the reassurance that — hey — maybe life ain’t so bad after all. It could be worse. You could be stuck in a movie like Greenland.

The big climax involves a spectacularly huge, nine-mile-wide clod of comet headed straight for Europe. Its impact is expected to generate a ginormous shockwave with the potential to wipe out 75% of all plant and animal life. That event leads to a rather silly spin on the ticking time bomb trope as the Garritys make their way to refuge. Can they find a bunk bed and get on their knees before impact? Does it really matter?

Is it worth surviving only to be stuck on a mostly dead planet?

Atlanta Is Burning

In Greenland, the bigger disaster is human nature.

The predictable screenplay by Chris Sparling (The Sea of Trees) can’t even muster an ending that ushers in a hopeful new beginning. Instead, the movie resorts to generic family life flashbacks, the Garrity clan’s halcyon days of a couple years ago, back before John’s affair. Sigh. The family was happy back in the day.

And, of course, those memories are accompanied by a cloying — really annoying — choral score by seasoned composer David Buckley (The Town). At least the film’s consistency in unoriginality permeates all levels of the creative process.

Even considering this was all filmed and polished and ready to roll out before the pandemic, director Ric Roman Waugh, who previously teamed with Butler on Angel Has Fallen, should’ve done something to inject an inspirational note about the enduring power of the human spirit. Give it some punch. Go for the gusto and do something wild, do something shocking. Make it cathartic.

Instead, this endeavor is oddly reminiscent of Honest Thief, the recent carbon-copy thriller starring Liam Neeson. It’s another movie that did absolutely nothing new, but — darn it — Neeson was all-in trying to sell the story and his ridiculous character’s silly, self-inflicted situation. The same can be said of Butler. Dang. He tries so hard to sell this thing.

In a Gone With the Wind-style moment, (Gerard) Butler declares he is committed to getting one thing right in his imperfect life: as God is his witness, he’s going to get his wife and his son into the bunker. No matter what.

Problem is, there isn’t much reason for audiences to give a damn.