I don’t usually expect much from Gerard Butler movies. I’ve seen enough of his films like Geostorm, Gods of Egypt and the Has Fallen films to know that he isn’t generally cast for his intense talent as an actor. He’s a human meat-stick. Outside of rare career bright spots like 300, Coriolanus and How to Train Your Dragon, Butler exists to be shuffled around, to shoot guns and to be cool looking on screen with a distinctly non-American sounding accent.
That’s very much the expectation I went into his new film with and I wasn’t too far off. His newest film Greenland is every bit as dumb as I was expecting. It was supposed to be released last fall but was indefinitely delayed due to the second round of COVID related theater closures. I subsequently released on Video-on-Demand and just came out on DVD.
That’s a shame too. I would’ve loved to see Greenland in the big screen!
The movie is set during a disaster scenario where a massive comet/meteor shower is set to strike Earth in the near future. Initially, the populace is led to believe that the meteors are going to crash into the ocean harmlessly. When a meteor the size of a football field obliterates Tampa, the entire world starts panicking as it realizes that everyone is in danger.
Gerard Butler plays John Garrity; a suspiciously Australian sounding construction worker living in Atlanta Georgia who is alerted that he’s one of a small number of people chosen by the Department of Homeland Security to be evacuated to an unknown “safe zone”. As rioting, looting and terror begin overtaking the streets, Garrity and his family start running out of options. Because of a series of circumstances, they’re not able to board the evacuation planes and start having to make their ways through the ruins of society and find a safe place to hunker down.
One can guess why this film might’ve been delayed out of 2020…
Greenland probably isn’t a terrible film but it certainly is dumb and clunky. It lacks the style and horror of most most disaster films and mostly skirts by on empty spectacle. It’s certainly less dumb than some of Butler’s other films but that’s hardly an achievement.
The whole thing is told in-media-res as we never leave the perspective of the family members the story follows. We don’t get any sort of commentary about how the government is manages the disaster, ala Contagion or Armageddon. The audience only knows what they see right in front of them. The family aren’t special and weren’t even chosen for some great reason. They technically weren’t even qualified to be on the plane because of medical reasons. They’re merely desperate to survive like everyone else in the story.
There’s little introspection or problem solving involved in the film. The characters aren’t deep enough to think of solutions beyond “let’s escape to Grandpa’s place in Kentucky” when it’s already been established that the world is about to end. At times it’s just a movie about being the one person trying escape the inevitable destruction of society by a cataclysmic act of God.
It’s hard not to be taken aback by just how bleak and amoral the premise of the film is at times. The film ends with watching our characters literally enduring the end of the world before panning over shots of famous landmarks and cities having been scorched by 900 degree winds and magma from the meteor strike. We never end up getting to hear about why these characters were chosen to survive and we don’t get to see the world rebuild in the aftermath. The movie just ends on a note of “everybody is dead but us! Yay!”
Man, this really was a 2020 movie…