I know, I know, a disaster movie in 2020 is a little dark. But for fans of the disaster genre, Greenland is genuinely a return to form. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh and written by Chris Sparling, Greenland stars Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, and Scott Glenn. The film follows a family as they try to survive the impending planet-killing comet that’s making its way towards Earth.
In the film, we follow a family, John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and young son Nathan as they make a perilous journey to their only hope for sanctuary. And, in pure genre fashion, nothing goes as planned. Amid terrifying news accounts of cities around the world being leveled by the comet’s fragments, the Garrity’s experience the best and worst in humanity while they battle the increasing panic and lawlessness surrounding them.
No stranger to disaster films and genre films, Butler steps into his role as patriarch and protector naturally. Greenland naturally leans into many of the disaster movie tropes but does so while keeping its focus: the disaster. Instead of taking time to only focus on the humans or more largely placing a human behind the disaster happening (looking at you Geostorm), this film does a good job at keeping the impending doom at the center of its characters motivations. Yes, their goal is to survive together, but more importantly, it is to survive. This means that Greenland keeps it’s pacing throughout the film and doesn’t allow its characters to remain settled for long.
The hardship they face while trying to get to the sanctuary is propelled by human actions more times than it’s not but instead of wavering in their determination, our leads are able to keep their cool and find each other even when separated. Now, trying to find each other while sometimes cities apart is something that seems incredibly difficult, both John and Allison make common-sense decisions and trust that the other is doing the same. Instead of some large convoluted expository reason for finding each other or a deus ex machina moment, the family relies on just making good decisions which is truthfully the best part of the film.
This is accentuated by the fact that it isn’t just John making decisions to save his family’s life, it’s Allison’s too. The film offers both characters the ability to save their family. They both are given the ability to use their heads and ultimately find a way out of harsh situations. This balances the film instead of making the family’s survival and in that effect, the plot, rest only on Butler’s shoulders.
That said, the film does have a couple of stumbling points. The first is when it comes to pushing an emotional core. We know that John did something wrong and may not be the best husband, but the first two acts focus on the comet and not on the problems that the family could be having. In fact, the family pulls together because they know they have to in order to survive and it really highlights the importance of common sense in the film.
Then, the third act hits and suddenly we get heartfelt confessions and details about their family and it all feels out of place. This is the only moment the pace of the film slows slightly and ultimately doesn’t work with the rest of the film. Additionally, I want to critique the special effects but ultimately, they’re on par with what you expect from a lower-budget disaster film. While some slo-mo moments of Butler flying through the air cause a chuckle and some fire definitely aren’t actually happening, it’s hard to critique this genre film for being well, a genre film.
With those two points out of the way Greenland is the most fun I’ve had with a disaster movie in a long time. It’s not the blockbuster that focuses on destruction, explosions, and an evil mastermind. But it’s also not an absurd disaster D-movie. Ultimately, it’s a nice balance of disaster, humans, and understanding what tropes work. Greenland is a return to the disaster movies of the 2000s that actively used the natural catastrophe to push the movie’s plot and uses it to keep its focus. This isn’t a movie about humanity in the face of disaster, there are no overarching themes about good and evil, it’s just a family trying to survive the end of the world while a timer counts down to the planet’s death. And that’s all it has to be.
Greenland is available On Demand everywhere on December 18, 2020.
- Rating - 7/107/10
Greenland is a return to the disaster movies of the 2000s that actively used the natural catastrophe to push the movie’s plot and uses it to keep its focus. This isn’t a movie about humanity in the face of disaster, there are no overarching themes about good and evil, it’s just a family trying to survive the end of the world while a timer counts down to the planet’s death. And that’s all it has to be.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.