Fing’rs & Thu’ums is generally aimed towards gaming reviews and news, but occasionally we will review something different. As long as the subject is geeky enough it is allowed on this platform, and Greenland fits that bill. Disaster films are ten to the dozen, with massive blockbuster hits like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow. So how well will Amazon Prime’s production of a disaster movie fair against the big boys?
This review contains spoilers
Ric Roman Waugh has worked predominantly as a stuntman but also has a small arrangement of directing and writing roles. He brings us Greenland with the writing abilities of Chris Sparling, known more for his thriller horror writings such as ATM and The Atticus Institute. The plot for Greenland is simple – an interstellar object flying close to Earth is putting our planet on high-alert. Clarke, as the object is known, is initially supposed to break up in the atmosphere but as film buffs we all know that this is not the direction the film will be taking us in.
John Garrity, played by Gerard Butler, soon receives a presidential message stating that he and his family are to be given safe passage to a top-secret shelter (which later turns out to be in Greenland). His wife, Morena Baccarin, and his son, Roger Dale Floyd soon begin their trip to a military airport whereby they will ultimately bypass this incident the world is facing.
It soon becomes very apparent to the characters that this comet, which is actually a huge cluster of interstellar objects, is actually going to create an extinction-level event. The science of it at this point is written to be basic enough to legitimise the film – large cosmic snowballs of frozen gases are going to smash into the planet – simple.
In regards to the characters themselves we don’t really learn enough about them to relate to them. The son, Nathan is a diabetic sufferer, and obviously we can empathise with him. However, the character doesn’t push past this basic shell. Most scenes of the son are of panic and fear, which to be fair would be expected. The paternal and maternal instincts in people may help with the audience investment in this character but it would end there.
Allison is obviously portrayed by Baccarin who is a fantastic actor regardless. Her portrayal of a concerned mother is convincing and builds the structure about their relationship rather well. We know that John has previously had an affair and that their marriage has been struggling too, but other than John’s job as a structural engineer there is a rather flat basis for the characters and no development throughout the movie. Gerard Butler has played some major roles with really strong roles, but John seems to be flat. But are we here for the characters or to see some destruction?
The film is obviously a disaster movie. It is marketed as such, the artwork and synopsis are all heavily biased towards this. The issue that some people may have is that there is not a lot of destruction on screen. In total there are around (and this is a guess) two minutes of footage regarding planetary ruin. The longest scenes are at the end whereby the carnage has already occurred nine months previous. This might be disappointing for people wanting a 2012 treatment.
Instead the film heavily relies on familiar relationships between a family as well as the dawning threat of people. The threat to civilization is not the comet cluster, the real threat is humanity failing. Of course – whoever is in the impact zone will die (unless you live in Helsinki – more on that later). But the actual ability to survive comes down to raw instincts and the ability to deal with face-to-face threats.
The film’s layout is much more relatable to a family drama, with separated family members going through trauma to finally be reunited at the end and forgive all past sins. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does change the perspective on the film being a true disaster movie. What the film highlights better is more of what films in post-apocalyptic settings present. Fighting off the leftovers of humanity that will do anything to survive – from kidnapping to utter violence. This is presented rather well and shows all three family members being separated in dramatic fashion to finally, and slightly unbelievably, become reunited.
From a nerds perspective there wasn’t too much wrong with the movie. Yes, mobile phones seemed to be an issue in the film as there would have been mega interference from Clarke. Yet film camera’s, radio’s and television still operated well enough. There was also a point when I questioned why Clarke seemed to only effect America, yet a slight reference to Tokyo near the end rid all requirement of explanation. The only point I really questioned was Helsinki using radio to communicate at the end, when Clarke’s planet-killer segment crashed down in western Europe. Whatever the Finnish use to make buildings – we all need to start using that!
So is it a disaster movie or a disaster of a movie?
The answer is neither. The movie itself is based around a disaster which we don’t get to see enough of. The filming makes it feel incredibly personal and, although we do see destruction, it is intimate for the audience to watch a small section of the world that is being threatened. We see the personal struggles of characters and the drama of their survival. This doesn’t make it a bad film, it just changes from what you expect to watch with a movie of this genre.
The film is a good watch. It does have some mildly tense areas, but the story is also very predictable and generic. There is minimal development in regards to the characters, which is strange as they are forefront of the movie – before Clarke who appears as background literature. If you have a couple of hours to spare then by all means give this film a go. But keep in mind, whilst it is somewhat entertaining it is also unequivocally desolate so don’t expect The Day After Tomorrow-style destruction footage.
Score – 5/10