In some ways, ‘Greenland’ is a surprising disaster flick, but it’s also a dull, predictable trip

“Greenland” – After discovering “Greenland” on your Video On Demand Rolodex, you might assume that the 1-hour 59-minute film is a new Disneynature documentary about the planet’s largest island.  (Greenland is over 800,000 square miles and about nine times bigger than the United Kingdom.)

Perhaps, this movie is a Werner Herzog doc, but that’s not right because it would’ve been named “Greenland: The Perils and Wonders of a Massive Ice Sheet and Rectifying any Confusion or Conflation with Iceland”.

No, “Greenland” is a feature, and director Ric Roman Waugh’s picture is a disaster film.   No, the script doesn’t call for the country’s glaciers to melt into the nearby oceans, although that will likely happen in reality and probably sooner rather than later, but this Artic nation is a refuge for our heroes, the Garrity family.

John (Gerald Butler), Allison (Morena Baccarin), and their seven-year-old boy Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd) live in suburban Atlanta, and life used to be swell.  Unfortunately, John and Allison’s marriage is in trouble.  Divorce seems inevitable, although their mutual grace is winning the day.  Still, a cataclysmic event endangers civility on a global scale.  A comet – that someone harmlessly named Clarke – is speeding towards Earth, and with not one but thousands of individual space rocks in a close-knit and deadly collective that will pummel the world and billions of people along with it.

Yikes!  How dangerous!  I don’t know about your planning skills, but I don’t have a basement, and my Trader Joe’s Panda Puffs cereal box only has enough for two more bowls.  Thank G*d, this is just a movie.

Anyway, these type of popcorn flicks heavily rely on massive special effects, as individual protagonists and worldwide populations – under duress – desperately attempt to run, drive, and fly to safety.  Movie studios have recently served up plenty of cartoonish nightmare scenarios, including “Deep Impact” (1998), “Dante’s Peak” (1997), “The Quake” (2018), and “2012” (2009), and the latter film stressed out some moviegoers for three years until the clock reached January 1, 2013.  Little did we know that 2020 would be a horrific doozy, but let’s not dive into the pandemic film genre because “Contagion” (2011) is hitting a little too close to home at the moment.

Back to “Greenland”, the Garritys reside in suburban Atlanta.  As they watch (on television) a small portion of Clarke wiping out Tampa like a nuclear explosion, they discover that the government chooses them – like lottery winners – for asylum.  They are the fortunate ones because their friends and neighbors have to find their own shelters.  Yea, good luck with that.  Hey, suburbia has its privileges, but when a boulder – the size of a football stadium slams into your city, the one-bedroom studio crowd and the 5,000 sq. foot estate gang are all – except the specifically chosen, like John, Allison, and Nathan – created equal.

The government hands them VIP bracelets that get them backstage access to a faraway utopia, which we discover is Greenland, but this mom, dad, and son have to fend for themselves after some bad buck.  Actually, John makes a downright terrible decision that carries the most apparent stupidity of horror movie cliché like, “let’s split up to find a way out of this haunted house.”

This moment will provoke the most painstaking, sarcastic groans from the audience, who can foresee the next stumbling chain of events.  The Garrity triad needs to somehow get from Georgia to Greenland, and Waugh – through movie “magic” – speeds up on-screen events, so our heroes travel hundreds of miles in a scene or two through occasional happenstance and makeshift transportation conduits.  It’s quite miraculous, and if you ever need travel advice, John Garrity is your agent!  He’s performing these nomadic wonders under extreme pressure too, because pieces of Clarke occasionally drop from the sky to cause out-of-this-world road hazards.

That’s not exactly true, because – surprisingly – the first real encounter between John and Clarke occurs about 90 minutes into the 2-hour runtime, as Waugh’s film is thankfully void of sweeping and frequent special effects destruction.   Instead, Chris Sparling’s screenplay dives deeply into John’s relationship with Allison and their relationship with Nathan.  Sparling tugs on our heartstrings a bit, especially with dreamy flashbacks of loving embraces and birthday parties, and Butler draws down his action-hero bravado to become much more accessible to many fathers out there.

That doesn’t mean that their implausible journey to an icy Promised Land doesn’t take several telegraphed, predictable turns.  It does, which makes this disaster flick about as exciting as a one-person Main Street parade, and hey, I’d love to travel to Greenland someday, but I don’t need to see this movie again.

⭐⭐ out of  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Image credits: STX Films; Trailer credits: KinoCheck International

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