This year has been, in many ways, a rolling series of disasters. So, what would make anyone want to see a disaster film like “Greenland,” which is largely set and shot in Georgia and stars Scottish actor Gerard Butler?
“Greenland” director Ric Roman Waugh said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that it may seem like a pure disaster film on the surface but is ultimately about the bonds of family. It’s not a sprawling epic like “Deep Impact,” “Armageddon” or “Independence Day.”
“It’s a message of hope,” said Waugh, who last worked with Butler in the 2019 film “Angel Has Fallen.” “It’s the perfect message for right now. It’s really about how we’re better together. It’s not divisive. At the end of the day, we’ll survive longer with love and hope. This isn’t really a disaster movie. It’s a love story. It was this great backdrop to have a fun, action-packed ride.”
The premise sounds a bit like those 1990s disaster films of yore: a comet is about to hit the world and create an “extinction-level event.”
But the focus isn’t on a four-star general, a NASA scientist or the president. It’s on Butler’s character, John Garrity, a grizzled architect who opens the film in downtown Atlanta working on a building, then stops by his home where his relationship with his wife (Morena Baccarin) is tenuous at best after he cheated on her. But his saving grace is his 7-year-old diabetic son, Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd).
Given his skill set, Garrity and his family are selected to be part of a select few sent to a bunker in Greenland to “re-seed” the population after the dust settles. Circumstances cause them to split up, and it becomes a race against time for Garrity to save his family and get them in the bunker before the big one hits.
Butler’s character is no Arnold Schwarzenegger or Bruce Willis. His single fight scene is deliberately choreographed in a way that makes it clear Garrity is merely defending his life, not winning a martial arts battle.
The film, budgeted at a relatively modest $35 million, has already garnered more than $47 million in gross revenue in theaters overseas. In the United States, this film was scheduled for a summer release in June, but the pandemic forced STXfilms to push that back to September. With half the theaters closed in the United States, the producers then decided to send “Greenland” straight to video on demand Dec. 18. ($19.99 for a two-day rental.) The film will appear on HBO Max and Amazon Prime next year.
The premise is not as outlandish as it seems, Waugh said. The Earth has been hit by comets and asteroids and fragments of comets before.
“It could happen tomorrow,” Waugh said. “During the filming, we’d be sent articles from people about objects coming close to Earth. An asteroid last month was a near miss. These things happen all the time. Who knows? We haven’t had a pandemic like the one we have now in 100 years.”
“Greenland” also does a nice job showing the variety of ways humans might react to an apocalypse like this. There are the looters and robbers. There are partyers who just don’t care. There are kindhearted folks who try to help others even as they face their own mortality. And there are those who accept the inevitable with grace.
“We are seeing that during the pandemic,” Waugh said. “There were folks partying on spring break. There are people who refuse to leave their homes.”
The film was shot primarily around metro Atlanta in the summer of 2019. The producers used a cul de sac in Marietta to shoot Garrity’s home and neighborhood. Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins played itself and featured a lot of extras, many of whom actually were military personnel. It’s where Garrity’s family was set to fly to Greenland where the coveted bunker is located.
Iceland was used for Greenland in a few scenes since that country has a more developed base of film crews.
While Waugh would have loved to have had his film on 3,000 screens in North America back in June, he accepts that most Americans will end up seeing his work on a much smaller screen.
But he isn’t thrilled by WarnerMedia’s move to simultaneously release 17 of its major films in theaters and on HBO Max at the same time in 2021, though he isn’t quite as upset as other creatives. “We’re dealing with a bunch of knee-jerk reactions like Warner Brothers. I think once the dust settles in 2021, we’ll course correct,” he said.
Waugh loves the cinema and hopes the mom-and-pop theaters survive the pandemic. “I think people still want a good theatrical experience,” he said. “People want to go to concerts and sporting events and the movies. We are built to be communal. We’ll get back to that.”
On video on demand
$19.99 for 48 hours
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