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1/14/2022 • 3 min read
If you need a director to deliver destruction on a global scale, you certainly have a variety of choices. Steven Spielberg, with his humanist touch, is a classy way to go. Or you could make it all slick and dramatic, Michael Bay-style. Maybe you prefer the good jokes and character beats offered by the Russo Brothers. Or perhaps you just want a nice little drama while the world ends in the background, like the sort of films that are Edgar Wright's specialty.
All these options, however, are mere pretenders to the throne. When it comes to massive cinematic destruction, there is but one king: Roland Emmerich.
Look at this resume: INDEPENDENCE DAY, GODZILLA, 2012, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE, and now MOONFALL. That’s not even Emmerich’s entire filmography. How many times can one filmmaker blow up the world? Roland Emmerich is here to find out.
Roland Emmerich made it clear what he was up to pretty early in his career when he shocked us all by blowing up The White House in INDEPENDENCE DAY. Since then, he’s made it a mission to illustrate civilization’s end by blowing up its most cherished landmarks.
It makes sense. In the context of a film, no one cares if a house gets destroyed. Crush Mount Rushmore, though, and you have our attention. Roland Emmerich is the guy to talk to if you want to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa finally hit the ground. Or, in the case of MOONFALL, perhaps the Earth itself finally gets the filmmaker's treatment.
One hallmark of Emmerich’s films is that we get to see wanton destruction through the eyes of an ensemble. While his movies usually have a main headlining cast member (that's Halle Berry in the case of MOONFALL), he or she is usually supported by a variety of familiar faces. In MOONFALL, we have Patrick Wilson, Michael Peña, John Bradley, and Donald Sutherland. Count on all of them to offer a variety of reactions to the film’s drastic events.
Often, these ensembles begin the film separated from each other, with characters all on different journeys that typically converge in the third act. In the end, that makes their stories even more satisfying to watch. This tactic also offers the audience a wide spectrum of perspectives to make sure we don't miss out on the destruction from any angle. It’s cool to see the president deal with an alien invasion, but it’s also pretty good to see how it affects an alcoholic crop-duster.
Let’s be real. If the world ends, a whole lot of carnage will take place. There’s just no getting around the fact that tons of people will die in horrible ways. In truth, any disaster film should probably be extremely traumatizing and difficult to watch.
But, for the most part, that is not what we come to disaster movies to see. This subgenre is meant to be fun, for lack of a better word. That balance – blowing the heck out of whole cities without carrying the weight of human suffering that would create – requires a very steady hand. A film like THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, in less capable hands, would send everyone home feeling hopeless and bummed out. Not Roland Emmerich. He somehow makes the whole thing a blast.
It’s not just a neat trick, destroying the world over and over again. Emmerich frequently changes things up by reaching for different methods of destruction. Aliens? Check. Global warming? Check. Simple fate? Check. Gigantic lizard? Check. The actual moon falling from the sky? Yep, that too. If you can think of a way to end the world, Roland Emmerich has put it on the big screen. He’s done it again with the upcoming MOONFALL, but he’s still a long way from done. Who knows what civilization-ender he’ll come up with next?
All images courtesy of Lionsgate.
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