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#253. Roland Emmerich

Some directors want to make us think. Some directors want to create art. Some directors are in it for the money. When it comes right down to it, Roland Emmerich wants to make movies that entertain us. While certain parallels might be drawn between him and Michael Bay (another “explosion director”), most people can recognize an Emmerich film just based on the scale of destruction alone. With Roland Emmerich at the helm, cities explode, nations fall, and even the entire earth is destroyed. Even though he has directed many other films of varying subject and genre, everyone knows Emmerich is famous for one thing and one thing only: blowing up historic and culturally significant landmarks. This week’s two films highlight some of these explosive films that Roland Emmerich is best known for.

Independence DayIndependence Day
Year: 1996
Rating: PG-13
Length: 145 minutes / 2.42 hours

Since 1992, Emmerich has been directing films regularly, with a movie being released about every 2 years (somewhat akin to Christopher Nolan’s release schedule). Early on, he made a name for himself directing the science fiction classic, Stargate (1994). While it didn’t have quite the destructive flair of his later films, it did show that he had an eye for settings with recognizable landmarks (notably, the Pyramids of Giza). It wasn’t until Independence Day (1996) when Emmerich finally found his catastrophic niche. Sure, he would eventually go on to direct some more historical films, such as The Patriot (2000), Anonymous (2011), and Stonewall (2015), but his fame would always originate with blowing up the White House (so much so, he did it again with White House Down (2013)). But with Independence Day: Resurgence having come out this year, it’s clear this was his best franchise.

A few days before July 4th, alien ships arrive at Earth and position themselves above strategic cities across the world. In New York, David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) notices that the corrupted television signals contain a countdown for all the ships to attack the Earth at once. Fortunately, he is able to contact just the right people to get the President of the United States (Bill Pullman) out of harm’s way just as the attack commences. As the military commences with counterattacks, very few are left alive. One exception is Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith), a pilot who shot down one of the enemy craft and brought the alien to Area 51 to be examined. By the time July 4th rolls around, David has arrived at a plan to take down the alien shields so that Earth’s militaries can damage the spaceships. With Capt. Hiller at the helm of an alien craft, he and David fly into the mothership to upload a computer virus and save the world.

The Day After TomorrowThe Day After Tomorrow
Year: 2004
Rating: PG-13
Length: 124 minutes / 2.07 hours

Sometimes directors want to get a message across to their audience. While it might be lost in the art of an overly abstract director, or hidden deeply underneath the explosions of an action film, the message still remains. For Roland Emmerich, his message is that, if we don’t do anything to stop it, humans will destroy the earth. If aliens from Independence Day (1996) and monsters from Godzilla (1998) weren’t enough, the earth itself is trying to kill us. His latest message of global destruction, 2012 (2009), merely takes his earlier work, The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and expands it out to cover the entire Earth by including volcano eruptions, earthquakes, and enormous floods. Still, despite his films’ scientific (and historic) inaccuracies, they are based at least loosely on actual ideas extrapolated out to their catastrophic end.

Even though many scientists across the world, including paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), are presenting findings on global warming and its potential weather effects, most people ignore them. Meanwhile, the weather around the world turns violent. An enormous storm system starts building in the Northern Hemisphere, in part due to an unusually large polar vortex. In Manhattan, the weather starts to have a detrimental effect on Jack’s son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) as the streets begin to flood and the icy cold polar vortex freezes everything in sight. While many survivors gather in the New York Public Library, they struggle to remain warm, treat wounds, and survive against wild animals. While Jack makes an arctic expedition into the city, the storm’s eye drops the temperatures even further below zero Celsius. After the storm clears, the process of recovery begins.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 epic Emmerich disasters

Bacon #: 3 (Die 120 Tage von Bottrop / Margit Carstensen -> Manila / Elizabeth McGovern -> She’s Having a Baby / Kevin Bacon)

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One response to “#253. Roland Emmerich

  1. Pingback: End of Act Five | Cinema Connections

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