4 Horsemen of the Film-Making Apocalypse: Part 1 – Roland Emmerich

The Four Horsemen of the Film-Making Apocalypse

For a long time I’ve been carefully watching for the end of the world. According to the Bible (the world’s most accurate and consistent book), the world will end in a fiery shit storm, ushered in by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Well, that time is here, albeit not in a form that anyone expected. In fact, all the pestilence, war, famine, and death are not coming literally, but figuratively in the world of cinema.

Horseman numero uno is none other than Roland Emmerich. This guy’s films have grossed over $3 billion worldwide. At first glance you would think, “Oh cool, he makes movies with mass appeal, they must be good.” But then, when you take a look at his filmography, you realize that the vast majority are horribly cliche disaster movies that seemingly everyone has watched, but nobody has liked. Yet, we keep on going back for more. Here’s a sampling:

  1. Universal Soldier – VanDamme and Lundgren as special ops zombies.
  2. Stargate – OK, I actually liked this one.
  3. Independence Day – Welcome ta Erf!
  4. Godzilla – Giant Iguana attacks New York. Looks nothing like Godzilla.
  5. The Thirteenth Floor – Snoozer.
  6. The Patriot – The British are more evil than Satan himself. Hilarity ensues.
  7. The Day After Tomorrow – Global warming starts the next ice age, WTF?
  8. 10,000 B.C. – Unintentionally hilarious.
  9. 2012 – Another end of the world disaster movie. Yawn.
  10. Independence Day 2 and 3 – Two decades later, welcome back ta Erf!

Clearly there is a pattern. And that pattern is shitty movie making. I will grant that Emmerich is talented on a technical level. Usually, his production values are very good, the directing doesn’t use ridiculous “shaky-cam” gimmicks (e.g. Bourne Supremacy), and the storylines, while basic, are mostly coherent. As far as the Four Horsemen are concerned, he’s probably the one who makes the least terrible movies.

Unfortunately for Mr. Emmerich, that doesn’t mean his movies aren’t terrible. They are. His movies are completely devoid of substance, character development, or fresh ideas. They are as flat as the chest of a 10 year old girl. All movies start with a premise, and the script is written from there. Good movie scripts are written with a plot in mind to expand upon the premise, and to explore themes and ideas. Bad movie scripts are written around spectacles, with characters and story thrown in as an afterthought. Here’s an example of how planning for 2012 probably went down:

Emmerich: What scenes do we have?

Writer: I’ve started out with a fascinating analysis of the Maya long count calendar as it pertains to the cycle of death and rebirth, and the end of the wor-

Emmerich: Boring! Nobody wants to see that! Next idea!

Writer: I’ve also outlined a number of scenes that use the end of the world in the film as a parable for real life. The way that we are deliberately destroying the earth with depleting the ozone layer, destroying the rainforests, hunting species to extinct-

Emmerich: Boring! Goddammit! When I ask you for scenes I don’t want bullshit. I want real movie scenes.

Producer: I’ve got some ideas.

Emmerich: Go on.

Producer: One scene will show a family narrowly escaping L.A. in a plane while the ground is destroyed by earthquakes! Buildings will be crashing down all around them!

Emmerich: Awesome! What else?!

Producer: Another scene will show a bunch of people die when Yellowstone National Park explodes!

Emmerich: YES!!!

Producer: And how about a scene where a tsunami throws an air craft carrier into the White House?

Emmerich: Amazing! You’re a genius!

*they high five each other*

Emmerich: Now that’s how you write a fucking movie!

Writer: Excuse me. How are we going to tie those scenes together?

Emmerich: Who cares? Just throw some shit together. Nobody will pay attention to that crap anyway.

This scene is in every Roland Emmerich movie.

I’m fairly certain it happened just like that. And it continues to happen every time Emmerich makes a new movie. Rest assured this is no exaggeration, as Emmerich credits himself as a “writer” for most of his movies.

Honestly, I’m not sure how much writing really occurs. For a 2-hour long Emmerich movie, no less than 30 minutes will be dedicated to actors looking dumbfounded as they are forced to interact with CG special effects. An additional 30 minutes will be dedicated to shit blowing up. The remaining hour will be mindless scenes that serve no purpose other than to bring the characters from Action/Disaster Sequence A to Action/Disaster Sequence B.

I suppose that argument could be made against any action movie. Typically, they are mindless and serve no purpose other than to showcase explosions and shootouts. But Emmerich gets a special mention here because he has dedicated his entire film-making career to this paper-thin formula in a genre that should have stayed in the 1970s. Look at any of those old 70s disaster movies, and you’ll see you could easily interchange any of them with Emmerich’s work. Hell, you can interchange any of the characters from Emmerich’s movies and see no difference:

Godzilla character Niko Tatopoulos <——> The Day After Tomorrow character Jack Hall

Independence Day character David Levinson <——> 2012 character Adrian Helmsley

2012 character Noah Curtis <——> The Day After Tomorrow character Sam Hall

You see how easy that was? You wouldn’t even have to change the scripts.

The whole disaster movie genre met a fitting end in 1980 with the classic satire film Airplane! Unfortunately, Emmerich personally revived the genre in 1996 with Independence Day, and it has yet to die out. This genre NEEDS to die again. It offers nothing of value to the cinematic world. It would be really nice if Emmerich stopped making disaster movies. But he won’t. He must have a hard-on for them. Or at least he has a hard-on for all the cash he rakes in every time he makes one of them.

"Und here is vhere zee double heil Hitler vill be performed. After zat, zee entire room vill explode!"

I’m sure the next big move for Emmerich will be 3D. I imagine it will go like this: A rogue scientist has a crackpot (but true) theory that nobody believes, and he tries to prove it to the scientific community who turns him into a laughing stock. Suddenly, an alien spaceship flies toward the audience. Will Smith jumps onto the ship, and punches all of the aliens to death. It crash lands just as a new ice age hits the world. The extreme temperatures cause Yellowstone National Park to explode and L.A. to fall into the ocean. Just as things quiet down the British appear and slaughter Mel Gibson’s family, who then enlists cavemen to go on a quest for vengeance. The quest takes them through an intergalactic portal (which flies out toward the audience) where they have to fight special ops zombies. The zombies win, only to find themselves ambushed by Godzilla. The big lizard throws an aircraft carrier toward the audience. In the last second Will Smith welcomes Godzilla “ta Erf” and punches him in the face. Fin.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “BUT BRIK TEHSE MOVIE ARENT SUPPOSE TO MAKE YOU TIHNK THEY ARE JUST SUPPOSE TO BE ENTERTAINING LOL!” In principle I understand where you are coming from. I enjoy the occasional mindless action movie as much as the next guy. But when the majority of a director’s filmography is filled with nothing but mindless disaster movies… no, scratch that, nothing but THE SAME disaster movie, he has gone too far. And that is how Emmerich earned himself a place amongst the 4 Horsemen of the Film-Making Apocalypse.

4 Responses to “4 Horsemen of the Film-Making Apocalypse: Part 1 – Roland Emmerich”

  1. 1 Rob
    September 12, 2010 at 2:39 am

    I enjoyed reading this. 2012 was devoid of intricate thought, have you seen the youtube mini series showing through flash parody how said movie should have ended, the episode for this movie stands as my fav, its hilarious looking at it in perspective.
    When I saw this movie I went away feeling like I had been robbed but to be honest unable to reconcile that feeling being as unobservant as I am to plot and having the little michael bay inside me iterupting my recollection of the film screaming “explosions! Woooo!”, so I forgave and forgot

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September 2010


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