Director of the Week: Roland Emmerich
By Sadira Sittampalam
Ceylon Today Features
Roland Emmerich is a German filmmaker famous for his disaster films. He often plays around with big-budget special effects, blowing up cities and wrecking lives on a global scale. He is a director that values the visual aspect of the film a lot more than any other aspects like plot, characters or even logic, as he aims to make ‘popcorn’ movies for cinema-going audiences which he claims only makes any message he delivers more exciting and better received. Here are the top films of Roland Emmerich.
4. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Based on the 1999 book The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber this film depicts catastrophic climatic effects following the disruption of the North Atlantic Ocean circulation in a series of extreme weather events that usher in global cooling and lead to a new ice age. There isn’t much of a coherent story here and the entire film is full of clichés but nobody can deny the epic power of the visuals. These spectacular views save this film from being a total disaster, with the special effects complementing this to create an amazing and fantastical landscape that was truly amazing for its time. While the rest of this film is just profoundly silly, this is still a movie you can enjoy.
3. White House Down (2013)
The film focuses on a divorced US Capitol Police officer named John Cale as he attempts to rescue both his daughter Emily and the President of the United States John Sawyer when a massively destructive terrorist assault occurs in the White House. This movie is smothered in narrative clichés but manages to work itself around it using the two leads’ chemistry. Together they take charge of the movie, wisecracking their way through a series of explosive and well mounted set pieces at every turn. This movie is almost ridiculously violent and admittedly, pretty dumb, but it is still incredibly heroic and fun which at the end of the day translates to an entertaining and enjoyable experience.
2. The Patriot (2000)
The story takes place in rural Berkeley County in South Carolina, depicting the journey of Benjamin Martin, an American colonist, loyal to Great Britain as he gets swept into the Revolutionary War when his home life is disrupted. While this film has basically nothing to do with the historical reality of the Revolutionary War, this only allowed fictional sequences that charged this film forward in terms of thrill and excitement, while using the actual events and characters only as inspiration. Thus, the film is chock full of big battles, skilful hand to hand combat while also dealing with a courageous but conflicted hero. Mel Gibson is astonishing in this film as well, being comfortable enough on-screen to show his range as an actor, carefully balancing the sentimentality and brutality of his character. The film also has the added advantage of boasting a beautiful and moving score and truly gorgeous visuals.
1. Independence Day (1996)
The film focuses on disparate groups of people who come together in the Nevada desert in the aftermath of a worldwide attack by an extraterrestrial race of unknown origin. With the other people of the world, they launch an all-out counterattack on July 4 - The US Independence Day. This film is now considered a turning point in blockbuster films, being at the forefront of the disaster movie and sci-fi movie resurgence of the 1990s. While this film has one of the thinnest plots and the most stereotypical characters, it more than delivers on the grand spectacle of this disaster, being a milestone movie in terms of visual effects and having some of the most memorable scenes put to film. The scenes with the aliens were also some of the most disturbing and unsettling. All in all, this movie is entirely successful for what it aimed to do, giving audiences everywhere an epic disaster which shocks and thrills.
No sole responsibilities - In all of Emmerich’s films, the duties of the ‘main’ character are shared amongst the cast to emphasise that no one man can avert a disaster and that it is always a group effort.
Father/son themes - Most of his films feature a father-son duo or just a son trying to make his father proud.
44 - A homage to his film ‘Moon 44’, Emmerich often features this number in most of his later films.
Zoom death shot - Most often used on the main antagonist, Emmerich likes to zoom in on their frightened expression as they die.
Preposterous plots - Emmerich very often rewrites the laws of physics or historical events to favour his movie plots. These plots usually involve the main character hatching up some scheme to save themselves and kill the enemy and while these schemes are pretty ridiculous, they always manage to work.
No specific care for character development - He favours action and spectacle over any character development.
Cliches - Emmerich just doesn’t care about clichés and so his films are ones that are just full of all the classic movie tropes.