5 Deadly Sins of Roland Emmerich (Mania.com)

By:Rob Vaux
Date: Friday, November 13, 2009


In some ways, it's hard to jump on Roland Emmerich movies too strongly. They're like a big, dumb sheep dog that you can't help but love, even when he's soiling all over the rug. But the fact remains than Emmerich's body of work has done a lot of soiling, and the more we enable his goofy shenanigans, the less chance he has of ever learning. Scores of columnists have sounded off on the problems with Emmerich's films, but the essence boils down to five basic motifs which he insists on returning to time and time again. They don't detract from the fun--these are the films that Mystery Science Theater was made for, after all--but we need to collectively acknowledge how bad they really are.

5. The Laws of Physics

Movies get away with a lot when it comes to defying the laws of physics. Sprinting faster than explosions, curving bullets around corners… it's all good, provided it has at least a smidge of entertainment value. But Emmerich stretches those belief suspenders so far that they can't help but leave a mark when they inevitably snap back. Whether it's outrunning a cold front, ignoring the gravitational pull of a moon-sized spaceship or giving a golden retriever the magical ability to throw up an invisible force field protecting him from the incineration of a city, his films actively defy you to accept them on their own terms. There are Roadrunner cartoons with a closer basis in reality.

4. The Apocalypse Can Be Fun!

The real selling point of Emmerich films is watching the awesome destruction of some famous landmark… and to be sure, images of the White House exploding or the Statue of Liberty freezing solid hold a certain visceral thrill. But missing from the equation is the sense of human cost: the millions of people incinerated along with all those tourist attractions. Yes, if the characters broke down sobbing like we all did after 9/11, it would make for one hell of a buzz killer. But since we now know what a threatened city really looks like, can Emmerich at least acknowledge that it might not be as entertaining as his movies seem to think?

3. Wacky Comic Relief

Emmerich borrows a page from Hanna-Barbera cartoons (Gleek, Scrappy Doo, etc.) in presenting comic relief figures that turn out to be so annoyingly off-putting that you start rooting for the monster to eat them first. Randy Quaid takes the cake in this department with his alcoholic alien-hating crop duster from Independence Day, but why should Hank Azaria's sexist cameraman from Godzilla be left out? Or Glenn Plummer's argumentative vagrant in The Day After Tomorrow? The fact that most of these figures survive until the closing reels is only marginally less exasperating than the fact that genuinely talented actors agreed to play them.

2. Stupid, Stupid Good Guys

How do you lose track of a giant monster rampaging through New York? Why wouldn't you send the National Guard into the frozen tundra instead of going after your kid yourself? When you don't kill sabretooths because you feel sorry for them, they will eat you. And hey, maybe the last surviving member of the executive branch shouldn't get into that jet fighter cockpit to duke it out with the alien invaders.Morons.

1. Stupid, Stupid Bad Guys

Let's see, we have ancient Egyptians who need to go to Norway to procure their slaves, space aliens who made their indestructible force field Mac-compatible, and a Godzilla who hides from planes and tanks instead of chowing down on them like a fat man at Boston Market. And we're supposed to take them seriously as threats? Thankfully, the heroes seem hell bent on playing down to the competition, so at least the matchup is even.


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