Silver Screen Spotlight: Roland Emmerich

Much like the no-holds-barred cinematic ventures of fellow action movie director Michael Bay, this month's Silver Screen Spotlight, German filmmaker Roland Emmerich, has made a name for himself primarily due to his monumental flicks of world-shattering disaster and slim elements of originality. Becoming one of the United States' highest grossing directors of all time, banking in on popular films like 1996's Independence Day and 2004's The Day After Tomorrow, Emmerich has not only brought nearly a dozen massive "popcorn" films to the big screen to varying critical response, but has also managed to offer up one of the most impressive hands in Hollywood's endless game of big-budget franchise sequels. Playing a risky gamble with his next film, this month's much-anticipated follow-up to Independence Day, could Roland Emmerich deliver one of the best long-awaited sequels of the year? Here with a brief breakdown of Emmerich's explosive career as one of Hollywood's most successful directors, I'll let you in on some of best -- and worst -- films from the filmmaker.   

While I might not have seen every Emmerich film out there, there's no doubt that nearly all of his projects have piqued my interest in one way or another. While I never sought out his early films like the mindless shoot-em-up of 1992's Universal Soldier nor the sci-fi adventure of 1994's Stargate, his more recent ventures on the big screen have managed to draw my attention to some degree, but not long enough to actually pay and see them. While most of them were strong box-office beasts, like 2008's 10,000 BC, and others were critically-acclaimed like 2000's The Patriot, there have only been a handful of the director's films that have actually brought me to the theater. Sadly, one of the many films I've missed was the classic alien invasion flick, Independence Day, which came out two years before I was born.

However, while I may not be entirely immersed in every inch of Roland Emmerich's filmography, I have seen my fair share of his flawed -- and quite explosive -- works. While 1998's Godzilla remake might come to mind as the first film I saw from Emmerich, I strongly believe it was the Ice Age disaster flick of 2004's The Day After Tomorrow that was my first taste of what this guy could offer. Ultimately one of the most memorable disaster films of the 2000s, the big-budget tale of how the world froze over due to drastic climate change still remains one of my favorites. While it does have the genre's signature downfalls, like stereotypical characters and a clich├ęd narrative, I still find pleasure in watching the world end in this epic summer blockbuster.

The next film I saw from Emmerich was the Hollywood remake of Godzilla. Critically bashed and barely memorable, the 1998 film successfully brought the director into the monster movie business, and then subsequently kicked him out. Still one of the only Godzilla adaptations I've seen (sorry, I've never been to Japan and I still haven't seen the 2014 film), even with its many flaws in character development and cheesy theatrics, this take of Japan-originated monster utilized both a worthy Hollywood cast and a gracious amount of special effects to make it at least somewhat enjoyable to any fan of monster movies.

Years later, after following up his ice age epic with another visual epic called 2008's 10,000 BC (another of his early projects I never got to see in theaters), in 2009, Emmerich rolled out one of the biggest films the world had ever seen. A disaster flick derived from an ancient Mayan theory that the world would inevitably end in the year 2012, the film successfully pitched the world into viral chaos. Or at least those of us who gave a damn. While the film remains one of the more successful disaster flicks of the last decade, its superb special effects evolving from Emmerich's last on-screen global annihilation, the film still lacked the memorable storytelling it needed to make the film at all relevant even in 2016. Still, while the Mayans might have been wrong about 2012 (oh, what a fun year that was!) Emmerich's viral ploy to scare the world made for one of his best projects.

With the director's 2011 Shakespearean conspiracy thriller Anonymous piquing my interest for a second and quickly disappearing as Harry Potter and Marvel took over the silver screen, my next adventure with Roland Emmerich was in 2013, when he blew up the White House yet again. Rather than blowing it to bits with alien technology, however, this time the disaster film director went with terrorists. Yay. Tossing in a chiseled Channing Tatum as rookie secret service agent and Jamie Foxx as the Commander-in-Chief, Emmerich efficiently took the plot of 2013's Olympus Has Fallen and made it a hell of a lot more funny. As for overall quality, however, the two films weren't that different in the end. While the central plot of the two films may have been border-line maniacal, Emmerich's White House Down retained a generous ounce of humor and chemistry between its leading men that Olympus sourly missed. Still, the latter must have fared better with critics if it at least got a crappy sequel.

As my quest to actually sit down and watch the first Independence Day all the way through continues, I continue to question whether or not Roland Emmerich is completely psychopathic, or simply the smartest man on Earth. Churning out yearly disaster films that have a history of being either critically-acclaimed or box-office kings -- as well as a few outliers like 2015's Stonewall that stray from his typical formula -- Emmerich still manages to make a name for himself out of big-budget blockbusters. Whether his latest film, the explosive sequel to Independence Day, manages to continue his streak or not, we can all be certain that as long as Roland Emmerich is around, the world will never be safe from cinematic disaster.       

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