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Jun 23rd 2016

And the force inspired him

Some moviegoers might have wondered what Roland Emmerich had been doing these last few years. The German filmmaker might be offended by such a question or it could be the big-budget summer blockbusters. Emmerich, who hailed from Stuttgart, could have been part of New German Cinema that produced Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, and Wim Wenders. He saw "Star Wars" instead.

Emmerich's latest feature would be a follow-up to "Independence Day". Everyone knew that there would be a sequel to this science fiction film, the highest-grossing motion picture of 1996, but it took twenty long years. The filmmaker ventured into other genres aside from the usual disaster recipe. He did make a film about the 1969 Stonewall riots, also another action flick on another assault on the White House. (It's not what you're thinking about.) And a thriller on the 17th Earl of Oxford. He was supposed to be the real author of Shakespeare's plays, and there might be a factual basis behind it. Writing would require discipline, and Bard's lifestyle could cast some doubt. Then again, Shakespeare wasn't the only author who was accused of plagiarism. Give Emmerich some credit for his effort on this historical drama.

Emmerich, who will turn 61 on November 10, will be most remembered for his big-budget disaster films. Unlike its counterpart from the studio era, which were made on a shoestring budget, Emmerich didn't make such kind of movies to reveal his political views. (No one would see "Independence Day" as a sci-fi version of the invasion of Iraq by the US-led coalition.) Not a few would criticize the screenplay, co-written by Dean Devlin and Emmerich, but films of this kind could be a huge gamble. It's turning an improbable premise into a believable script.

Let's look at Emmerich's five memorable works:

Universal Soldier (1992). Critics dismissed this action film, calling it a Terminator clone. But read between the lines. They weren't forthright about their opinion (on the movie). It was a guilty pleasure on their part with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren playing members of an anti-terrorist group. Both stars have similarities with Arnold Schwarzenegger; they hailed from Europe, whose beefy physique was their ticket to Hollywood stardom. And the verdict would still be out (if they could act at all). But Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren have a (screen) presence. They have chemistry too. They appeared in "The Expendables 3", and it happened for a reason.

Stargate (1994). Kurt Russell might have been out of his mind for accepting the lead role in this adventure flick, where a portal would lead to Ancient Egypt. Moviegoers would know better, as watching this film was like a visit to an amusement park. There wasn't any expectation from their side, so it wasn't a mixed feeling (that the critics thought of).

Godzilla (1998). The reimagining of Toho's monster franchise fell short of (huge) expectations, but Emmerich and Devlin should be patted on the back. The duo would recall the black-and-white pictures featuring huge monsters terrorizing San Francisco (or Los Angeles). It could pass the grade if the film's screening time was an hour shorter, but this was a summer flick.

The Day After Tomorrow (2004). The adaptation of "The Coming Global Superstorm" was a brilliant move by Emmerich and Devlin. It seemed ridiculous to suspect that global warming could lead to the next Ice Age, but the weather had been unpredictable. Furthermore, the duo knew they won't make a wrong move in this kind of material.

10,000 B.C. (2010). This epic fantasy, set during the prehistoric era, might gain a cult following. This was about the fate of hunter-gatherers, which would be appealing on a weekend. An escapist picture without a doubt. And a decent introduction on the history of the world. Mel Brooks might struggle to keep his mouth shut.





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