Comet hits Earth in bleak disaster movie

Did Gerard Butler take acting lessons from the MGM Lion? He growls and snarls just like Leo in his latest role, as an engineer trying to save his wife and young son from an apocalyptic comet’s impact in “Greenland.”

Running time: 119 minutes. Rated PG-13 (intense sequences of disaster action, some violence, bloody images and brief strong language). On Demand.

Butler’s pretty bad — not horrible — but the movie itself is quite watchable, if a lot bleaker than your average disaster flick. “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Poseidon Adventure” did not, in my recollection, have cruel kidnappings of young boys or murders by hammer.

As a comet called Clarke approaches Earth, John (Butler) gets an automated text message from the Department of Homeland Security saying his family has been chosen for relocation. He’s told to head to Robins Air Force Base in Georgia with his wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), 8-year-old son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd) — and no one else. They’re confused. Is it a test? The comet had Hale-Bopp-level excitement around it.

That’s when the family turns on the news and sees that a shard of the space rock has hit Florida. “TAMPA GONE,” the ticker says. Hop in the car, guys!

From then on, the revelations in director Ric Roman Waugh’s film are shrewdly unveiled. We learn John is one of a small number of highly skilled professionals who have been picked for survival in an underground base in Greenland: home to glaciers and a population the size of White Plains. Those not lucky enough to receive a government text turn to any method, including crime, to snag a spot on the planes. Chris Sparling’s script shows humanity at its worst.

Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a story if Butler and Co. just caught a flight and arrived on the island with ease. Roadblocks pop up that make their journey harrowing and sad. Much of the heft is owed to the smallest cast member, Floyd, a deep-feeling child actor who has a hard-hitting scene outside another air force base. Poor kid has to cry buckets.

The ending, however, is too squeaky clean and obvious to wrap up this messy story. It lacks any element of the unexpected, and we’ve all seen better CGI images of destroyed cities in disaster films for years. Roland Emmerich probably has a folder on his laptop full of them.

Whatever. As far as Butler’s films go, “Greenland” could have been so much worse. “The Bounty Hunter” was so awful, after watching it I felt like … a comet had just hit Earth!

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