His movies are bombastic. They make big visual statements, and paint bold pictures. They are easy to watch, or at least easy to understand. Not necessarily thinking man's stuff. Emmerich movies are easy for naysayers to criticize and reduce to popcorn genre fare.
Pay no mind.
Emmerich, the German-born visionary and big-budget director, is a talented man, in his own way -- the Hollywood way.
In case you missed all the publicity, Emmerich is back with his latest End of the World opus, the John Cusack/Amanda Peet disaster flick '2012.' As Emmerich fans know in their gut, '2012' is an exciting Emmerich concept. The result is likely to be another keeper.
It's been said his movies lack a heart. But when they look this good, who needs heart?
Emmerich tells stories with big, dumb simplicity. He is Americana. His 2008 prehistoric epic (used in a loose sense of the word) '10,000 B.C.' had lots of imposing creatures, one-dimensional characters, simple sentences, and was pretty scary. It starred one of the worst-reviewed young actors of his generation, Steven Strait, previously apposite Ashlee Simpson in 2005's 'Undiscovered.' It had giant attacking woolly mammoths. Come on, what more could you ask for from a night at the cinema?
Another quintessential Emmerich movie? 'The Day After Tomorrow,' with Jake Gyllenhaal and Emmy Rossum, the 2004 disaster flick on basic cable at any given time on any given day. The world is destroyed again, most spectacularly in Los Angeles and New York. It has Saturday afternoon matinee characters, tornadoes destroying the Hollywood sign, and tidal waves wiping out Manhattan. Between that and 'The Box,' I will pick Emmerich any day of the week.
Of course, who could forget 'Independence Day'? It was the '90s gargantuan blockbuster that introduced us to modern-era stunning visuals, such as the White House blowing up, city-sized spaceships, and the on-screen chemistry of Vivica A. Fox and Will Smith. When you're in the mood for a filmmaker that stretches the limits of the medium, Emmerich is your man.
Possibly what lies at the heart of Emmerich's appeal is that, visually, he shows us spectacular things we have always wanted to see on some level, but didn't have $150 million to throw at such a vision.
Yes, I do want to see what New York looks like when it's destroyed. Same with Hollywood. Woolly mammoths stampeding are beautiful. I have always wanted to see what Doomsday looked like -- and that's what I get with '2012.'
Nobody spends money like Emmerich. He burned through a budget of $200 million on '2012.' (In a global recession, thank goodness for such irresponsibility.) Yet it will easily make its money back twice over. You know you are going to get fireworks, and what you paid for. Compare that to Brett Ratner's mega-budgets: 'X Men: The Last Stand' cost $210 million, 'Rush Hour 3' was $140 million.
You have to love Emmerich's old-style, kooky Hollywood showmanship. In a recent interview with USA Today, he says of '2012': "It's a modern retelling of Noah's Ark, with ties to the Mayan calendar ... We humans are endlessly fascinated about [the end of the world]. My theory is that deep down in our unconscious, we know that a couple times in history we nearly came to extinction." (Maybe there is something here for thinking men.)
What to expect from '2012'? L.A. falling into the ocean, tidal waves, earthquakes, volcanoes, and blinding dust clouds. As with the good Emmerich movies, there is dubious science: a sudden, intense heating of the Earth's core, a planetary realignment and over-stimulated sun.
Not so great: the 160-minute running time. But I'll learn to live with it.