The Movies of Roland Emmerich

I was thinking of good movies to recommend for the Fourth of July weekend.  There's the musical 1776 or the Tom Cruise bio-drama Born on the Fourth of July, but I wanted popcorn flicks.  Two films by director Roland Emmerich came to mind -- the alien invasion blockbuster Independence Day and the Revolutionary War actioner The Patriot (which my friend Robert promoted as his holiday pick).  Some consider Emmerich a schlock director who has made his mark with special-effects heavy disaster motion pictures, but I think he deserves credit for bringing stories to the screen that manage to entertain audiences and leave an impact on popular culture.

Here's a quick look at his big Hollywood films.  (I haven't seen his low budget earlier productions -- Joey, Ghost Chase, or Moon 44 -- or his first few German films -- Franzmann or Das Arche Noah Prinzip.)

Universal Soldier - This was the first mainstream movie Emmerich directed.  Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren as dead soldiers reanimated as cyborg-warriors, it was a cheesy sci-fi action adventure, but it has a decent cult following.

Stargate- Emmerich hit his stride when he partnered with writer Dean Devlin for this epic science fiction tale that aimed to recapture the feel of Star Wars for a new generation.  It wasn't the greatest film ever made, but it had a lot of fun moments.  Kurt Russell, James Spader, and Jaye Davidson all provided entertaining performances, and the movie spawned a popular television franchise.

Independence Day - One of the biggest blockbusters of all time, known simply as ID4, it had its plotholes, but it was one of those enjoyable summer movies that almost everybody watched. Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, and Bill Pullman as the U.S. President, try to save the world from invading aliens who blow up landmarks around the world.  A wave of copycat movies followed and continue to follow.

Godzilla - The concept was great -- an American version of the Japanese monster classic -- but the execution was disappointing.  Maybe someday they'll get it right and Hollywood can give us a decent big-budget interpretation of the radiation-born, city stomping goliath.  Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, and Hank Azaria gave it a hearty try.

The Patriot - Critically bashed at the time of its release, there are good moments in this action tale set during the American Revolution.  Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger had some nice scenes.

The Day After Tomorrow - Climate change to the nth degree!  Disaster on a global scale!  Over-the-top special effects!  If that's your sort of thing, this is the guilty pleasure for you.

10,000 B.C. - One of Emmerich's weaker efforts, this prehistoric epic about a young mammoth hunter's heroic journey still has some cool visual highlights -- too bad it doesn't have much of a story.

2012 - Building on the superstitious end-of-the-world paranoia, Emmerich revisits global armageddon, and audiences flocked to see the cinematic mayhem he created.

Roland Emmerich's next movie will be called Anonymous, a thriller that deals with the possibility that Edward De Vere, the Earl of Oxford, might have written the plays of William Shakespeare.  I hope he expands his filmmaking reputation beyond the visual eye-candy that has defined his filmography so far.