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Meyer Dolinsky
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Roland Emmerich
Maurice Evans
 
EMMERICH, ROLAND
(1955– ). German director, writer, and producer.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Directed and produced: Das Arche Noah Prinzip [The Noah's Ark Principle] (and wrote) (1984); Joey (and wrote with Hans J. Haller and Thomas Lechner and did special effects with Hubert Bartholomae and Sven Hess [uncredited] and did second camera with Tomas J. Blazek) (1985); Moon 44 (and story with P. J. Mitchell; script Eberle and Dean Heyde) (1990); Independence Day (and wrote with Devlin) (1996); Godzilla (and wrote with Devlin; story with Devlin and Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio) (1998); The Day After Tomorrow (2004) (and cwrote with Jeffrey Nachmanoff); 10,000 B.C. (and wrote with Harold Kloser) (2008); 2012 (and cwrote with Kloser) (2009).

Directed: Hollywood-Monster [Ghost Chase] ] (and wrote with Oliver Eberle and Thomas Kubisch) (1987);  Universal Soldier (1992); Stargate (and wrote with Dean Devlin) (1994)

Produced: The High Crusade (Klaus Knoesel and Holger Neuhauser 1994); The Visitor (tv series) (1997-1998); Godzilla: The Series (animated tv series) (1998); The Thirteenth Floor (Josef Rusnak 1999); Eight Legged Freaks (Ellory Eklayem 2002).

Appeared in documentaries: The Making of Universal Soldier (tv short) (1992); "Mechanical Effects: Nuts and Bolts" (1995), "Devastation Effects: Movie Mayhem" (1996), episodes of Movie Magic; The Making of Independence Day (short) Thomas C. Grane 1996); Independence Day: The ID4 Invasion (Grane 1996); "The Making of Independence Day" (1996), "The Making of The Day After Tomorrow" (2004), "10,000 B.C.: The Making of an Epic World" (2008), episodes of HBO First Look; Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1998); Godzilla: On Assignment with Charles Caiman (short) (1998); "The Films of Roland Emmerich" (1999), episode of The Directors; Boom! Hollywood's Greatest Disaster Movies (Shelley Lyons 2000); Independence Day: Creating Reality (short) (2000); "Teurer Sprit und Klimaschock: Mit Vollgas in die Katastrophe?" (2004), episode of Berlin Mitte: "Popparit Bushin Kimpussa" (2004), episode of 4Pop; The Force Is with Them: The Legacy of Star Wars (2004); Guns, Genes and Fighting Machines: The Making of Universal Soldier (short) (Jeffrey Schwarz 2004); Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001 (short) (Gary Leva 2007); A Wild and Woolly Ride (John Wheeler 2008); 2012: Startling New Secrets (2009); Roland Emmerich: Mein Leben (Jö Muller 2009); Roland Emmerich: Master of the Modern Epic (video short) (2010).

 
Whenever I watch a Roland Emmerich film, I am reminded of the old Saturday Night Live sketches featuring Chevy Chase as a "land shark" who would knock on apartment doors and patiently offer one reason after another for his visit—"Pizza delivery," "Repairman," "Candygram"—until hitting upon the right pretext that would inspire the resident to open the door. Seeking to emotionally connect with every single person in his audience, Emmerich will, in the course of a single film, briefly try almost everything he can think of to achieve that aim. Thus, he says to those watching the film that first manifested his signature style, Stargate: are you responding to the satisfying story of a likable nerd finally finding true love with an exotic beauty? No? Then how about the moving tale of a father embittered by the death of his son who finds a new reason for living by bonding with a bold and energetic young man? Or the expansive saga of a nation of enslaved people finding the will and the means to rise up and claim their freedom? However, although promising theme after promising theme is splashed on the screen for about five minutes, interspersed with ample doses of mindless action, all of these are given so little time, and are so visibly deployed without conviction, that they cannot possibly have any emotional impact. Could anyone but a moron, for example, believe that some genuine affection for his adopted country motivated that sequence in Independence Day when a worldwide battle against alien invaders was briefly and bafflingly linked to all-American values? It was just Emmerich pushing another button—patriotism—before trying to strike a chord with Will SMITH's love life or Jeff GOLDBLUM's problematic relationship with his father.

It wasn't always this way. As a young director in Germany, and then in the United States, Emmerich initially specialized in making the sorts of low-budget, low-profile films that gather dust on the shelves of video rental stores awaiting a daring customer willing to take a chance on an intriguing but unknown title. Such films, considered in their context, are hard to castigate, and some might even discern a sort of dopey charm in films like Joey or Moon 44, making them believe that their two dollars weren't wasted.

But Emmerich then hooked up with rising action star Jean-Claude Van Damme and unexpectedly hit the big time with the sci-fi shoot-em-up Universal Soldier, the undeserved success of which led to bigger budgets, the establishment of a profitable alliance with producer Dean DEVLIN, and another unexpected and undeserved hit, Stargate. Like a later exercise in mediocrity, Stephen SOMMERS's The Mummy, the film somehow scored by combining faux Egyptian veneer, relentless action, and razzle-dazzle special effects despite its obvious problems in casting (this was the film that proved James Spader couldn't carry a movie) and both narrative and scientific logic (its villain being an ancient alien who combines vast superscientific powers and the common sense of a four-year-old). Despite his emerging status as the major Hollywood director specializing in science fiction films, Emmerich irksomely makes films that seem especially ignorant of and contemptuous toward science; even his own characters cannot bother to make sense of the perfunctory, muddled scientific explanations, generally cutting off the blather by saying something like, "Look, just tell me where to shoot, and we'll figure it all out later."

While no one would have identified Emmerich as a rising star on the basis of Stargate, his next film, Independence Day, led many to hold precisely that opinion, inasmuch as it became for a while the highest-grossing film of all time. Yet in terms of its overall design and execution, the film was just as slipshod and senseless as his previous hits; its success must be attributed to its unusually evocative imagery of immense alien spacecraft hovering above major cities—if nothing else, Emmerich's films can occasionally look interesting—and to its remarkably talented lead performers, Smith and Goldblum, who unlike Van Damme, Spader, or Kurt RUSSELL actually had enough skill to almost succeed in animating Emmerich's artless contrivances.

With Emmerich's track record, a proven property with built-in appeal, and a lavish budget for production and promotion, everyone knew that his next film, an American version of Godzilla, was absolutely, positively sure to be a huge hit. It wasn't, because at this point Emmerich's desperate desire to touch every base and please every customer had disastrously gone into overdrive. It seems the sort of film that had not four, but dozens of screenwriters, a steady stream of uncredited industry veterans who each added one more sure-fire gimmick: "Let's have a fisherman feel a pull on his line, and then out comes Godzilla!" "Let's use the old rolling marbles trick to stop the miniature dinosaurs!" "Let's put Godzilla in a big car chase sequence." Its titular monster stripped of all symbolic or political significance in order to avoid offending anyone, its potpourri of boring subplots beyond the control of ineffectual leading man Matthew BRODERICK, Godzilla is a risible mess, and one can be thankful that the planned second and third films of the Godzilla trilogy have been indefinitely put on hold.

As if newly unsure of his power to deal effectively with science fiction, Emmerich uncharacteristically retreated to American history with The Patriot while placing more emphasis on his second career as a producer, with uneven results. The High Crusade, more fodder for the impulse-buyer at the video store, is a dreary evisceration of Poul Anderson's delightful novel; The Thirteenth Floor and Eight Legged Freaks had higher profiles, better advance buzz, but disappointing ticket sales; and the state of television entertainment was not exactly improved by The Visitor and an animated Godzilla series. (He is not officially credited, and hence officially cannot be blamed, for the relentlessly dull Stargate television series, the most recent of which is still inexplicably on the air.)

One might have hoped that Emmerich would carry on with historical dramas and producing assignments, but the allure of directing big-budget, special-effects spectaculars proved irresistible, and he caught his second wind with three more successes in this arena—The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 B.C., and 2012. If anything, these were even more witless and frenetically manipulative than his previous efforts, but all of them were solid successes at the box office, suggesting that we now live in a world where, for certain sorts of film, quality simply doesn't matter; if the hook is persuasive enough, the hype is energetic enough, and the release is wide enough, any expensive science fiction film can quickly earn a profit before audiences figure out that it is a senseless disaster. And, if that's the sort of film that Hollywood studios wish to specialize in, Roland Emmerich is, if nothing else, a director who can always be counted on to deliver precisely the sort of glittering garbage that meets their needs.

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