At a cin­ema near you: Dubai de­stroyed, again

Emi­rate of­fers tax-free shoot­ing lo­ca­tion, fu­tur­is­tic sky­line as back­drop

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Jon Gam­brell

As a mam­moth wave from the Gulf rises up to drown flee­ing beach­go­ers and wash over the world’s tallest build­ing, you’d be for­given for think­ing you’ve seen this be­fore.

The com­ing film “Geostorm” marks the lat­est West­ern movie that puts Dubai in its crosshairs.

The city-state of­fers a tax-free shoot­ing lo­ca­tion and a fu­tur­is­tic, sky­scraper-stud­ded sky­line as a back­drop. Amid all the com­put­er­gen­er­ated de­struc­tion, view­ers are also of­fered rare glimpses of Emi­ratis, while learn­ing lit­tle about the coun­try or the re­gion.

“It’s just kind of like this fu­tur­is­tic city that ex­ists only to be de­stroyed in a very dra­matic way,” ob­served Dale Hud­son, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of film and new me­dia at NYU Abu Dhabi. “For au­di­ences in the U.S. used to Hol­ly­wood, it’s just another city … It’s not the Mid­dle East, where they as­sume it’s go­ing to be re­li­gious con­flict or op­pres­sion of women or all the dif­fer­ent stereo­types they have. It just kind of nor­mal­izes it.”

Star­ring Ger­ard But­ler, “Geostorm” is set in a world where satel­lites stop all nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. Then some­thing goes wrong. Dubai is then ap­par­ently swamped by the Gulf – whose warm waters are rarely more than 90 me­ters deep.

Pre­views for the film show ma­jor cities around the world be­ing de­stroyed. The Dubai Film and TV Com­mis­sion of­fered an ex­cited, ex­cla­ma­tion-pointed tweet about the footage of the Gulf tsunami, in which the spire tip of the 828-me­ter Burj Khal­ifa – the world’s tallest build­ing – is vis­i­ble in the back­ground.

The com­mis­sion did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

It’s not the first time Dubai has fea­tured in a West­ern block­buster. Tom Cruise dan­gled off the side of Burj Khal­ifa in the 2011 film “Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble 4: Ghost Pro­to­col.”

The world’s tallest build­ing es­caped be­ing de­stroyed in Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble 4, but Dubai was en­gulfed in a com­puter-gen­er­ated sand­storm of epic pro­por­tions.

In 2016’s “Star Trek Be­yond,” Dubai stood in as Star­base York­town and was at­tacked by the forces of the lizard-like dic­ta­tor Krall. The port town was again the tar­get of venge­ful aliens in the 2016 film “In­de­pen­dence Day: Resur­gence,” in which grav­ity-de­fy­ing ex­trater­res­tri­als picked up Burj Khal­ifa and slammed it into Lon­don.

The “Star Trek” film’s pro­duc­ers picked Dubai be­cause of its spaceage look.

“We came search­ing for the fu­ture and found it,” co-ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Jef­frey Ch­er­nov said in 2015. How­ever, the cast later ac­knowl­edged hav­ing dif­fi­culty cast­ing a gay hus­band in Dubai for the char­ac­ter Sulu.

Tra­di­tion­ally dressed Arabs often show up for a mo­ment in such films. A fam­ily dines as a Le­banese made sports car, the Lykan Hyper­sport, plunges down an Abu Dhabi sky­scraper in “Fu­ri­ous 7.”

Hud­son said that mo­ment – like a brief ref­er­ence to Abu Dhabi as a global city on a map in the 2011 plague thriller “Con­ta­gion” – sep­a­rates the UAE from the Mid­dle East stereo­type of “chaos” seen in other films. “It puts [the UAE] on the same po­lit­i­cal side as Lon­don and New York,” he said. “It def­i­nitely tries to make it a global player.”

“Geostorm” is not the first time Dubai has fea­tured in a West­ern block­buster.

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