It all started with ‘The Towering Inferno’ and ‘Airport’. My love of disaster movies. I remember watching them on TV with my Dad, probably in the late 70s, and I was gripped. I appreciate the greater sophistication of modern disaster movies, but I still like the old cheesy ones too. It’s not that I enjoy watching other people’s misery…although for that matter, I’m hard pressed to think of ANY movie of ANY genre that doesn’t involve misery for somebody. But there are specific things I Iike about disaster films:
1) They are exciting and dramatic. They build up tension and get the adrenalin going, but I’m not left too scared to go and get a glass of water in the middle of the night after watching them like I am with horrors, or some thrillers.
2) I can follow the plot. I have a bit of trouble following the plot with a lot of movies. I don’t have that problem with books, but with movies I’m not always sure what’s going on in them. I ask lots of annoying questions to whoever I’m watching them with. Or I’ll read a review afterwards and think “Oh, so THAT’S what it was about.” But with disaster movies, let’s face it, the plots are pretty simple. In fact the plot is pretty much the same in all of them – a disaster of some kind is looming, we can see it coming, the hero/ine can see it coming too and they try to warn people but nobody really takes them seriously until it’s too late, it comes, it’s disastrous, everything seems hopeless, but thanks to the heroic hero/ine it’s all ok in the end.
What I don’t like about disaster films:
1) People always die in them. It makes the happy ending less happy when you know that people have died along the way. I don’t want people to die in them. Even the selfish obnoxious jerk who flips out and refuses to do what the hero has told him to do, and instead breaks away from the group to go off and do his own really stupid thing. Even him, I don’t want him to die either. I don’t mind if he gets a little broken toe or a nasty graze or something, but he doesn’t have to die.
2) I don’t like it when they’re based on real disasters that have happened because then I worry that it might be upsetting for the people who really went through it. But on the other hand maybe those people are glad that it has been shown rather than being forgotten about. I can’t possibly know, and there won’t be a one-size-fits-all answer to that one. But my instinct is to prefer the more fabricated ones like ‘The Day After Tomorrow’.
I’m thinking I might like to write my own disaster movie. I’m pretty sure it can be just as exciting and perilous without any deaths. We don’t have to see people die to know that there’s a high risk that they could.
Of course I’d have to include all the classic lines in it:
“We’ll be perfectly safe here.”
“In case we don’t make it out of here alive, I want you to know (blah blah some mushy stuff)…”
“All we can do now is wait.”
I will be sure to include the obligatory gorgeous model-like female who is much tougher than she looks, because as we all know, it’s practically impossible for a woman to be both beautiful and tough, so that aspect is always a real shocker in these films. Any difficulties that the hero/ine has with their spouse or children will be resolved when they discover what’s REALLY important. And there will be an elderly person who is willing to sacrifice himself if it can save others because he’s had a good life (but of course he won’t actually be required to do so because nobody is going to die in my film, but it will be heartwarming just to know that he was willing).
Yep, I think I’ve pretty much got the main elements sorted. Now I just need a story…
photo credit: Rufus Gefangenen via photopin cc