Over the last twenty years there has been a ton of disaster films shown in cinemas whether it be Deep Impact, The Day After Tomorrow, Armageddon, Twister, or 2012. Excluding all the doomsday epics like War of the Worlds or 28 Days Later, people still crave for the excitement of a disaster film.
The disaster film genre contains code and convention elements that are different from the action film yet it still capitalises on high spectacle, action sequences and basic character journeys so the viewer can concentrate on the excitement of the story and how that is being told.
Any disaster film may have the following:
The Crazy Character – He’s the conspiracy theorist, religious nut or mystical philosopher that rants whom no one believes until it’s too late. 2012 finds Woody Harrelson play Charlie Frost who provides the exposition of why the disaster is happening.
The City Destruction Scene – This is an obvious one, what disaster film can’t show a city’s destruction? It’s important not that the scene is in the movie but the size and location of the destruction. If a small rural town faces destruction, it foreshadows the film’s focus will be on a small number of characters and the disaster isn’t really a big one to the viewer but bigger to the character. When the film’s disaster is a big city like London, New York or Los Angeles; it’ll foreshadow more spectacle over character, authorities to be involved and world wide catastrophe.
The Opposing Couple- There’ll be a couple who are at war with each other whether they are a divorced couple that are together or another with opposing views on how to overcome the obstacle of disaster. The genre means this couple will survive the film and get back together and solve their differences before the end credits.
The Scientist Figure – Like the crazy character but with practical wisdom or intelligence on the specific subject. Authorities and governments will believe this character over the crazy character. The Scientist or solution finder to the disaster will typically have heart and stand firm for truth.
The Presidential Speech – Bill Pullman and Independence Day, Morgan Freeman and Deep Impact, Danny Glover and 2012 all have their moment of glory addressing the nation or world. Assuring the world we can be united and live happily ever after. Its the sentimental moment where the viewer will get the goosebumps and believe they can triumph over a big disaster along with the character.
Roger Ebert wrote in his review for 2012 the following “The bottom line is: The movie gives you your money’s worth, Is it a masterpiece? No. Is it one of the year’s best? No. Does Emmerich hammer it together with his elbows from parts obtained from the Used Disaster Movie Store? Yes. But is it about as good as a movie in this genre can be? Yes.”
Disaster movies like Geostorm or 2012 are pure escapism. Don’t expect it to be anything more than a fun two hour ride where you don’t have to think about how you’ll pay your next bill.