Disaster movies can be like a cup of coffee: To some, it's enjoyable upon first taste, for others, it's an acquired taste. But even for those who enjoy them, issues can easily be seen, and at times very distracting (especially if the film's a letdown). Let's take a look at the major issues with disaster movies.
1. The plot is never good.
Every disaster film is known for having a cornball plot with no real character development or originality. Just some characters we feel for trying to survive whatever Mother Nature throws their way.
Take Into the Storm, for example. The film is simply about storm chasers trying to capture the destruction, as well as help a high school principal rescue his teen son trapped in wreckage from the tornadoes. The plot has not only been used many times in the genre, but many times throughout other genres, people caring too much about their jobs and not worrying about other people, family members trying to save each other during exigent circumstances.
Sure, there are disaster films that add some flair to the genre, including Earthquake and Twister, establishing some of the most infamous disaster sequences in film history.
Do you think plot is important for a disaster movie?
2. The science is rarely sound.
The scientist characters may talk a big talk with too many syllables for layman's minds, but in reality, the filmmakers use little real science, and mostly imagine how things would play out if the disaster was real.
San Andreas can be seen as the most recent example of faulty scientific logic. While it is true that California will get hit by a big earthquake one day, and that the San Andreas fault line will be key in how large the destruction will be, everything else shown in the film was highly improbable.
No earthquake in California could be felt on the east coast, not unless it held a magnitude greater than 9.5 on the Richter scale, which is impossible for the San Andreas fault line, as it is a slip-strike fault, only capable of a maximum 8.3. And even if the fault line were to somehow achieve a 9.0 shake, the San Andreas is a vertical fault moving side-to-side, making it impossible to create canyons that would separate California motorists from leaving the state.
Is the science important in a disaster flick?
3. The death of BASICALLY EVERYONE is ignored.
One of the key components in writing a disaster movie is creating disasters so large, only the heroes can escape it, and the focus family members can somehow find each other in the midst of it all and still survive. But how about the billions of other people in the world who don't happen to be with the protagonists, or believe their warnings? *Spoiler Alert* They die more horribly than Hershel in The Walking Dead (The feels hurt just typing that).
But, it's the truth. Let's look at every Roland Emmerich disaster movie ever made: Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, take your pick. What's the biggest connection there, other than families trying to find each other? The insane destruction of the major cities around the globe, Los Angeles, Tokyo, New York, etc. In each film, we see our heroes race through the city to get to the only location safe from the disaster, doing anything to get there.
In The Day After Tomorrow, we see tens of thousands of people swept away and drown in a large water wall in New York. In Independence Day, we see millions of people incinerated by the aliens' laser beams wiping out L.A. and Washington D.C. In 2012, we literally take a limo joy ride with the main character as he races through crumbling Los Angeles to get to the airport to fly with his family to safety.
In every case, most of the population are killed off due to the large disasters, and once the main characters find a way to survive them at the end, the deaths of everyone else are ignored or not mentioned, leaving audiences to wonder how the hell do they go about living their lives know they're some of the few people left in the world? Do they eat less McDonald's and more kale? Do they watch less Big Bang Theory and more Planet Earth? They won't have the time, they'll be too busy rebuilding and repopulating the planet. But the films don't address any of these issues, simply celebrating the survival of life.
Do you think disaster films should kill off less people or more?
Yes, some disasters have more problems than others, acting, visual effects, etc. Me, personally, I love disaster movies. I have fun almost every time I watch one, the thrill of escaping Mother Nature's biggest threats, the large and visually stunning destructions. And even though I find these issues in all of them, I personally don't find them distracting.