Billions will Die!

2009-12-04 13:56
All this hoo-hah about the World Cuppers coming to Cape Town this week got me thinking... I love disaster movies. Disaster movies give me an excuse to giggle and squirm like a fourteen year-old who's just seen his first porno.

They're an excuse to revel in schadenfreude of seeing humanity pay the price for its arrogance. Millions must die! Billions, even! Suffer, you bastards! May the aliens / volcano / tidal wave / monster / meteor / World Cup wipe you all from the face of existence! Death! Destruction! More death! And a big orchestral score by John Williams!

Because deep down inside, something tells me that we deserve it. I think that we know that as a species we're living way beyond our means, and we know that bubble has to burst. We're way beyond social and moral redemption, so we take great pleasure in seeing disaster befall us en masse. Even if it is just on a silver screen.

Weren't you disappointed that Bruce Willis saved us all in Armageddon? It robbed you of a great CGI shot of Earth being destroyed utterly! And who cared about the little meteor falling on Japan as compensation? Weren't you sad when Godzilla died at the end? Shouldn't SOMEONE besides Jeff Goldblum's boss have bought it in Independence Day?  Randy Quaid flying into the arse of an alien mothership doesn't count.

No, what we wanted is more of what Mimi Leder gave us in Deep Impact – in which characters we had come to know and love died. Our hero Tea Leoni actually died - As did half of our beloved America. And Europe. And Everywhere Else. Yay! Ok, Frodo didn't die. But hell, he survived far worse on that mountain in New Zealand.

Disaster epics weren't always on that type of scale, though.

One of my favourites and the granddaddy of all event films of the era is undoubtedly The Towering Inferno (1974) (Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, OJ Simpson!, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner, etc. etc.). Without today's big effects and technological miracles, all the director could do was plant an ensemble cast in the path of some calamitous event. Most of the characters where likely to die – but which ones, and when? It's still a great character-driven movie and worth watching every couple of years. Take that, Waterworld!

The Poseidon Adventure from two years earlier (Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters, Roddy McDowell, etc.) also stands the test of time, despite Ernest Borgnine's relentless scenery chewing.

In modern times, the genre has evolved from those character dramas into big, sprawling monoliths of faceless silicone-driven carnage – just like porn, actually. Some have been better than others, and some have – well – sucked balls.

And this brings me to this week's release – Roland Emmerich's 2012. Naturally, the critics – even those I trust – are calling it an erectile dysfunction of note. But it doesn't matter to me. It's my little guilty pleasure – my disaster movie.

I don't care that the smarks are dissing Roland Emmerich again. I don't care that the film may be vacuous or silly or have gaping (plot) holes, or that it's just an excuse to have a CGI mega-wank. I don't care that it's porn for the eyes and ears.

No, scratch that. I do care that modern great disaster blockbusters are porn for the eyes and ears. Because everybody knows that the money shot is the centrepiece of the porn mov... – I mean the Great Disaster Movie. And no-one in the modern era is better at money shots than Roland Emmerich.

Think a GIANT wave engulfing New York, or a GIANT lizard stomping same. Think the White House getting laser-shafted up the Oval Office by a GIANT alien spaceship. Think a panorama of Los Angeles with GIANT twisters decimating all its famous landmarks.  I mean, it's Roland "Independence Day/ Day After Tomorrow / Godzilla" Emmerich! It's the king of money shots. Billions will die! publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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