The Wisdom of Disaster Movies

Movie poster for Disaster Movie, a parody of, well, disaster movies.

My sister loves disaster movies.

You know the kind – the ones where gigantic comets come hurtling toward the earth aiming to kill not only the photogenic and well-meaning actors, but THE WHOLE planet. Or the ones where ships crash and turn upside down and the only ones who will survive are the ones listening to the know-it-all kid who has the plans for the ship tattooed on his eyelids.

Over the years of our acquaintance, I have learned that it doesn’t matter how outlandish the plot appears to be from the trailer, what matters is that the earnest scientist/architect/reverend is always right, and the people who laugh at him end up dead, while realizing exactly how wrong they were.

Of course, there are also the innocent victims. There’s the lady whose birthday is being celebrated, and she just beat leukemia, and has a bright future in front of her as a virtuoso concert pianist, who ends up being crushed by something poignant, like a slab of concrete with her concert poster still hanging on it. There’s the lady trapped under a fallen beam, who hands over her infant to the know-it-all kid, so that at least her baby will survive. And there’s the earnest guy’s best friend who always believed his friend, but couldn’t escape the falling glass.

Naturally, the true star of a disaster movie is the disaster itself. It needs to be rendered in stunning visual effects which err on the side of “awesome” instead of on the side of accuracy. There ought to be scenes where nameless victims realize too late their doom, and attempt to flee, and get clobbered by the immense wave/blast/fire. The well-meaning person who leads a group of scared people toward the obvious survival path, against the advice of the know-it-all kid? Yeah, we’d better see slow shots of their cold, dead bodies. We will be sad for them, and tell ourselves that we would not make the same mistake.

I guess you’re supposed to leave the theater reflecting on how fragile our existence really is, and how if we’d only listened to the really crazy sounding guy, and changed our ways, we could prevent the inevitable doom of humanity. Me, I wonder if there’s time to somehow have a baby so that I have something to heroically hand-over to the know-it-all kid.

Maybe the earnest scientist is looking to start a family, and I can instead be his imperiled wife, who provides worried reaction shots to her husband’s selfless attempts to save their know-it-all kid who was on a field trip right in the path of destruction. Maybe I’ll have learned that when my husband’s predictions start coming true, it’s better not to sign the permission slip. Then, our happy little family can be together, and just say “he told you so” for the whole movie.