Sunday, July 17, 2016

Catching up on disaster movies

I enjoy writing my disaster novels, but while I was doing that, I avoided seeing new disaster movies so I wouldn't be contaminated by any ideas in them. For now, I'm on hiatus from writing them (though I have three more I'd like to write one day), so I ordered from my library a bunch of disaster films about topics I've already covered or never will and settled down with a bowl of olives (no popcorn) the other day, after I'd written a couple thousand new words, to have a movie marathon.

I began by re-watching the classic The Poseidon Adventure. This movie holds up in a lot of ways. The writer was a notch above most action writers, and the characters are often interesting. Oh, sure, the depiction of women is dated, and Ernest Borgnine yelled and chewed the scenery badly. But the practical special effects are cool, and isn't the Shelley Winters character wonderful? Films like this, Towering Inferno, and Airport (also a terrific book!) helped create my love of the disaster tale and probably influence me still in ways too subtle for me to be aware of.

I next watched Into the Storm, a tornado movie. As anyone who reads my novels knows, getting the science right is a top priority for me. While I understand Hollywood won't, and I don't expect much of these films, there were inaccuracies here that bothered me. They probably wouldn't have bothered me as much were I not so bored with characters and story, though. The tornadoes looked cool enough, and there was sufficient debris, but there isn't a single character to root for in the movie. It was hard for me to work up a connection to the film. Also, the "found footage" device, like shaky cam, never was any good, and it's over with, directors. Move on. The whole experience felt flat to me.

With much worse science and inaccuracies about rescue workers, who (luckily for you and me) do not steal helicopters and fail to do their jobs in order to rescue their own families, San Andreas ranked even lower on my accuracy scale, but I liked it a good deal better than Into the Storm. Admittedly, the character story was schmaltzy, but it's a disaster film. It's supposed to be! And yes, the third act dragged. But the special effects were cool, and the acting was better than it might have been, and the score helped heighten the tension. (Scores can make or break a big budget action film, I think.) I was bothered by the idea that, if you were trying to rescue your kid from Coit Tower, you'd parachute in all the way down at the baseball stadium, but I'm sure that people who have never lived in San Francisco didn't have that thought. While by no means a good movie, it was to me a painless popcorn (or, in my case, olive) movie, pure entertainment of the sort I'll entirely have forgotten in a week.

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