In honor of Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor's devastating tsunami extravaganza "The Impossible," we thought we'd dust off the ol' archives to see how Hollywood has portrayed angry and destructive nature in cinema. The answer? Not spectacularly well; in fact, two of our "best" selections came from this year! Sadly, it seems as though when Hollywood delivers natural disasters, they serve them up with heaping gobs of schmaltz and melodrama. Still, let's take a look at the best and worst of natural disasters.
Disaster: An asteroid the size of Texas is headed toward Earth.
Solution: Send a bunch of deep sea oil drillers (including Bruce Willis) up to space, to erm, drill a nuke into the asteroid. *cough*
Explanation: I know "Armageddon" has its fair share of detractors, but compared to "Deep Impact" it is a gem. Plus, inspired performances from Steve Buscemi, Billy Bob Thornton, and Owen Wilson make this film eminently re-watachable. And Charlton Heston narrates! Plus, "Armageddon" was one of the privileged few films to receive a Criterion Edition , and you know those guys wouldn't choose a lemon. Lastly, this movie has the following scene, which will remain hilarious ad infinitum:
4. "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Disaster: A giant storm causes a massive flood, and the Arctic ice starts breaking, sending frozen Aurochs toward the Louisiana bayou.
Solution: Blow up the levee (but don't take your Chevy).
Explanation: I told you it was slim pickings, so Best Picture candidate "Beasts of the Southern Wild" has as solid a claim as anybody. Additionally, young actress Quvenzhane Wallis is extremely buzzy right now.
Disaster: Icebergs, dude, icebergs.
Solution: Sink to the bottom of the ocean. No, it wasn't the best of outcomes, but there weren't a bevy of great options.
Explanation: Well, something like 400 million people have seen this one, and you know what they say . Now I'm not admitting I sing the "Titanic" song in my shower, but I'm not saying I don't either. Once more … you opeeeeeen the door.
2. "Moonrise Kingdom"
Disaster: A hurricane, lightning.
Solution: As per normal, Bruce Willis .
Explanation: Wes Anderson's latest modern classic features dynamite dialogue juxtaposed against a hurricane backdrop. Children performing dialogue way too mature for their age? Automatic silver medal!
1. "The Perfect Storm"
Disaster: The Halloween Nor-easter of 1991.
Solution: In an ending that left me emotionally beaten and battered, the clip embedded below.
Explanation: There simply isn't a better natural disaster film than "The Perfect Storm," a testament to nature's fury. If you can watch this film without shedding a tear, I'd urge you to get those tear ducts checked. Simply a phenomenal film.
Solution: Stop driving around in tornados.
Explanation: This was one the early adopters of the whole "effects over story" phenomenon, an issue that continues to this day. The only two redeeming qualities of "Twister" are 1. Philip Seymour Hoffman and 2. The amazing trailer voice guy featured at the beginning of the trailer below.
Disaster: A tunnel cave in caused by toxic waste, diamonds, and other assorted shenanigans.
Explanation: Sure, we're stretching a bit to even include "Daylight," but I think everyone has forgotten just how terrible this film is. I love that they play the trailer as a "Drama / Thriller" when it's actually a Melodrama / Stinker. Bright side: it's available on videocassette AND laser disc!
Disaster: A cyclone causes the caves the intrepid spelunkers are exploring to flood.
Solution: Attempt to find a way to the surface … or just stay out of caves altogether.
Explanation: James Cameron giveth ("Titanic") and taketh away (he produced "Sanctum"). The most awful thing about this film is the dialogue. No wait, the faux peril! Ugh, but what about the wooden acting? The great part about "Sanctum" is you don't have to choose, it's all world-class terrible.
Disaster: A rogue wave.
Solution: Something about getting to the bow thrusters? And blowing up propellers? It was all rather difficult to follow.
Explanation: The good news is the studio had to have lost money on this turkey. As we watched "Poseidon" the very real question presented itself "What if you were trapped … in a terrible movie?" My next query is why every bad disaster film has to have that scene where someone is hanging off a cliff and has to kick another person off to live? I hate that scene. That scene can't possibly happen often enough to require repeated renditions.
Disaster: The Mayans and something to do with the alignment of the planets.
Solution: Giant ocean-going vessels built with cheap labor.
Explanation: I will admit, in my weaker moments, to watching "2012" on cable. It's so terrible that I'm forced to consider it, if only to make sense the creative world that could even create it. My other vivid memory of "2012" is sitting in Comic Con and listening to Roland Emmerich as he was asked if the Mayan prophecy was real. He said something to the effect of "Maybe". Can you beat that? It's unbelievable the lengths some folks will go to for marketing. For the record, Roland, the whole Mayan deal is a freaking typo. The more you know!