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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is ‘2012’ the end of the line for the disaster movie?

Roland Emmerich destroys the whole planet in 2012 — is there anywhere left to go after this? What’s left to be destroyed onscreen? These movies are always about one-upping the last one, but there doesn’t seem to be any one-upping left? I’m guessing that until there are cities with distinctive skylines and notable landmarks on Mars and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn — or maybe glittering cities floating in space — there won’t be quite the same satisfaction, for either filmmakers or audiences, in watching the entire Solar System boil away.

Is 2012 the end of the line for the disaster movie?

If it is, what kind of big, loud, explosive action movie will replace it? If not, what will the next big, loud, explosive disaster movie look like?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Yes and no. Yes in the sense that you point out: what else is there to do? Want to die by fire, by flood, by earthquake, by the earth splitting open, by a ship being deluged, by, well, whatever, and Emmerich got you covered. In the immortal words of SCTV’s Farm Report with Big Jim McBob and BIlly Sol Hurok, Emmerich took our Earth and “blowed it up real good.”

    But no in the sense that if Hollywood can produce a vampire movie or series every single week until all the fun of it is ruined for everyone in a vain quest for more dough, I have little doubt that they will try to trot out more disaster flicks to ride to coattails of “2012.” Hollywood is nothing if not derivative.

  • I haven’t seen 2012 and probably never will, but are you telling me that the entire planet of Earth is completely destroyed and/or uninhabitable by the end of the movie? If so, kudos to Emmerich for being brave enough to end a popcorn movie on such a bleak note. If not, well there’s your answer.

    At the end of the true be-all and end-all disaster movie, our protagonists manage to escape the total destruction of the planet in a spacecraft of some kind, only to realize that no one else has survived and that they have no chance of being rescued. They talk, they cry, they eat, they pray, they fight, they laugh, they fuck, they carve their names into the walls, they starve to death or suffocate or kill each other or kill themselves (this part should probably be presented in a montage so the audience doesn’t get too bored), and the powerless craft drifts in orbit until it’s pulled back down to the dead Earth, burning up on reentry.

    The End

    Optional Post Credit-Roll Teaser: And then a couple hardy strains of bacteria throw a party and start all over again. Or do they? You’ll have to watch the sequel/remake to find out.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Everytime I think “well they can’t possibly one-up this”, they find a way. JUST YOU WAIT.

    amanohyo, so weird, I’ve often thought about that scenario in “end of world” situations. Like, now what? Oh, that’s right: nothing. We die. Yay.

    Has any movie been daring anough to go there? The anime Wolf’s Rain did, except that cryptic reference to ressurrection that may or may not be reality…

  • Bluejay

    You can always pump new life into a genre by combining it with another genre. (See: “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”)

    How about making a big disaster-and-superhero-movie-prequel combo? Emmerich can direct an entire movie about the destruction of Krypton. Main character: Jor-El, of course, trying to save his wife and baby while everything around him goes to hell. The last shot is little Kal-El’s rocket zipping off into the sky.

    Surely the Krypton scenes in Superman I are way overdue for an update.

  • fett101

    The destruction of Earths in multiple dimensions?

  • Jurgan

    “amanohyo, so weird, I’ve often thought about that scenario in “end of world” situations. Like, now what? Oh, that’s right: nothing. We die. Yay.

    Has any movie been daring anough to go there?”

    Maybe Dawn of the Dead, or some of Romero’s other movies, implied it. Granted, there are sequels (and what I like about Romero is that he can always find a fresh, modern angle to approach the material from), but Dawn of the Dead itself showed the group leaving what was their safe haven with no expectation that the next place they went would be any better.

  • James

    While maybe not technically a disaster movie, if you want an end of the world movie that goes for a complete ending, two come to mind for me:

    On The Beach with Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Gregory Peck, and Anthony Perkins is about a group of friends in Australia after a nuclear war has resulted in the destruction of life in the northern hemisphere. All they can do is basically try and live life while they wait for the nuclear radiation and fallout to make its way to them.

    Last Night has Don McKellar, Sarah Polley, Sandra Oh, and David Cronenberg as Torontonians living the last day before the world ends in a never-explained event.

    Both movies force the characters to decide what they’ll do when the end is inevitable, and is definitely not for the people who demand non-stop action from their apocalypse. They work solely on the characters and their reactions, instead of special effects and seeing how much can be blown up in 90 minutes.

  • Just eight years ago everyone on the Net–except me, natch–was arguing that the 9/11 catastrophe had ended the appeal of all action and disaster movies for all time.

    And look what happened.

    So I’m surprised you even bother to ask this question, MaryAnn?

    Anyway, wasn’t the entire planet destroyed in the George Pal movie When Worlds Collide?

    And wasn’t the movie made in the 1950s–before you and I were even born?

  • ceti

    I think the natural Earth disaster movies are done. Earth and other planets get blown up lots of times in science fiction films, but disaster films are different in that they usually involve some type of over-the-top natural catastrophe.

    So unless we see the sun turn into a red giant and gobble up the inner solar system, or a black hole munching its way through the galaxy, I think the genre is finished.

  • EnglerP

    Philipp Plaits “Death from the skies” (Good book imho btw.) has some nice scenarios not yet covered by Hollywood.
    Or they simply resort to cosmic horrors:



  • moviegoer

    How about the next disaster movie involves around black matter and how it ultimately will destroy everything we know (yeah I know Angels & Demons had a story about it, but wasnt exactly a disaster movie now was it). I dont think 2012 is the movie to end all disaster movies, far from it. There’s lots of elements in nature that has yet to be exploited by movie producers.

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