I’ve said this before: those of you who know me know that I enjoy disaster movies. Specifically, I enjoy bad disaster movies. The hokier the dialogue, the sillier the science, the happier I am, especially if I get to watch the movie among friends, with a bottle of wine.
Well, this Sunday, ABC looks like it has a doozy. Impact tells a story of a meteor shower that gets out of control. Hidden behind the cluster of small rocks striking the Earth’s atmosphere is a honking big hunk of rock that strikes the Moon. Not only does this cause an intense cascade of falling stones on Earth, it shifts the Moon in closer to Earth, causing untold damage.
Now, so far, this story is following the plotline to the excellent young adult novel Life as we Knew it, until that is, the movie takes the silly science of an asteroid strike knocking the Moon out of orbit, and runs with it. Turns out the huge hunk of rock that hit the Moon was a “brown dwarf chunk” that’s now lodged in the Moon, increasing its mass to twice of what it used to be, further destabilizing the orbit and sending it crashing to the Earth. Oh, and the mass and density of this “brown dwarf chunk” has the effect of turning off gravity on random places of the Earth.
Yeah. Brown dwarf chunk. I guess that means this movie blows chunks. You can check out more of the bad science here, and I’ve included the trailer below. I apologize if this causes you to lose a few brain cells:
What I’m thinking is, these guys really wanted to say “dwarf star alloy” but got their terminology wrong. Add in some really silly special effects to complement the really silly idea of gravity being turned off at random, and I’ll be there to watch the movie and point and laugh.
And, James Cromwell? Why do you have to star in so many of these bad movies? Do you really need the money that much?
2012: A Mayan Idiocy
By an interesting coincidence, my friend Cameron writes to tell me of the latest disaster porn flick that’s taking advantage of the fact that the Mayans stopped counting the days on their calendar beyond December 21, 2012. This movie, by the man who brought you Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow does seem to promise a special effects festival. You can check out the eye-candy trailer here. And a subtle (did I actually say that in conjunction with this movie?!) teaser trailer can be found here.
I’ve said it before, but I have to wonder at if it’s possible for anybody to write a good disaster film: one that doesn’t play fast and loose with the science, which doesn’t sacrifice narrative for action. And I still have to wonder. Good disaster movies exist, but they seem to go for a different sort of audience. Supervolcano, about a mega-eruption of Yellowstone, plays itself as a reasonable documentary-from-the-future. It has its facts straight. And it plays on the Discovery Channel rather than at the theatres. Then there’s Don McKeller’s Last Night, which doesn’t focus much on the disaster itself but the reaction of the characters to it. It’s a brilliant movie, but I don’t see many theatre-goers from Armageddon checking it out. Heck, even the film Deep Impact (which should have swapped names with Armageddon) was criticized for having its characters stand around and wait for the end — rather than throw rocks at the approaching asteroid, I guess.
There’s got to be a middle ground, hasn’t there? The YA book Life As We Knew It, walked that line, once it stepped away from the silly science of an asteroid striking the Moon, and focused more on a family struggling to survive in the aftermath, and dealing with such mundane things as coping with imminent starvation. But that’s a tragedy, and not an action movie.
One interesting scenario I saw (again, played out on the Discovery Channel) had a massive solar flare threaten to EMP the planet. In the whole United States, only Brooklyn managed to escape having all its transistors blown out because one official had the foresight to black out the grid before the charged particles hit. The disaster here would be, how would humanity react dealing with a year or more with very limited technology. But would anybody be interested in seeing that?
Oh, look, a pretty wave is swamping the Himalayas!