The Smart Disaster Movie

Recently, we rewatched the 2005 Discovery/BBC mini-series mock-docudrama Supervolcano, about how a group of geologists and people at FEMA handle the events leading up to and after a supervolcanic eruption in Yellowstone. It doesn't appear to be available on any streaming service, which is a shame, but you are able to view the two hours of film on Youtube.

It is a shame that the mini-series isn't easily available, because it's a very good film. I gave it a full review here, soon after it came out, and honestly, it holds up. Yes, the idea that the Yellowstone volcano is overdue for a super-eruption has been pretty thoroughly debunked, but taking the movie itself as your average disaster flick, it comes out as quite an above average flick, and one which doesn't require you to check your brain at the door at that. In addition to some tremendously good lines, there are decent moments of drama throughout, as the trope of the hero scientist being somebody nobody listens to until it's too late is thrown on its ear. Indeed, the head scientist, played by Michael Riley, is cautious to a fault, wants to prevent panic, and stave off the alarmist rhetoric of his brother-in-law who, incidentally, is just selling a new book about the Yellowstone volcano called (cough) Super Bang!.

There are no villains in this story. Everybody acts in line with what the evidence is telling them (would that certain officials do that in this day and age). They refuse to panic in the face of what should be an extremely unlikely worst-case scenario, except that the worst-case scenario is what eventually materializes. And unlike gonzo-apocalyptic disaster movies like 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow, Supervolcano doesn't go overboard with how bad the chaos gets (it doesn't need to). By and large, it sticks to the facts. Though Yellowstone is unlikely to erupt as a supervolcano, if it did, this is what would happen. And that's drama enough.

I'm having trouble thinking of any other disaster movie, that isn't basing itself on a historical event, that is trying to set itself in the real world and stay out of the ream of science fiction, playing smartly by these rules. The only thing that readily comes to mind is Deep Impact, which wins Bad Astronomer's general seal of approval, though he points out many scientific fallacies within.

Anybody out there have nominations for their own best non-speculative, non-historic disaster movie?

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