What a disaster

Published 3:39 pm Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It has been awhile since I enjoyed a good end of the world disaster movie, but thanks to new movie, “2012,” I have my death and mayhem fill for a few years.

What is it about catastrophic events that make us watch? Why do we want to go through the agony of watching the destruction of the world?

I have been a fan of the movie genre since “Gone with the Wind.” Yes, in a way, that was a disaster epic. The world as they new it came to an end, there was death, destruction, and of course, hunger.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

However, a true definition of a disaster film is a movie that features a large cast, so you have plenty of great dying scenes, multiple storylines which are not very deep, but at least fill in some of the space between the doom and gloom. The film will typically focus on the main character’s attempt to save the planet, escape the upcoming catastrophic event or just deal with it as he (or she) experiences the tragic ending.

In my column 1437 Days and counting, I explained the events that are suppose to happen in the year 2012, even more specifically, December 21.

“Why, you may ask, is December 21, 2012 the chosen monumental date for all humanity to check out? The prediction is based on one major event, although there are layers of other stuff to support the end of the world scenario in 2012, but let us say, many are flocking to the end of the Mayan calendar prophecy. Thankfully, it is controversial so all the nutcases and smart people are not in full agreement.

In an unknowledgeable analysis, let me try to ‘splain this phenomenon of epic proportions. The Mayas, who are an antique native society down south, way south, have this calendar. The leftover elders say the calendar is based on the stars and that it was given to their grandfathers who actually came from the stars. We call that a close encounter of a third kind if you know what I mean. So apparently aliens had kids and eventually they got tired of calendar making and decided to end it one day. As it cycled down in their count, the chosen date became December 21, 2012.

Does that help you understand why we are going to die on the chosen date? The only ones worried are Americans and Europeans, because the leftover Mayans are not concerned in the least. But they don’t make disaster movies down there either.

My fond memories of disaster really were spurned on in the 70’s with “Poseidon Adventure,” “Earthquake,” and “Towering Inferno.” We killed off some of Hollywood’s greats in the name of disaster. Although, none of those plots took on the end of the world scenario but at least they scared us.

One of the best movie scenes that sends me into the “heebie geebies” is the giant tidal wave. I first saw this movie magic in the “Poseidon Adventure.” It has been perfected with “The Perfect Storm” which took out George Clooney in a boat; “Deep Impact” and now in a complete clean swipe of the planet in 2012. Those were some giant waves.

That is where my worse nightmares lay. My horror stems from my personal trauma of surviving 11 foot waves on the island of Oahu, to see the building wave before it pounds the living daylights out of you and to magnify it by hundreds of feet is to say the least, terrifying.

By the way, if you think these tsunamis of epic proportions are just extreme imagination, then check out some of the doom and gloom documentaries on the History channel or National Geographic. After all, 1100 foot waves hit the Gulf Coast when the giant asteroid hit the Yucatan Peninsula. That would be categorized as a monster wave.

Disaster movies make you uneasy — nervous about your warm and cozy life. It wakes you to the fact that each normal day you live may not actually end up the way you think. The earth could open up, swallow you, or a giant meteor may land on your head. Who knows? This production of fear makes you appreciate that as you lay your head down at the end of a boring day where the world survives yet again, that you feel more appreciative of how good we have it. Yeah, no super volcanoes erupted beneath me today and the twins don’t count!

We follow the movie characters as they go through the tumultuous events, we suffer with them, we watch in horror as the world takes control of their humdrum lives and shakes them to the core. We want to know how they survive, or sometimes, how they die.

Great characters die with grace and of course those not so nice people always meet with a bad ending. That is how the disaster movie goes. How we die should reflect how we live.

Who doesn’t remember how Shelly Winters swam through the capsized cruise ship to save the day only to keel over with a heart attack. She earned an Academy Award for that performance.

Yes, I love a good disaster movie. Watching the world end as we know it, watching people experience the worst possible events imaginable, all while I sit in a comfortable theater eating expensive popcorn and hoping that if the inevitable end comes, in whatever horrific form, that I will be the person of good character that survives, not the one who gets a great death scene.

But the truth is, I am not sure that I want to survive in the end of the world scenario. Why would I want to experience such traumatic events, such a drastic change in the world? I think a quick end amongst the initial onslaught of doom and gloom is the best way to go. Noah survived in the disaster story from the Bible and look what he had to do, take care of a bunch of animals and replenish the earth! Not more kids! Kill me with the flood, please!

Noah’s Ark was the greatest disaster event of all times and the Bible has even a bigger one planned for the future. It is known as Armageddon, and nothing like the movie which featured Bruce Willis taking out an approaching meteor with the space shuttle’s help.

The end of the world has been predicted from every religion. Human beings all feel deep down inside that at any giving time, the world as we know it could reach its final countdown; especially now that humanity has the skills and the weapons to do it themselves if we are stupid enough. This deep seeded fear makes disaster epics more plausible and causes us to appreciate what we have today.

Thankfully, I believe in an afterlife, so surviving the disaster isn’t my main agenda.

Until that day of our worst nightmares occur, I will continue to enjoy the spoils of Hollywood movie magic and shiver as the giant wave builds to a 1000 foot crest and then I will look around the room and say, its just a movie. But, if I must, I will give a great performance for my death scene.