Natural disasters have served as forces of destruction and sources of inspiration for decades. Why are we so drawn to movies that explore these themes, and what impact do they have on audiences and filmmakers alike?
Many filmmakers are drawn to the epic scale of these movies, the potential they have for visual grandeur, and the jaw-dropping imagery these events provide. Take for example, the 2015 film San Andreas by Brad Peyton. When the protagonist of the movie flies his helicopter over the flooding city below, we see massive skyscrapers collapsing, giant waves drowning everything as far as the eye can see, and massive explosions everywhere. Advances in technology have given filmmakers the scope and ability to recreate these events and make them look terrifyingly realistic, immersing watchers in horror and chaos. There is adrenaline-pumping action, and audiences are rooting for the survival of the main characters, keeping them on the edge of their seats for the entire movie.
It makes you root for these characters who have been thrust into life-or-death situations where they make difficult decisions, and grapple with their vulnerabilities. Natural disaster movies have paved a new path to storytelling—one that allows filmmakers to take creative liberty with these natural disasters and see where the story takes them. We’ve seen movies made on real life disaster events, like The Impossible which was based on the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami. This movie shows the harrowing tale of a family as their vacation slowly turns into a fight for survival. Here, heart-wrenching scenes, combined with the anxiousness of not knowing whether or not the family is ever going to reunite or even survive, keeps you engaged. Filmmakers engaged with this in a meaningful way to give us a glimpse into the true horror and devastation people faced, and the lasting impact it has had on everyone who lived through it. “Into The Storm and the problems and pleasures of disaster movies” by The Dissolve discusses why we are so captivated by disasters by discussing the intricacies of another disaster movie.
Then on the other hand, you have movies that exist purely for entertainment. The Sharknado Movie Franchise is just one of the hundreds upon hundreds of movies that exist out there. They too, show the main characters as fighting to survive, but something about a shark-infested tornado in space attacking the International Space Station does not strike fear as easily as a movie based on real life events.
At the end of the day, these movies, depending on the storyline they choose to follow, leave us with different messages and a wide range of emotions. Some may see these movies as reminders of harrowing events from the past, and others might laugh at the thought of a radioactive shark flying in space, but a lot of these movies still give rise to emotions in us.
They keep us on the edge of our seats, and they open up a new world of possibilities for the main characters. Natural disasters remain a cinematic force, leaving us with a profound appreciation for these unforgettable moments on the big screen.