Confessions of a disaster flick junkie

    It’s Sunday night, and I’m gearing up for the awesome NBC mini-series “10.5.” The alcohol is chilling in the fridge, and it’s only a matter of time before the Space Needle tumbles to the ground and the Golden Gate Bridge collapses, again.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I am a disaster movie whore.

    I love disaster movies. No matter how cheesy or campy these movies are, they’re always fantastic. Some people like B-level horror movies, I like disaster movies. Once I saw the previews for “10.5,” I was giddy with excitement. Major metropolitan cities collapsing? Amtrak trains being swallowed up by the earth? Nuclear weapons being used to stop earthquakes? Oh man, it’s like Christmas. Even better, the producers of this particular film didn’t bother to consult, you know, actual scientists, but instead decided that researching on the Internet was the right way to go about it. Never mind that a magnitude 10.5 earthquake isn’t actually possible, and never mind that the San Andreas Fault really and truly cannot split open. The Internet holds the truth to all things!

    I’m glad they resorted to these “research methods.” The more campy, cheesy, standard-disaster-movie events, the better. It could almost be a drinking game: Drink every time a newscaster is rendered speechless by the magnitude of the trauma. Drink when someone makes a heroic sacrifice, dying to save the greater populace. Drink whenever a national monument is destroyed. Drink every time an improbable event takes place, like the San Andreas Fault splitting open. Finish off all the alcohol when California finally falls into the ocean, thus giving Las Vegas that oceanfront view it has always wanted.

    I’m probably the only person in the world excited for “Day After Tomorrow,” the summer film that features hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tidal waves, floods and the next Ice Age rapidly hitting the earth with Dennis Quaid as the heroic scientist trying to save the world — excuse me, America — from total disaster.

    That’s the common trend in disaster movies. Though the entire world will be destroyed by that asteroid hitting the earth (see “Armageddon,” “Deep Impact”), America is the only country that matters, and it is Americans who save the world. It seems that Hollywood, and the American public, have some kind of hero complex. To that, I say, “Whatever.” Keep pumping out the awesome special effects and the implausible plot lines — I will eat it up.

    And let’s not forget the standard characters. If you think people in horror movies are stupid, wait ‘til you watch a disaster flick. There’s the Adorable Dog who is imperiled (cats, you see, are never in danger, probably because they’re evil) and is saved at the last second from the piles of lava plummeting his way. Then there’s the Cute Kid who doesn’t listen to his parents despite the fact that he’s in the thick of disaster. But fear not, he won’t be killed off — the Cute Kids are never killed off. And let’s not forget the Dumb Politician who doesn’t reveal what’s going to happen for a variety of stupid reasons, most notably, he or she doesn’t want to “create a panic.” Because, once the asteroids start pelting, there won’t be any panic at all. Then there’s the Close Personal Friend/Lover of the main character who dies tragically, but not before clinging to the main character and telling him or her that he or she can save the world. Of course, there’s always the standard Pregnant Lady About To Give Birth In the Middle of the Disaster and the Bratty Teenage Daughter — who I always hope will be killed off quickly. The main characters, meanwhile, always have the correct idea and know exactly what’s going to happen, but no one believes them because their ideas are inconceivable. As Kim Delany declares in “10.5”: “They don’t want answers, they want excuses … All they have to do is open their eyes.” You tell ‘em, Kim.

    And while movies like “Titanic” could be considered part of the disaster genre — since, you know, there are killer icebergs — a plot that revolves around timeless love ruins the entire point of these kinds of movies. Plot is secondary. Sure, there’s the obvious fact that the Token Recently Divorced Couple of the disaster movie is going to get back together. But the film doesn’t revolve around them. The film revolves around the awesome special effects and the landmarks being blown up.

    Living in California has given me a new appreciation for disaster movies. Despite being based on the West Coast, Hollywood seems to have a thing for getting it wrong. Therefore, it’s really fun when I hear things like, “There’s an 8.4 aftershock in Berkeley!” and then see the governor (based in Sacramento, of course) not feel a thing. Why? Because I actually approximately know the geography, so I know that if there’s a magnitude 8.4 earthquake in Berkeley, people in Sacramento will definitely feel it, thus making the craptastic feel of the movie even better. I think my favorite line from “10.5” was “I’m authorizing the evacuation of the entire West Coast.” Good job, Mr. President. That will get people out of danger. Imagine the traffic jams of people getting out of L.A., San Francisco, San Diego — and that’s just California traffic.

    Beware. The big one is coming.

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