5 Aug 2015

DISASTER FILMS - Dante's Peak (1997)

Films have formulas and rules, but how well do Disaster films follow those formulas?

Dante's Peak (1997) a disaster film about a volcano.  That's it really.

RULE #1 - Characters

"I've always been better at feeling out volcanoes than people and politics." ~ Harry Dalton.
  • Male lead - Harry Dalton.  Expert on volcanoes, not up sidelined, but ultra-sensitive to alerting people to the danger due to the events of the opening credits.  He is sidelined briefly until he promises to behave better.
  • An important person - Elliot Blair.  Of Blair Industries who is planning to invest in the town and declares he's withdrawing from the town immediately that it is put on alert.  Norman Gates is the town official who fights the idea of putting the town on alert.
  • Female lead - Rachel Wando.  The local Mayor and has no prior connection to the male lead.  As Mayor she's an important person, but has a more balanced view.
  • The experienced tradesman - Paul Dreyfus.  Actually a scientist (and Harry's boss) not a tradesman and due to his own experiences is ultra-sensitive to accidentally bankrupting towns with alerts.
  • A nerdy/geeky expert - The US Geological Survey team, apart from Harry and Paul, they are a group of geeky token characters (the fat guy, the Middle Eastern-American, the Asian-American, the girl.)
  • A typical family The Wandos,Mayor Rachel and her two children, Graham and Lauren.
  • The child - Graham & Lauren, obviously.
  • Animals - Ruffy, Ruth's dog.
  • The older woman - Ruth, the grandmother of the Wando children.
  • Not appearing in this film -The usurped official; The new man; The loving couple; The bickering couple; The tired couple; Someone religiousThe criminal; The joker; The wash-out, Relatives of the important guy; Minor celebrity.

RULE #2 - Sex & Nudity

"Sometimes couples sneak up here for a hot dip." ~ Rachel Wando.
"And some hot nookie." ~ Ruth.
  • Nudity - Suggested nudity (mainly for the female) of a couple skinny dipping in the Hot Spring (vague full backal of burnt and scarred corpses when they're found later.)
  • Sex - No sex, the skinny dipping couple kiss but that's it.  Rachel & Harry were about to have sex when children and a contaminated water supply intervened.

RULE #3 - The Disaster

"Isn't this beautiful, nestled all nice and cozy right up against the mountain?" ~ Stan.
"Yeah, just like Pompeii." ~ Nancy.
  • Manmade Disaster - A volcano, obviously, is a natural disaster.  There are more deaths due to the delayed warnings.
  • Unreal -  As always, some of the events seem a little unrealistic.
  • True story - The names Pompeii and Mt Saint Helens are invoked.
  • The moment - The eruption of the volcano (obviously).
  • Ongoing - The eruption continues throughout the film.
  • Sudden end - The second eruption seems to end the disaster (there are still mine collapses though).

RULE #4 - Endangered

"We began to talk about the possibility of putting that town on alert.  Thank God the mountain didn't go up, but the damage had already been done.   The word leaked out that the USGS had expressed concern.   So the tourists panicked and stayed away.   The real estate values plummeted, and the town nearly went bankrupt." ~ Paul Dreyfus.
  • Warnings - Dead animals, and the dead couple in the hot spring.
  • Warning issued too late - The eruption occurs during the town meeting warning the citizens.
  • An Event -  The town meeting to alert everyone of the danger.
  • Rescuers -  Lauren and Harry go to save their grandmother Ruth.
  • The stubborn - Ruth, refuses to come down.
  • Sneaking out - Lauren and Harry go to save their grandmother Ruth, which sort of counts as sneaking out.
  • Meetings - A city council meeting is called immediately that the couple is found.  There's a town meeting later (see the Event).
  • Did not happen - Unheard warnings; Fear; Criminal activity; Arguments.

RULE #5 - Destruction

"Harry? Harry, I don't know whether you can hear me. It's Paul.   Harry, the bridge is about to go. We got everybody out." ~ Paul Dreyfus.
  • Panoramic opening - Brief travel through clouds but ends suddenly with a volcanic eruption and leads to the chaos and panic of people fleeing it.
  • Warning bouts of destruction - A couple is killed in the Twonset Hot Springs, but almost immediately.  Also dead squirrels.
  • Landmarks - No landmarks destroyed. but if the monitor was real it may be one.
  • The tipping point - The eruption of the volcano, causing buildings and signs to collapse and a rain of rocks.
  • Ongoing destruction - After the initial eruption, amidst the engulfing ash cloud there's the obvious lava flow, obviously, as well as acidification of surrounding water and the a dam collapse.
  • The final event - The USGS team decide that there's going to be a further, bigger eruption which occurs towards the end.

RULE #6 - Death

"I get to stay on my mountain." ~ Ruth.
  • Prelude deaths - The hot spring couple.
  • Mass casualties - The unknown, but very large number of deaths in the initial destruction caused by the shaking from the eruption.  People on screen (in buildings and in the open) seem to miraculously survive, but cars on the collapsing roadway probably died (although the cars looked weirdly empty.)
  • The black guy - Stan & Greg, survive.  Both a members of the USGS team.  It was a very white town.
  • An important person - Both pay to be on the helicopter that crushes and explodes.
  • The experienced tradesman  Paul, killed when the bridge collapsed moments after everyone else escaped.  Stayed behind longer than necessary, probably out of guilt from the wrong call.
  • Slow death; The older woman; Sacrifice/The noble deathThe good coward - Ruth.  The older woman, as noted above.  Calling her a coward is going too far, but she didn't want to leave the mountain which cause the other to be in danger and then jumped into the acidic water to drag the boat to shore which killed her, eventually (but saved her grandchildren.  It was a slow death (she survived for some time after) but her last moments fulfilled the "slow death" trope of allowing goodbyes.
  • Bad options - The mercenary helicopter pilot and his passengers.
  • Panic - The town meeting during the eruption there was panic and at least one person falling and being stepped on, but that person survived.  Cars crashing, trying to cross the river and the helicopter probably count.
  • Children - Lauren & Graham survive.  There is an upset child shown alone on during an eruption but it's never followed up.
  • Pets - Ruffy, Ruth's pet miraculously survives and is rescued by the family.  Ruth had already died while Ruffy was absent.  Non-pet squirrels die. 
  • The male lead - Harry survives.
  • Deaths not occuring -  The usurped official; The bad coward;  Reminders of danger; One half of a couple.

RULE #7 - Last Ditch Group

"I'm gonna stay as long as I can, but I want you guys to leave right now." ~ Paul Dreyfus.
"No way, Paul. We're not gonna walk out on God's big show, right?" ~ Stan.
  • Heroes - Lauren & Graham to save Ruth, followed by Harry & Rachel to save Lauren & Graham.
  • Survivors  Harry & the Wandons.

RULE #8 - Ridiculous Solutions

"It's a transmitter designed by NASA. We were testing it for them.  I was hoping it would send a signal so people would realize we were down here." ~ Harry Dalton.
  • Outrun -  Lots of things mostly lava and eruptions, generally, but not solely, in 4WD vehicles.
  • A plan  Harry clearly plans to get into the abandoned mine.  He doesn't share it with anyone but he sets it up.
  • Big & simple -   Not sure if it was part of the plan but the timing meant they had to smash their way into the mine with their vehicle.
  • Critical fail -  They end up trapped in the mine, so that's a fail.
  • Time -  They had to race to get into the mine.  Also there was the problem of being found and dug out.
  • Instant - Although not "in actuality" instant the scene went from seeing the ELF indicator light to Harry being pulled from the mine and moments later Rachel and her children.
  • Dangerous -  Did I mention the smashing through the doors and getting trapped in a mine during an eruption.
  • Explosive - The whole town was exploding, so the door smashing was pretty minor.

RULE #9 - Happily Ever After

"Ever been deep sea fishing?
"Neither have I. Listen, when we get out of here, we'll go to Florida, and we'll get us a boat, and gather all of the yummy bait that we can possibly get our hands on, then we'll catch us a big, old fat fish." ~ Harry Dalton.
  • Reunited:  Not together to be reunited.
  • Together:  The female lead does say she thinks she want to go to the hospital with the male lead.
  • Vindicated:  His urge to warn the community sooner was.
  • Retribution:  No indication that it was nature's retribution.
  • Lesson:  No lesson.
  • Or not...:  As noted, no lesson.
  • Sunrise:  The initial explosion brought an ash cloud that turned day into night, when it cleared later it seemed like morning. However, that was prior to the major explosion.
  • Beautiful:  A helicopter flies over the ruined town, a little beautiful despite the mess.

RULE #10 - Sequels

"Why look at the computer when you can look at the real thing?" ~ Nancy.
  • Sequels -  No sequels.
  • Remakes - No remakes.
No sequels.    However, notes are made for future reference.
  • More deaths - Unknown number in the initial explosion and aftermath, some suggestions of mass escape and rescue.  Only 4 named characters shown to die.
  • More effects - The effects were about the level of Daylight for most of the film, good, quick and effective.  Then the final explosion came, where they went wild with model town explosions and a shockwave/ash chase.
  • Better effects - Bigger than Daylight.
  • More Formulaic - Formula but very tightly done with relatively few characters.
~ DUG.
Please do the survey to determine future rule sets.

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