Films have formulas and rules, but how well do Disaster films follow those formulas?
Deep Impact (1998) a disaster film about a comet coming to hit the Earth. And not the similar competing film from the same year.
The following will include spoilers for
Deep Impact (1998)
RULE #1 - Characters
"I know you're just a reporter, but you used to be a person, right?" ~ Alan Rittenhouse
- Male lead - Jenny Lerner, reporter. Obsessed with chasing a story no one else is interested in, but quickly gets her acclaim. No action hero stuff. Yeah, she's female, but that doesn't mean she can't be a male lead. Leo Biederman, nerdy kid. Outsider at school, but instant acclaim when he discovers the comet. Rides a motorbike but that's as action heroey as he gets. The spacecraft crew get the minimal action hero stuff.
- An Important Person - President Beck, president. The President withheld information about the comet, but it mostly portray in a less greedy or selfish manner to most of these characters.
- The usurped official - Alan Rittenhouse. Partially: the Secretary of the Treasury who resigns at the beginning.
- Female lead - Sarah Hotchner. The love interest, then wife, of the male lead.
- The experienced tradesman - Spurgeon Tanner, astronaut. Counts as an experienced tradesman in comparison to the younger crew.
- A nerdy/geeky expert - Leo Biederman.
- A typical family - The Biedermans and the Hotchners.
- The child - The Hotchner baby. Also Beth's daughter. The astronauts had kids too.
- The older woman - Robin Lerner.
- Not appearing in this film -The new man; The loving couple; The bickering couple; The tired couple; Someone religious; The criminal; The joker; The wash-out, Relatives of the important guy; Minor celebrity, Animals.
RULE #2 - Sex & Nudity
"Famous people always get sex, Mr. Perry. That's the main reason it's good to be famous." ~ Jason Thurman.
- Nudity - No nudity.
- Sex - No sex, a small amount of discussion of a previousan a non-existent current, sex scandal and the amount of sex a teen will get due to his fame.
RULE #3 - The Disaster
"... there was a remote possibility that the comet was on a path that could bring it into direct contact with the Earth." ~ President Beck.
- Manmade Disaster - The efforts of mankind actually reduce the scale of the disaster.
- Unreal - Certainly has scientific inaccuracies.
- True story - In 1991 the US Congress directed NASA to look into the detection and deflection/destruction of Earth threatening asteroids. In 1994 the House Committee on Science and Technology directed NASA with the DOD to chart objects larger than a kilometer.
- The moment - When the comet strikes.
- Ongoing - Briefly, so no.
- Sudden end - Very despite the obvious damage done to civilisation.
RULE #4 - Endangered
"We always thought the deadline for public knowledge was the publication of next year's budget since we've spent more money than we can account for." ~ President Beck.
- Warning issued too late - The warning was issued late but there wasn't much that could be done about it.
- Rescuers - Leo Bieberman who leaves going for shelter to go back for Sarah. Also the astronauts.
- The stubborn - Sarah Hotchner refuses to go to a shelter without her family.
- Meetings - Not really meetings but survivors are chosen from the population.
- Criminal activity - There are news reports of murders and criminal activity causing deaths.
- Did not happen - Warnings, An Event; Unheard warnings; Fear; Arguments, Sneaking out.
RULE #5 - Destruction
"Still, we were left with the devastation of the first. The waters reached as far inland as the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. It washed away farms and towns, forests and skyscrapers. But, the water receded. The wave hit Europe and Africa too. Millions were lost, and countless more left homeless." ~ President Beck.
- Panoramic opening - The night sky panning down to kids with telescopes, not as panoramic as most.
- Warning bouts of destruction - None.
- Landmarks - New York, with special reference to the Statue of Liberty the Twin Towers, the Washington Arch, Time Square, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Chrysler Building.
- The tipping point - The first chunk hitting the ocean.
- Ongoing destruction - None, the destruction is relatively brief.
- The final event - The tsunami, really.
RULE #6 - Death
"Well, look on the bright side. We'll all have high schools named after us." ~ Andrea Baker.
- Prelude deaths - None.
- Mass casualties -When the first comet chunk hits.
- The black guy - One of the astronauts, hardly fits the rule as it was one of the white guys who died before the others. The President survives,
- An important person - The President survives.
- The experienced tradesman One of the astronauts, sort of fits the rule.
- Reminders of danger - Astronaut Gus Partenza, lost in space as a reminder that the last ditch mission was dangerous.
- The older woman - Robin Lerner, commits suicide.
- The noble death - Jenny Lerner gives up her place in the helicopter and therefore her place in the helicopter. She then goes to dies on the beach with her estranged fahter.
- Sacrifice - The astronauts who sacrifice themselves to save most of humanity.
- Panic - The gridlock due heading away from the tsunami.
- One half of a couple - almost all the astronauts.
- Children - Sarah's parents give her the baby so it survives. There are other "lost" children who seem less lucky.
- Pets - Pets probably dies, specifically the dog at the Hotchner house.
- The male lead - Leo survives, Jenny dies. Jenny's death is noble and involves a sacrifise earlier in the film.
- Deaths not occuring - Bad options, The usurped official; The bad coward;, Slow death; The good coward.
RULE #7 - Last Ditch Group
"Your mother and I used to play a game when she was still alive. Now, the game was, if there was a chance I might not be coming back, she wouldn't say it, and I wouldn't say it. OK?" ~ Spurgeon Tanner.
- Heroes - Spurgeon Tanner and his crew. Conflict between the older experienced Tanner and his crew. The crew has a token Russian, token woman, token black man and two white Americans (three including Tanner). Their story takes up a lot of time in the early to mid-sections of the film, and plays an important role near the end.
- Survivors - Really only briefly Leo and Sarah and the baby.
RULE #8 - Ridiculous Solutions
"Okay. If we can get the remaining bombs in that vent, there shouldn't be anything left of that comet bigger than a suitcase. Now, we can't do anything about the little one, but you know... it just might give them a chance. Now, without the arming codes, we're going to have to wait to set the bomb timers until we get closer to Earth, to raise Houston." ~ Spurgeon Tanner.
- Outrun - Lots of people try to outrun, or out ride the tsunami caused by the comet hitting.
- A plan - There are a couple of plans. Drill to the center of the comet and blow it up fails. Sending nukes fails. Finally crash the spaceship into the comet and blow it up succeeds.
- Big & simple - All involve blowing up a big chuck of ice in space.
- Critical fail - The previous plans were critical fails.
- Time - The comet is heading towards Earth. Also, one of the crew's families is running late.
- Instant - The film ends 2.5 minutes after the explosion, about the length of the President's speech about how sure lots of stuff was destroyed but everything will be all right.
- Dangerous - It did kill the crew. Obviously.
- Explosive - Blowing up the comet, followed by the light show of smaller pieces burning up.
RULE #9 - Happily Ever After
"But the waters receded. Cities fall, but they are rebuilt. And heroes die, but they are remembered. We honor them with every brick we lay, with every field we sow, With every child we comfort, and then teach to rejoice in what we have been re-given. Our planet. Our home. So now, let us begin." ~ President Beck.
- Reunited: Leo and Sarah are together again after being separated.
- Together: They are shown together on a mountaintop watching the remains of the comet burn up.
- Vindicated: Not really.
- Retribution: No indication that it was nature's retribution.
- Lesson: The President's life goes on and is a great gift and heroes are remembered speech.
- Or not...: Because, people are people.
- Sunrise: Not tied to a time of day, really. It was overcast in New York when the wave hit, sunny when the couple are watching the light show, but that's as close as it gets.
- Beautiful: The light show is beautiful, the rebuilding of the Capitol Building is probably ruin-porn.
RULE #10 - Sequels
"Hey, I'm a child of the movies, Fish." ~ Oren Monash.
- Sequels - No sequels.
- Remakes - No remakes.
No sequels. However, notes are made for future reference.
- More deaths - Unknown number in the tsunami and panic in the lead up to the impact. Probably in the millions across the globe.
- More effects - For much the film few effects apart from the comet, big disaster effects once it hits, with the biggers effects so far in this selection of films.
- Better effects - Still hold up.
- More Formulaic - A little all over the place in terms of formula, divided between 3 stories and the first world-scale film in the selection.