30 Dec 2015

DISASTER FILM - Analysis [Part 4]

Films have formulas and rules, but how well do films follow those formulas?  Are the Disaster Film Rules accurate?

The results for the rest of the rules for Disaster Films.  (Continued from Part 1Part 2 & Part 3).

Ten films were tested:

RULE #7 - Last Ditch Group


There will often be a hand chosen group of experts and scientists who are the only ones who can go on a special mission to stop or solve the disaster.  They will be woefully undertrainned and there will be conflict between the specialists and the miltiary/pilots.
  • Main characters Jaws; Airplane!; Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow; Into The Storm.
  • Main characterAirport 1975; Daylight.
  • External extras The Poseidon Adventure; The Towering Inferno; Dante's Peak.


There will often be a final group of survivors, often gathered together from unrelated groups killed off one-by-one who will band together to survive.  And argue about surviving.
  • Small group - The Poseidon Adventure; The Towering Inferno; Daylight.
  • Everyone - Airport 1975; Airplane!; Dante's Peak; Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow; Into The Storm.
  • None - Jaws

RULE #8 - Ridiculous Solutions


There will be a successful attempt to outrun, out drive or out fly something that should easily catch up.
  • Tsunami - Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow; Into The Storm.
  • Water - The Poseidon Adventure; Daylight.
  • WindThe Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.
  • LavaDante's Peak.
  • FireThe Towering Inferno.
  • ColdThe Day After Tomorrow.
  • Shark/Sinking boat - Jaws.
  • NoneAirport 1975; Airplane!

A plan

In the end the hero will come up with a completely ridiculous solution (or have had it all along, it just hasn't been tested yet and is a foolhardy invention that no one believes will work) that has no chance of working in the real world.  The sort of thing that only someone in a completely desperate situation would think up; someone like the survivor of a disaster or a writer with third act problems.

  • Crazy planThe Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno; Airport 1975; Airplane!; Deep Impact.
  • Spur of the moment idea - Jaws; Daylight; Dante's Peak; Into the Storm.
  • No real plan The Day After Tomorrow.
Plan Source:
  • Hero's plan - The Poseidon Adventure; Jaws; Daylight; Dante's Peak; Deep Impact.
  • Son's planInto the Storm.
  • The authority's planThe Towering Inferno; Airport 1975; Airplane!

Big & simple

The solution will be big, simple enough to explain to the audience and something that can be the FX highlight of the film.


  • SimpleThe Poseidon Adventure; The Towering Inferno; Airport 1975; Jaws; Airplane!; Daylight; Dante's Peak; Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.

  • Big The Towering Inferno; Deep Impact.
  • BigishAirport 1975; Jaws; Airplane!Daylight; Dante's Peak.
  • NoThe Poseidon Adventure; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.

  • FX The Towering Inferno; Daylight; Dante's Peak; Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.
  • Some - Airport 1975; Jaws.
  • No The Poseidon Adventure; Airplane!

Critical fail

The device or whatever will have a final critical failure something that can only be fix by some unlikely fact or object inexplicably mentioned earlier in the film.
  • YesThe Poseidon Adventure; The Towering Inferno; Airport 1975; Jaws; Airplane!; Daylight; Dante's Peak; Deep Impact; Into the Storm.


There will be competing countdowns - the impending major event of the disaster and the countdown to the fix.  But there will always be enough time for a deep and meaningful discussion about the nature of love and sacrifice.
  • Time sensitive - The Poseidon Adventure; Jaws; Daylight; Dante's Peak; Deep Impact.
  • Time senitive, limited timer The Towering Inferno.
  • Some time sensitivityAirport 1975; Airplane!; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.

  • Almost too late The Towering Inferno; Jaws; Daylight; Dante's Peak; Deep Impact.


The solution will be something that is inexplicably instantaneous (apart from a few spot fires) and doesn't cause more death and destruction than the disaster itself, even if it should.
  • Yes - The Poseidon Adventure; Jaws;  Airplane!; Daylight; Deep Impact; Into the Storm.
  • Quick The Towering Inferno.
  • DelayedAirport 1975; Dante's Peak; The Day After Tomorrow.


The solution should involve the male lead needing to be too close and not being visible and - gasp, probably dead - until he steps out of the smoke.

  • Very - Airport 1975; Daylight; Dante's Peak; Into the Storm.
  • Some - The Towering Inferno; Airplane!
  • Not - The Poseidon Adventure; Jaws; Deep ImpactThe Day After Tomorrow.


If possible, it will involve a nuke.
  • NukeDeep Impact.
  • Explosion - The Towering Inferno; Jaws; Daylight.
  • NotThe Poseidon Adventure; Airport 1975; Airplane!; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.
  • Natural explosionDante's Peak.

RULE #9 - Happily Ever After

Reunited & Together

The main couple will be reunited, emotionally and physically.
  • Yes - The Towering Inferno; Airport 1975; Airplane!; The Day After Tomorrow.
  • Get together - Daylight; Dante's Peak.
  • Not emotionally separated - Jaws.
  • No main couple - The Poseidon Adventure; Deep ImpactInto the Storm.


There will be an acknowledgement that the leading man was right all along.
  • Yes - The Poseidon Adventure,  The Towering Inferno; Jaws; Daylight; Dante's Peak; Deep ImpactThe Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.
  • N/AAirport 1975; Airplane!


There will be an acceptance that this disaster was almost divine retribution for the actions of humans, especially to try to defy nature.
  • Yes - The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.
  • Partial  The Towering Inferno; Jaws.
  • NoneThe Poseidon Adventure; Airport 1975; Airplane!; Daylight; Dante's Peak; Deep Impact.


This will be a lesson not to ignore the danger sign/build skyscrapers so high/cut costs/live in a hurricane zone.  Mankind will remember this and learn from its mistakes.
  • Explictly stated - The Towering Inferno; Dante's Peak; The Day After Tomorrow.
  • Different lessonThe Poseidon Adventure; Airplane!; Daylight; Deep ImpactInto the Storm.
  • None Airport 1975; Jaws.

Or not...

Except will it?  Will man ever really learn?

  • Probably not - The Towering Inferno; Dante's Peak; The Day After Tomorrow.
  • Personal lessionThe Poseidon Adventure; Airplane!; Daylight; Deep ImpactInto the Storm.
  • None to learn from Airport 1975; Jaws


It will be sunrise if they've struggled all night, or sunset if they've struggled all day.  It's a time of change and is beautiful.

  • Day time - Deep Impact
  • Next Day - The Poseidon Adventure; Airplane!; Daylight; 
  • Still night - The Poseidon Adventure;
  • All morningAirport 1975
  • Faux night - Dante's Peak; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.
  • Unknown - Jaws


The whole scene will be some how beautiful.  Wisps of smoke, small fires and rescue personal wandering around and everything.  Like a romance, it will all somehow be beautiful.

  • Yes - Jaws; 
  • A little  - The Poseidon Adventure; Airport 1975
  • Messy The Towering Inferno; Airplane!;

RULE #10 - Sequels


There will be few sequels as a second unbelievable disaster would be just unbelievable.
  • A sequel & sequels Airport 1975
  • Sequels - The Poseidon Adventure; Jaws; Airplane!
  • None The Towering Inferno; Daylight; Dante's Peak; Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.


There may be some remakes or trips to the same well of ideas.
  • Has remakes - The Poseidon Adventure.
  • A remakeAirplane!
  • Similar films simultaneouslyDante's Peak; Deep Impact.
  • None -  The Towering Inferno; Airport 1975; Jaws; Daylight; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.

More Deaths

Over the time the death count will increase.

  • Country/Planet -  Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow.
  • Town/regionDante's Peak; Into the Storm.
  • Limited (100s) - The Poseidon Adventure; The Towering Inferno; Daylight.
  • A few - Airport 1975; Jaws.
  • None - Airplane!

  • 4 - 10 - The Poseidon Adventure; 
  • 6The Towering Inferno;
  • 4 - Jaws; Daylight; Dante's Peak
  • 3 - Airport 1975;
  • 0 - Airplane!

More Effects

Over the time the size of the area effected will increase:  one building or vessel, one town... one side of the US... the entire planet...
  • The Poseidon Adventure - Ship model, flooding, explosions, titling set.
  • The Towering Inferno - Tower model, fire, flooding, explosions.  Helicopter crash.
  • Airport 1975  - Planes.
  • Jaws - Bad shark
  • Airplane! - Plane crashing into terminal.
  • Daylight - Car chase, Explosions, tunnel collapse, flooding, etc.
  • Dante's Peak - Volcanos, ash, more ash.  Helicopter crash.

Better Effects
  • The Poseidon Adventure - Obvious models, stuntmen.
  • The Towering Inferno - Obvious models, stuntmen.
  • Airport 1975  - Rear projection, large sections of fake plane.
  • Jaws - Bad shark.

  • Building or vehicle - The Poseidon Adventure; The Towering Inferno; Airport 1975; Airplane; Daylight; 
  • Local area Jaws (ocean only); Dante's Peak; Into the Storm.
  • Most of planet Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow.

More Formulaic

Over time the films will follow the formula more.

  • The formula is all over the place.  Early films are made by the same people so have a formula, while later ones follow the genre formula that develops.  The films also are hindered by the type of disaster chosen which limits the abilities to follow formula.  A big change was moving away from the existing separated couple to the first meeting that Hollywood seems to love.

~ DUG.
Please do the survey below to determine future rule sets.

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