After a brief hiatus we are now in our 8th edition of the MM Top 5, and as promised this fortnight’s topic is of epic proportions.
We’re going to be looking at the best Disaster Scenes that have ever been brought to film. Whether that be the destruction of the entire world or something a little smaller in scale, each of the 5 entries have been watched and hand-picked by myself and are truly, absolutely, 100% epic.
5. The Battle of Hogwarts: Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt 2
For fans of the Harry Potter franchise, we always knew that this would end up being a battle of epic proportions, but I doubt many were truly prepared for what we saw in Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2. After a disappointing adaptation of Half Blood Prince, which completely bypassed JK Rowling’s epic finale battle in the astronomy tower, fans were thirsty for destruction and director David Yates certainly brought that to them in the last instalment.
From the arrival of giants, tarantulas and death eaters, to the use of Hogwarts’ best defences, the entire sequence is shot perfectly with wonderful special effects and some truly harrowing scenes. The loss of major characters ensured there was an emotional element mixed in with all the action, creating a perfect recipe for success. Let’s not also forget the amazing soundtrack which accompanied the scene and the sweeping shots of Hogwarts castle showing the destruction on a grand scale – it really was superbly directed and choreographed.
However, a lack of screen-time meant that the battle, as epic as it was, didn’t last long enough and before the audience knew it, it was over. This was especially true for the deaths of certain characters which were given a pitiful lack of acknowledgement. For this reason The Battle of Hogwarts, as inspiring and jaw-dropping as it was, can only place at number 5 in this list.
4. The Wave: Deep Impact
1998 was a film which was dominated by two disaster films. The first being Deep Impact was the more emotional film, a movie which along with the action remembered its characters. The other was of course Armageddon, directed by one of the kings of blockbuster cinema, Michael Bay.
Bay’s film doesn’t feature in this list because the lack of emotion invested in the characters meant no-one truly cared whether they lived or died, it was simply popcorn entertainment with no investment in the cast and their roles.
Mimi Leder, the director of Deep Impact came up with a film which did invest in its characters and because of that it is the stronger of the two, despite the box office figures pointing to the contrary. In both films, a comet is the cause of disaster as it hurtles towards Earth and causes catastrophic damage once it strikes.
The scene we are looking at in Deep Impact is as the comet hits the planet. Water is notoriously difficult to produce in CGI and the fact that the film required a huge tidal wave proved difficult for the animators but even now, 15 years on, the special effects in this sequence still hold up. From the death of two lead characters, to the toppling of the Statue of Liberty, everything is done with the utmost care and attention to detail meaning that The Wave places at number 4 in this fortnight’s list.
3. The White House: Independence Day
The first and only sci-fi film to feature in this list comes straight in at number 3. Independence Day is arguably the best alien invasion film there has ever been and I doubt there will be one which succeeds in taking its crown.
The scene in question lasts less than 10 seconds, but that’s all you need to appreciate just how unbelievable it actually is. We all know that aliens have better technology than us humans do, that’s how films have painted it over the years, but the destruction of the White House is down-right cheeky.
There are no actors involved and everything is done with brilliant special effects, from the laser beam that penetrates the building to the fireball which engulfs a waiting helicopter, everything is done in epic scale, and seeing the White House blown up by some of E.T’s less friendly cousins is truly spectacular. Like Deep Impact, the special effects in Independence Day still look good today and for that reason, a bronze medal awaits The White House.
2. Grand Stairway Flooding: Titanic
The silver medal in this fortnight’s MM Top 5 goes James Cameron’s Titanic, a film which told the story of the ships disastrous maiden voyage in unbelievable detail. Whilst many, including myself, would criticise the film for being excruciatingly long and unbelievably sloppy, there is no denying that when Titanic goes down, it goes down in style.
The scene looked at here includes the flooding of the Grand Stairway, a major turning point towards the end of the film which put the main romantic plot on the back-burner and brought forward some much needed action and adrenaline. It is the highlight of a film which had been bogged down by needless characters, wooden acting and dull storytelling.
The special effects, whilst not matching the ones seen in Independence Day and Deep Impact, still look reasonably fresh today and there’s something truly excruciating in seeing all those people running in fear, knowing in truth that they had no way of surviving. For me, the most harrowing part is down to the fact that this could so easily happen again today, and knowing how unlikely survival is makes this even the more disastrous. A well-deserved silver medal goes to The Grand Stairway Flooding.
1. The Destruction of LA: 2012
So the 8th edition of MM Top 5 reaches its top spot. Disaster films are perhaps one of my favourite genres in cinema and it’s unfortunate that only a couple of good movies come along in a wave of terrible, clichéd and poorly acted travesties.
None of those points can be said for 2012, directed by the man who loves to blow up things – Roland Emmerich. He is to disaster movies what Dairylea is to cheese and boy does he know how to create tension. 2012 is the ultimate disaster movie because literally everything is destroyed. It may not have the searing character development of Deep Impact or the peerless special effects of The Day After Tomorrow, in fact as a whole the film itself is merely average, but in creating a movie this big, a couple of things were going to come up short.
Thankfully, the destruction was not one of them. The scene in question involves the complete obliteration of Los Angeles; one of America’s most loved and highly populated cities.
The scene is brimming with little details which other films from other directors may have missed; moments like when the ground collapses and in doing so reveals the network of subway systems LA is famous for, with trains full of passengers crashing into each other and bursting through the rubble and skyscrapers toppling onto the unsuspecting pedestrians below, leaving a trail of broken glass and twisted steel as they do; it is these small details which make the film as a whole, the ultimate disaster movie.
There are many standout moments in 2012, but for me, this really is the pinnacle of destruction and The Destruction of LA fully deserves the gold medal in this fortnight’s MM Top 5.
As always, there are a few films which simply cannot make the cut, but they are featured in my ‘An Honourable Mention’ list below, check them out and see what you think. Also, vote in the poll below to let me know your favourite and if none of them take your fancy, leave a comment, I reply to them all.
Hometree Destruction – Avatar
Statue of Liberty’s Decapitation – Cloverfield
The Destruction of New York – The Day After Tomorrow
Paris is Destroyed – Armageddon
The Sinking of Poseidon – Poseidon Remake
Bridge Collapse – Final Destination 5
The Final Wave – The Abyss: Director’s Cut