Hollywood studios have been locked in a fierce battle to produce cinema's most thrilling disaster movie. We take a look at
the evolution of the disaster film genre.
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The Evolution of Hollywood Disaster Movies
Forces of nature, asteroids and aliens, welcome to watchmojo.com. And today, we’ll be taking a look at the evolution of the disaster film genre.
Disaster stories are as old as the Bible. And many have been produced since early cinema. But in the 1970’s, the genre evolved. Disaster films became a box office craze carried by extraordinary budgets, special effects, and the involvement of Hollywood’s biggest talent. During the 70’s, disaster movies shifted from a focus on smaller scale individual catastrophes like 1972’s “The Poseidon Adventure” and 1974’s “The Towering Inferno”. The notion of an entire city experiencing disaster materialized in the 1974 film “Earthquake” which starred Charlton Heston. Its overwhelming success guaranteed that audiences would be hammered for the following decade with countless disaster films of all varieties from several competing studios.
Hollywood oversaturated the genre until box office bombs such as 1978’s “The Swarm” featuring Michael Caine became the norm. As public interest faded, studios became convinced that the real disasters were the financial bombs being financed. After a long break from the genre, the 90’s saw disaster movies reemerged. This time, due to the arrival of computer-generated graphics, which largely replaced practical effects.
1996’s “Independence Day” shook audiences with its unparalleled onscreen effects and mayhem. The film illustrated a possible alien extermination of mankind and thrilled audiences with Will Smith’s cool onscreen presence and one-liners. This triumph in the box office jump started an all new studio race to produce the greatest onscreen disaster. The following summers were filled with double dozes of similar disasters by competing studios. In 1997, 20th Century Fox released “Volcano”, while Universal Pictures fought back with “Dante’s Peak” as they each suck to capitalize on the public’s rekindled love of large scale special effects driven disasters. The following summer, audiences were again given two slices of the same pie when “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact” arrived on the silver screen. Both films both had star-studded cast and budgets bigger than the asteroids shown on screen.
In 2003, audiences got to see a group of scientists attempt to save earth while tremors shook the globe in the core. While 2004’s “The Day after Tomorrow” capitalized on our fears of Global Warming. In 2009, audiences were presented with the film “Knowing” which exploited the idea that disasters have been predicted and maybe avoided. This notion appeared again in the Roland Emmerich film “2012”. The film illustrates the end of the world according to the ancient Mayan calendar. With several extreme disasters working simultaneously to end the world, the film was labeled, the ultimate disaster movie.