Monday, December 9, 2013
The Release of Pompeii- I guess they were just waiting for the CGI to catch up?
Back in 1972, a little movie called The Poseidon Adventure launched the first Disaster Film Era. Over the rest of the decade, Hollywood dished out a seemingly endless series of mostly-bad films depicting B-actors finding themselves in Really Terrible Predicaments featuring tidal waves, volcanoes, meteors, fire, killer insects and amphibians- I was pretty sure that by the time the whole thing wound down around 1980 they hadn't left a single possible disaster scenario unexplored. Some of them had big budgets- there were the four Airport films. The Towering Inferno (that one had Paul Newman AND O.J. Simpson.) Meteor (which bankrupted a studio and almost ended Sean Connery's career.) Then there were the Direct-To-The-Drive-In low-budget Let's Make Ed Wood Proud features like The Killer Bees and The Frogs (I actually saw that one- the only scenes I remember were the ones with the guy being eaten by leeches and the end with the frogs riding on the record player. That was fun.)
According to my friend over at the Haphazardstuff.com blog, the release of the original (and by far the best) spoof film, Airplane! in 1980 pretty much nailed the coffin on an idea which had been worn threadbare anyway, and the first Disaster Film Era came to an unsung end. The 80s were dominated by Star Wars and Indiana Jones and Back to the Future, and our optimism didn't leave any room for screaming, desperate, frightened idiots trying to escape impending doom (unless the impending doom was in the form of a guy with a big knife wearing a hockey mask.)
In the 90s we had a mini-revival of the Disaster Film craze with Twister (if you've never seen it, you must not own a TV, because with the possible exception of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, I don't think any film has been rebroadcast as often) Armageddon, Deep Impact (despite the aforementioned failure of Meteor, Hollywood seemed pretty convinced that there was an appetite for Big Rocks Falling from Space to kill us story lines,) Volcano, Dante's Peak (which should have convinced the Broccolis to stick with Dalton. Idiots.) And of course the ultimate disaster flick, the most overrated film of all time, Titanic.*
More recently, we've had a Poseidon remake. Let's just forget that one, shall we?
Well, maybe my readers won't believe this, but more than a decade ago, while watching Gladiator and wondering how many togas-and-sandals imitators it would spawn, I found myself also wondering why Hollywood hadn't recreated the story of Pompeii since around the silent era. Maybe it was considered during the first two Disaster Eras and rejected as too pricey? So the only thing I find surprising about the impending release of Pompeii is what took so long. Sure, Showtime gave us Spartacus: Sweat, Sex and Sandals (ok, I don't really know what each season is called, I just know the show lasted longer than the actual slave rebellion) and HBO the superior Rome, but the story of the Big Volcano that Blew Up and Gave Us an Awesomely Preserved Tourist Attraction seemed like a lost opportunity at the time.
But here it is. I'm sure it's going to be awful- but that's fine, as long as it doesn't lead to another Disaster Film Era. I think the next Batman film will be more than enough disaster for this decade.
*Rose killed Jack. She had multiple opportunities to just get on one of the lifeboats, and each time she refused so she could continue to be a millstone around Jack's neck. If she had just left him to take care of himself and not have to worry about saving her helpless butt every few minutes, he would have been on that raft by himself and they would have met up with the other survivors at the end. Idiot.