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What the stream; bring on those dramatic disaster movies!

Hollywood loves disaster movies and frankly, so do I. It's sort of a 'guilty pleasure' of mine. Generally, it is the visual aspect that attracts me the most: the eruption of a volcano, an earthquake tearing the world apart - as a resident of Groningen, I have somewhat revised my opinion on the entertainment value of earthquakes - or a metre-high wave engulfing the earth. Essential for me is a chemistry between the protagonists and the storyline should not be too absurd, as in, say Sharknado.

For depth or an original plot, you are in the wrong place with a disaster film, as they are generally full of clichés and have a predictable ending. In a time of uncertainty, though, this can be reassuring. Like now, in pandemic time, when the Netherlands is (un)voluntarily sitting at home thanks to the coronavirus that is also racing through our country like crazy.

Far from your bed show

Of course, plenty of natural disasters occur in the world, especially now with climate change. The standard disaster movie has a scenario where the situation is magnified or literally 'out of this world'. Although most films have a kernel of truth and an underlying message, the focus is still on entertainment. It is Hollywood fiction. In the Netherlands, we do not (yet) have to worry about a huge tsunami destroying Scheveningen and its surroundings, a volcano leaving Drenthe in sackcloth and ashes. Zombies sweeping through Friesland. Or about a huge earthquake that will tear apart the Martinitoren and the rest of the province...but opinions are still divided on that. Still, because of the realistic element, as a viewer you put yourself in the shoes of the film characters; what would you do in their place?

It could always be worse but it always works out

A disaster movie revolves around a 'worst case' scenario. The plot is almost always the same. Everything seems lost. Cities go under. Humanity is doomed. In bunches, they fall prey to destructive nature or hostile forces of aliens. Zombies drive humans into a corner, only to eventually conscript them into their army of death. Chaos. With excitement, you sit on the sofa, sympathise and get sucked into the story. However, in the back of your mind, you know it will all work out. These clichés can offer some guidance during this uncertain and unsettled period. Switch off your head and get carried away.

What seems unwise to me personally is to watch films like Outbreak or Virus.

This strikes me as a case of being too close to home. We are already too exposed (no pun intended) to a viral epidemic; just look at the news or on social media for that.

What and where to stream?

After the Thursday 12 March measures and especially after Rutte's press conference, I noticed that I needed this kind of entertainment. I plunged into the world of Jurrasic Park (now showing at Ziggo Movies& Series). Dinosaurs making people's lives miserable.

The various streaming media such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Videoland and Ziggo Movies & Series have disaster movies on offer. Based on their offerings, I have compiled a personal top five.

Top 5 in no particular order

1.The Wave

In this Norwegian production, a fjord collapses and causes an eighty-metre-high tsunami with all its consequences. The fact that it doesn't take place in a metropolis but rather a quiet town is a nice change. A good dramatic foundation is laid - introduction of the main characters and social structures, before the visual spectacle kicks off. The beautiful shots of the collapsing fjord and the metre-high tidal wave are at once impressive and terrifying. Especially the panic that ensues; the devastating water striking like a monster in the night creates a claustrophobic feeling. Even the clichéd escape attempt leaves you on the edge of your seat, because with a Scandinavian production, of course, you never know.

If the dark, serious atmosphere and main characters of The Wave appealing to you, The Quake is from the same creator and can be seen on Netflix.

The Wave can be seen at both Netflix and Videoland

2. Dante's Peak

With Pierce '007' Brosnan as the hero, you're usually in the right place. In addition, take Linda 'Terminator' Hamilton as his co-star and you know it will be an action-packed film. Dante's Peak is a slightly older 'old school' disaster film, but no less impressive for that. In the 1990s, the genre made a comeback and Dante's Peak is a case in point. Seismologist Dalton finds out that the local volcano is showing activity; colleagues and local authorities are sceptical and of course do not believe him. When the volcanic violence finally erupts, the panic is complete. The disaster has been made as realistic as possible. The reaction of the inhabitants is a good example of this. As a result, the story becomes even more chilling. Lava flows, ash and dust clouds overwhelm the town. The imagery is reminiscent of hell, Dante's hell. A bleak, grim and breathtaking atmosphere, with (for the time) visual feats of camerawork and special effects.

Dante's Peak is the see at Amazon Prime

3.World War Z

World War Z is a disaster movie wrapped in a screenplay where the actual catastrophe has already taken place. Nothing guarantees it will be a spectacular Hollywood 'disaster movie' more than the fact that Brad Pitt is starring. Due to a global virus (my apologies), almost all of humanity has been wiped out. Former UN employee Gerry Lane travels the world for a solution against the prevailing pandemic. Within ten minutes, you can already count on dramatic images filled with advanced chaos. The pace is fast; after only 15 minutes, the viewer is already confronted with the first zombies. From then on, the film is a whirlwind of horror, action and panic. The grim and chaotic global scenes are shown in such a way that the drama of the pandemic really gets to you. The film has good timing in terms of alternating apocalyptic scenes with calmer images where the focus is on strategy. Still, the chases through hordes of zombies and the constant race against the clock create a claustrophobic feeling and increase adrenaline production.

World War Z can be seen at Netflix

4.The Wandering Earth

It is also sometimes refreshing to see a blockbuster disaster film that was not produced by Hollywood. Nevertheless, in the Chinese production, you will recognise storylines from the more well-known and popular American films of the same genre. The story revolves around the fact that the sun has become unstable and will swallow the earth within a hundred years. World leaders come up with the idea is to move the sun, by means of 10,000 jet planes, forward. Of course, things go wrong during the mission - it's a disaster movie for a reason. The action takes place in two different places: both on Earth and in space. There is in The Wandering Earth strike a good balance between the human suffering and the film's destructive element, the space disaster. Although the production is characterised by a typical cliché sci-fi atmosphere, the special effects deserve extra attention; impressive visual feats. Especially the creation of the space system is truly beautifully made!

The Wandering Earth can be seen at Netflix

5.Noah

The original disaster scenario, of course, stems from the Bible, the story of Noah's Ark. The way to enjoy the film the most is to separate the story in the film from the biblical version. Noah has visions that foretell the end of the world. What follows is widely known. The special effects and/of the catastrophe are beautifully rendered, but the element of catastrophe is sometimes somewhat secondary to other storylines. The interactions - love, jealousy, tension, anger, aggression - within the family and the people on the ark mainly have the main role. Do not bother with the clichés, as that is the basis for most disaster movies, but enjoy the human suffering and the impressive cinematography, knowing that no deluge is predicted with us. No matter how much it has rained recently. Besides, the Dutch dykes are still solid (enough).

Noah can be seen at Netflix

 

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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