Before the superhero movies became the big tentpole movies of the summer (along with sequals, don’t forget about them), there was a wave in the late 1990s and early 2000s of destruction movies. These featured expensive special effects of buildings and cities being destoryed in the most epic way possible. Leading the charge is director Roland Emmerich, who seems to find a way to destory the world each time. His “destory the world” trilogy are some of the highest grossing of the genre. So let’s take a look at each of them.
The first and most well known of the three is Independence Day. Featuring a large cast, the story focused on large alien ships, fifteen miles wide, coming down to earth on July 2nd and placing themselves at major city centers throughout the world, including in the US, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. The aliens do nothing at first, but after night falls, direct energy weapons from each of the ships destroy a major landmark and then go outward, obliterating everything in its path. On July 3rd, the F-18s try and fail to attack the alien destroyer, but one of the ships crash-lands and the pilot takes alien to Area 51, which was where the president fled after the attack on DC. Nuclear attacks were initially unsuccessful due to an impenetrable force field. An MIT graduate devises a computer virus with an alien ship captured 1947 near Roswell, NM. They use the ship sneak in to the mother ship in space and plant the virus, which destroys the force field and finally the armies on Earth are able to attack and defeat the aliens.
The next movie on the list is The Day After Tomorrow. After observing the polar ice caps melting, a paleoclimatologist determines that North Atlantic Currents will be disrupted. Soon enough, a huge storm in the northern hemisphere splits off into three hurricane-like super storms. Much of the action of the movie occurs in Manhattan, where flooding gives way to lighting storms and eventually all of the water freezing, with the son of the paleoclimatologist caught at the New York Public Library. The father eventually finds his son buried in underneath the snow in the library. The president is caught up in the super storm and dies, which means that the vice president is sworn in and he orders search and rescue teams to find survivors in New York. The movie ends with astronauts looking down on earth and the destruction that the storms have caused.
The final movie in the trilogy is 2012. The story of 2012 focuses (mostly) on a science fiction writer and his family, as they flee natural world destruction. Scientists learn that polar shifts and other cataclysmic events will occur in 2012 (which yes references the Mayan calendar), but know that there will not be enough time to save everyone, so the world leaders construct arks in secret. Once 2012 hits, the writer and his children vacationing in Yellowstone learn about the impending destruction and return for the writer’s ex-wife and her current boyfriend. They find a private plane and escape just before mega thrust earthquakes destroy LA. They then fly to Las Vegas and meet up with other survivors, who join them on a larger plane to China. In China, they learn about the arks and sneak on board one to ensure their survival. The boyfriend dies and the writer and his ex-wife rekindle their relationship.
All three movies have epic destruction of worlds against ordinary people who do extraordinary things when they are placed in these impossible scenarios. They are also proof (or at least a very loud hint) that Roland Emmerich wants to destroy the world…at least cinematically. Check out these movies for Emmerich’s incredible scenes of city and world destruction.